Congress blows money on pork barrel spending while the federal deficit balloons and the war on terrorism looms indefinitely, Sen. John McCain told a group of Scottsdale Republicans on Tuesday night.
About 100 people paid $20 each to pitch questions to McCain, R-Ariz., at the town hall meeting.
"I'm very worried about the fact we've gone from a $127 billion surplus to now, this year, at least a $300 billion deficit, with the numbers going up," McCain said. "We've cut the taxes, but the spending hasn't stopped. In fact, the spending has gone up, in the worst way. It's a Democrat and Republican disease."
Tucked into the bill funding the war on Iraq and homeland security were approvals for:
$10 million for the South Pole. "You probably didn't know that alQaida has penetrated the penguins at the South Pole," McCain said.
$105 million for an agricultural research station in Ames, Iowa.
Money to fight the sea lamprey in Lake Champlain. "We've got a lot of priorities, but the sea lamprey is not among them," McCain said.
"You see these things, and it makes you laugh,” he said. “But it also makes you cry."
With the costs of the war and reconstruction of Iraq a mystery, this is not the time for tax cuts, McCain said.
"I don't blame the administration for not knowing how much the war and reconstruction would cost," he said. "I don't see how you can justify at this moment the need for tax cuts when we don't have any idea what our costs are going to be, and we don't get our spending under control."
The senator said when the costs of war and rebuilding are known in the fall, he wants to look into ways to stimulate the economy.
The campaign in Iraq to unseat Saddam Hussein has had beneficial effects across the Middle East, he said. Syria and Iran "are being more cooperative," he said. "The process of peace has started in the Middle East."
Despite the victory in Iraq, spending on defense and homeland and national security has to be increased, McCain said.
"There are people working day and night thinking of ways to attack us and destroy us," he said. "The bad news is, as long as there are young men standing around on street corners with no hope and no future and no life — they're taking them off the streets in these Middle Eastern countries and into these schools paid for by the Saudi Arabians and taught to hate and to want to destroy everything we believe in, everything we value, and the United States of America itself — we've got a long struggle against terrorism."
McCain also blasted Saudi Arabia for funding and supporting terrorism. The Saudis recently "had a telethon to aid the families of the suicide bombers in Israel. What's that all about?"
Kathleen Gillis, vice president of the Scottsdale Republican Forum, said she was struck by McCain’s grasp of the issues and how understandable he was.
“I didn't feel like I was being massaged,” she said. “He can also stand there and quote ‘Henry V’ from Shakespeare. He is a very well-rounded human being, and I'm proud to say he's my senator.”