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Obama Courts Florida Voters, McCain Gets Clean Bill of Health

May 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM EST
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Sen. Barack Obama travels through Florida and Sen. John McCain is given a clean bill of health and releases his medical records. Kwame Holman reports on recent developments on the presidential campaign trail.
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RAY SUAREZ: A clean bill of health for John McCain. Kwame Holman brings us that and all of today’s presidential campaign developments.

KWAME HOLMAN: The more than 1,100 pages of medical records released by John McCain’s campaign today span the last eight years and indicate the three-time melanoma survivor is cancer-free and appears to be in good health.

McCain’s physician, Dr. John Eckstein, released a statement saying, “I can find no medical reason or problems that would preclude Senator McCain from fulfilling all the duties and obligations of president of the United States.”

The medical records were made available to a small group of reporters to quell concerns about McCain’s health and age. He turns 72 in August and would be the oldest elected first-term president.

McCain held no public events today, but plans to host six potential running mates at his Sedona, Arizona, ranch this weekend, including: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; Florida Governor Charlie Crist; and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. They will be joined by former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.

McCain was busy yesterday trying to put out a campaign fire. He rejected the endorsements of two religious leaders: Rod Parsley, an Ohio pastor who has called Islam an “inherently violent religion”; and Texas preacher John Hagee, whose recorded statement claiming God sent Hitler to help the Jews reach the promised land was recently released.

REV. JOHN HAGEE, Cornerstone Church: Those who came founded Israel. Those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust. Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.

Friends? Not anymore

KWAME HOLMAN: McCain had sought Hagee's support, despite his often-cited anti-Catholic views, and received Hagee's endorsement in February. But with the release of Hagee's recorded comments about Jews, McCain moved quickly to disassociate himself from the pastor's comments.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Well, I just think that the statement is crazy and unacceptable.

And, certainly, Reverend Hagee, Pastor Hagee, is entitled to his views. But we've reached a point where that kind of statement simply -- I would reject the endorsement of the expression of those kinds of views.

KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, John Hagee sympathized with John McCain's situation.

REV. JOHN HAGEE: The past 24 hours have been extremely painful and disappointing to me. My disappointment has nothing to do with the fact that I parted company with Senator John McCain. This was by far the best for both of us and best for the country.

It is time for the candidates and the media to turn their attention back to the pressing issues of our day and stop focusing upon what I did or did not say decades ago.

KWAME HOLMAN: But in distancing himself from Hagee yesterday, McCain also took a swipe at Barack Obama and his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in the process.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: My church that I attend is the North Phoenix Baptist Church. My pastor and spiritual guide is Pastor Dan Yeary. I've never been in Pastor Hagee's church or Pastor Parsley's church. I didn't attend their church for 20 years.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama, on a campaign swing through Florida yesterday, called McCain's comments "unfair."

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: If you're in national politics, everybody -- you can find one or two people who have said offensive things or done offensive things.

You know, John McCain is having to deal with his -- Hagee, who said stuff that is mind-boggling.

I don't attribute those statements to John McCain. Nobody thinks that McCain believes that stuff. And for McCain to then suggest that every single statement that was made by somebody is somehow attributable to me is just wrong.

Obama courts skeptics

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama's comments came during a visit to a synagogue in Boca Raton. One audience member challenged his support for Israel and pressed him to name any Jewish friends.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I have to be very cautious about this, because you remember the old stereotype about somebody says, "Well, I'm not prejudiced. Some of my best friends are Jewish," right? Or, "I'm not prejudiced. Some of my best friends are black."

The irony is that, when I was in Chicago, one of the raps on me when I first ran for Congress, in the African-American community was, "He's too close to the Jewish community." Seriously, you can look this up in the newspapers. "All his friends are Jews. You know, he's from Hyde Park. He's University of Chicago."

And so that's part of why this kind of conversation is frustrating.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Obama met with another important group of Florida voters, Cuban Americans, taking part in a Cuba Independence Celebration in Miami. Obama reiterated his willingness to negotiate with Cuban leader Raul Castro.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time, I believe, to pursue direct diplomacy with friend and foe alike, without preconditions.

Now, there must be...

There must be careful preparations. We will set a clear agenda. As president, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, but even more importantly to advance the cause of the freedom for the Cuban people.

KWAME HOLMAN: Hillary Clinton campaigned today in South Dakota. She met with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, where she downplayed calls for her to leave the race, saying historically it makes no sense.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just -- I don't understand it. And, you know, there's lots of speculation about why it is, but...

JOURNALIST: What's your speculation?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I don't know. I find it curious. And I don't want to attribute motives or strategies to people, because I don't really know. But it's a historical curiosity to me.

KWAME HOLMAN: Clinton later issued a statement saying, "I regret that, if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever."