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McCain invites Obama to town halls

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and Domenico Montanaro
McCain invited Obama to a series of town halls in a letter this morning, the candidate announced at a town hall in Baton Rouge.

McCain proposed about 10 town halls, about one a week between now and the Democratic National Convention. The first of them would be June 12th in New York City at Federal Hall, McCain said, "where the beginnings of our government took place."

"I'd be there on the 12th," McCain said, "and I hope Sen. Obama will be there as well" in the "spirit of change" that could "do our country good."

The town halls would include about 200 to 400 people at each one, selected by an "objective organization," McCain said.

"I suggest the town hall meeting format, because I think it's the best way," McCain said, adding that there isn't a need for produced network debates with "process questions from reporters."

"I even propose we travel together on the same plane," McCain said, adding that he knows his campaign certainly wouldn't mind given its financial situation.

"Sen. Obama truly has the opportunity to embrace a new kind of politics," McCain said, to "engage in a higher level of discourse."

He issued this challenge. "Leaders don't hide from history," he said. "They make history.… I hope Sen. Obama will accept my invitation."

McCain went on to hit Obama on his views on foreign policy, particularly on Iraq and Iran. He began his speech by congratulating Clinton for the race she's run.

(No word yet on the status of ARENA SPEECH-OFFS.)

Here's the full letter: 
For Immediate Release Contact: Press Office Wednesday, June 4, 2008 703-650-5550 ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today released the following letter delivered to Senator Barack Obama this morning inviting him to join him in participating in town hall meetings across the country to discuss the most important issues facing Americans.
To read the full letter please see below and to view the signed letter please see:


Full Letter Delivered Today To Senator Barack Obama:

June 4, 2008
The Honorable Barack Obama
Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, Illinois 60680

Dear Senator Obama:

In 1963, Senator Barry Goldwater and President John F. Kennedy agreed to make presidential campaign history by flying together from town to town and debating each other face-to-face on the same stage. In Goldwater's words, those debates "would have done the country a lot of good." Unfortunately, with President Kennedy's untimely death, Americans lost the rare opportunity of witnessing candidates for the highest office in the land discuss civilly and extensively the great issues at stake in the election. What a welcome change it would be were presidential candidates in our time to treat each other and the people they seek to lead with respect and courtesy as they discussed the great issues of the day, without the empty sound bites and media-filtered exchanges that dominate our elections. It is in the spirit of President Kennedy's and Senator Goldwater's agreement, in the spirit of the politics of change, and to do our country good, that I invite you to join me in participating in town hall meetings across the country to discuss the most important issues facing Americans. I also suggest we fly together to the first town hall meeting as a symbolically important act embracing the politics of civility.

I propose these town hall meetings be as free from the regimented trappings, rules and spectacle of formal debates as possible, and that we pledge to the American people we will not allow the idea to die on the negotiation table as our campaigns work out the details. I suggest we agree to participate in at least ten town halls once a week with the first on June 11 or 12 in New York City at Federal Hall until the week before the Democratic Convention begins at locations to be determined by our campaigns. Federal Hall is particularly fitting as it was the place where George Washington took the oath of office as our first President and the birthplace of American government hosting the first Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices. These town halls should be attended by an audience of between two to four hundred selected by an independent polling agency, could be sixty to ninety minutes in length, have very limited moderation by an independ ent local moderator, take blind questions from the audience selected by the moderator and allow for equally proportional time for answers by each of us. All of these are suggestions that can be finalized by our campaigns. What is important is that we commit to participate in these history making meetings to join in the higher level of discourse that Americans clearly would prefer.

To show our good faith, we should both commit to the first town hall I have suggested. In the mean time, we can work out dates for future town hall meetings.

I look forward to your favorable reply and to the opportunity to work with you to give Americans a better opportunity to understand our differences, our agreements and the leadership we offer them.

John McCain