McCain blogger conference call

McCain starts talking about his trip to Iraq.

The troops are happy with the success that we have achieved. They know that this strategy has been succeeding. In Anbar things are quiet. In Baghdad, things are better. … Petraeus believes that there could be an uptick in al-Qaeda activity because they are on the run. … How anyone can ignore the situation on the ground is beyond me. The Democrats continue to try to cut off the funding … in total disregard of the facts on the ground. … If we continue to make the progress we have made in the lase couple of months in the next 7 or 8 months … We should not be dictated by a schedule for troop withdrawal

Questions:

Bull Dog Pundit. Asks about "economic philosophy" and "judgment". Tax cuts and boxing (that’s the judgment question). McCain picks Mayweather as the boxing champion. (huh?) On taxes:

The major reason why I imposed [the Bush tax cuts] was to put a control on spending. For the next one, it was clear that we were going into a War in Iraq… I am for tax cuts of all kinds. … There hasn’t been a real income increase for lower income Americans, like there has been for more wealthy Americans. … The majority of our problem is out of control spending. … I believe in lower taxes

Jen Rubin . Campaign questions. "National poll numbers have risen, but … Iowa? Do you still intend to compete fully in Iowa?" Question on Romney’s Muslim-gate

We have a lot of work to do. … I am against ethanol subsidies … We have an excellent ground game. … We are struggling in the polls …  We’ll keep working out there. … All of us want to be the comeback kid. …

On Gov. Romney’s comment about the Muslims, my only comment is that we need to take the best qualified people. … If they are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces then are qualified to serve in any position …. Governor Romney’s appointment of a judge … best qualified people

Michael Goldfarb about the funding running out on Iraq.

It can inhibit our long-term planning and long-term equipping. … If you throw everything up in the air … it has ripple effects that can be dangerous. … You might want to mention that the Defense Authorization Bill is hung up in conference … because of the Hate Crimes Bill. … And the Wounded Warrior Bill. … It still hasn’t been signed into law. That’s disgraceful.

Matt Lewis asks about Bill Clinton’s line about Iraq.

I don’t understand former President Bill Clinton … It is all co-incidental. … What this is going to lead to is an examination of his handling of Osama Bin Laden, North Korea, etc. … I am sure that it is all coindicence that this is happening as Barack Obama closes on Hillary in Iowa.

Ed Morrissey asks about the White House’s release/agreement with Maliki on troop draw down:

I was briefed by Crocker and Petraeus while I was in Iraq. This agreement is basically an extension of the status quo … After a year, we would revert to a kind of status of forces agreement that we have with Korea and Germany.

Doug Lambert. Lincoln-Douglass style of debate between nominees of two parties

I would favor such a format. Sometimes campaigns agree on a concept, but then disagree on a format. … There are stark differences between me and Senator Clinton, and I intend to draw them. … Senator Clinton is a liberal Democrat, and I am conservative Republican.

Liz Mair asks about electability in Washington:

Environment … military … I am not an expert on Washington’s electoral history, but they like an independent streak … And the fact that I campaigned there heavily in 2000.

Jim Geraghty follows up on Rubin. Would it be helpful to have a high-ranking Muslim

It would be helpful to call on people in the Muslim community. … Positions should be dictated by [quality] … Bring in experts.

Follow up is Zalmay Khalilizad. Would a person of that expertise have a place in a McCain cabinet?

Sure. But he was hired for his experience. I would add that Ambassador Crocker is also highly qualified. … I don’t think that the decision would rest on that … Qualifications are enhanced by ones knowledge of the Muslim religion and the Middle East. …

Philip Klein asks about the Annapolis Conference:

I have not heard as much about it as a I should ….

James Joyner. "The surge is working as you pointed out… What hope do you have the political side?"

There is oil sharing. … They thought that they could get this reverse-deBaathification done. The Sadr people immediately raised hell. … There was never a Thomas Jefferson in Iraq.

[I have to run to lunch. i will come back and fill in links in a bit.]