How John McCain would govern

tshoop@govexec.com

If John McCain were elected President, he would be a hands-on manager who would try to focus federal agencies on areas where government can be most effective, according to panelists at a forum in Washington last week.

"He would be the chief of staff, he would be the commander, no question about it," said former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., who served with McCain in the Senate.

The forum, sponsored by the Transition to Governing Project, a joint project of the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution, was the second in a series looking at the governing styles and approaches of the leading presidential candidates.

Unlike Republicans who have attacked the federal bureaucracy, McCain believes that "government should have a limited but activist role in those areas where government is involved," said panelist Dan Schnur, the communications director of McCain's presidential campaign.

"Government is not going to go away, and if we have a government, it should be responsive, efficient and effective," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a co-chair of McCain's presidential committee. "That's very much the cornerstone of why John McCain is running for President."

Packwood predicted McCain would privatize the federal air traffic control system and shut down the Federal Communications Commission if he were elected. "This man is very much a deregulator," he said.

Schnur said that McCain would seek out budget cuts on both the civilian and defense sides of government to fund increases in the defense budget of $20 billion a year for the next five to six years.

Panelists differed on how much impact McCain's famous temper would have on his ability to work with Congress and members of his own administration.

"He's willing to fight for [his beliefs]," Hagel said. "He's willing to take people on. ... That means breaking some eggs." But, Hagel added, "I've never known John McCain to get personal with any United States Senator."

"You would be amazed at how Republicans in Congress would come to appreciate McCain if he were elected President," said Packwood.

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