Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he’s "frustrated" by the way the debate is unfolding over the immigration reform package he helped craft.
"The president and all of us feel frustrated sometimes by the criticism and the level of the dialogue," McCain says. "I respect the views of those who disagree with us. I don’t question anyone’s patriotism or love of this country and I wish we could lift up the level of discourse and dialogue. It’s not helpful in illuminating and educating the American people when we question one another’s patriotism."
This week President Bush accused leading opponents of the immigration reform package of trying to frighten Americans into opposing the bill. McCain says he’s pleased the president is getting involved. "I don’t like to critique the president’s remarks, but I am very grateful for his involvement and his engagement," McCain says. "…He feels passionately about this issue."
McCain, a senator from Arizona, says he’ll be in the U.S. Senate next week when debate begins on that immigration bill. There may be a few adjustments in the compromise, according to McCain. "But I think it has to be pretty well as it is if we’re going to succeed," McCain says. "As with things like this, the coalition’s pretty fragile."
McCain says he’s not sure how the issue plays out with voters. "Polls show that over 60 percent of the American people approve not only of this overall approach, but the specifics of it," McCain says. "But on the other side of the coin we have a very emotional, intense opposition within our party. I would guess it’s a quarter (of the GOP) or something like that."
Some of McCain’s rivals for the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nomination criticize the bill as "amnesty" for those who’ve entered the country illegally. McCain questions that definition. "What it really means is, short of deporting 12 million people, anything else is amnesty," McCain says. "Well, no one that I know thinks you can round up 12 million people and if you did, what would it do to our country?"
McCain is on a two-day campaign swing through Iowa. He spoke to about 500 employees of a Des Moines insurance company this afternoon. McCain will campaign in northwest Iowa on Saturday.