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What should McCain fix first? Missourians at convention share their views

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 3, 2008 - When John McCain takes to the floor Thursday night, he will surely sketch out his vision of the country and what he hopes to accomplish as president. The Beacon polled a number of delegates and guests to the Republican National Convention and asked what McCain's top priority should be, if he's elected president.

What Should Mccain Fix First? 

Jason Brown
State representative, Platte City
Army Reserve staff sergeant injured in Iraq.

Two things John McCain needs to address right away involve Iraq and energy. He definitely needs to stay the course in Iraq. He was the one who recommended a surge in Iraq when it was very unpopular to do so. He showed then that it's not about doing what's politically correct, but what's right for this country. So I hope he stays the course on that issue. His opponent (Barack Obama) says we need to withdraw and leave Iraq so we can win in Afghanistan. But we need to win in both countries. We need to stabilize those governments and get them up and running. The other thing McCain needs to focus on is the price of fuel and our energy policy. Everybody's saying we can't drill (in Alaska), but we can do it and protect the environment at the same time. There is more (sophisticated) technology now than 10 years ago to make that happen.

Keri Martensen
Teacher, suburban Kansas City

McCain can't raise taxes or do everything for everybody, but I'd like him to have realistic standards for public education. I teach in the Park Hill School District, with gold star and blue ribbon schools. But for the first time, we've not met the requirements of No Child Left Behind. As a teacher, I'm happy to be held accountable. That's not a problem, but we need full funding for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). You can't put a requirement in front of us and not fund what you're requiring us to do.

Phyllis Schlafly
Alternate delegate, St. Louis County

The first thing he needs to do is start drilling for oil so we can cut our $4 (a gallon) gasoline prices. It will take a few years, but remember that Bill Clinton vetoed an oil drilling law in 1993, saying it would take 10 years before we got any oil. Well, it's been 10 years and we don't have it. So energy independence is the top issue he needs to address. I feel Sarah Palin (McCain's running mate) will help him on this issue because they've got so much oil in Alaska that they'd like to give us and I'd like to have it coming down in order to bring down our prices. You've noticed that McCain has seen the light on this issue, which is helpful. It shows that we can learn, that he's coming around, and that's the first thing we need.

Travis Elliott
Attorney, Springfield

The most important thing John McCain needs to do is maintain our presence in Iraq. The surge is working. This is an area where his strength is, and it's very important that we stay there and boost intelligence and security to make the country stable. The war is unpopular because our boys have died over there. I understand that, but never is war a good thing. It's a difficult job that has to be done to do the right thing in Iraq. He definitely should keep us there, and hopefully history will be kinder to President (George W.) Bush than current public opinion is.

Doug Russell
Chair of Missouri Republican Party, St. Louis

The first thing he needs to do is make the tax cuts permanent. What concerns me most about Obama is that he's talking about increasing taxes. We don't need that in our economy. So job No. 1 should be to make the cuts permanent. Here's how it affects Missouri: You take capital gains tax. Based on the last data I had - from 2005-2006 - we had nearly a half a million people who filed capital gains on their tax returns. I think $5,000 was the average capital gain. So if you're talking about increasing capital gains - doubling capital gains, which is what Obama is talking about doing - it's going to have a dramatic impact on Missourians.

William Brenner
Presiding commissioner, Johnson County

One of the most important things that McCain will have to do right away is get this country turned around in the right direction and do it by bringing people back together and have both parties work together. Sarah Palin is an outstanding pick who will help him get this job done. She's a conservative who is used to making changes. It can't be one party, and it has to be both parties working together. I think she can help in that regard. On our way up here, we didn't know much about Palin, but we heard a lot of good comments from people along the road where we stopped to eat and stay overnight. But no matter which party is in, the vice president is going to play an important role in bringing people together. That's the first thing Sen. McCain should work on.

Rich Magee
Mayor, Glendale
Chair, St. Louis County GOP

The first thing I'd like to see him address is the energy problem in our country. He needs to do this because oil price issues are completely vulnerable to leaders of other countries and overseas sources that have no interest in our country and only see us as an opportunity to make a profit. We need an energy policy to make our country less dependent on foreign oil, and we need to find ways to make America provide its own energy resources.

Barbara Cooper
At-large delegate, St. Louis County

One of the most important issues we need to address involves major reforms of how government works. Under Democratic leadership of the House, the government is not performing to the satisfaction of the people. John McCain needs to look at what is happening and let the pork barrel spending go. And once again, if that happens, he will bring the kind of accountability that people in America can be proud of.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.

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