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McCain Blends Instinct With Political Calculation

In the first of a series of reports on the leadership qualities of the presidential candidates, Judy Woodruff talks to colleagues of Sen. John McCain about how the GOP hopeful makes decisions and how his governing style would translate in the White House.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    To understand how Senator John McCain makes decisions, a good place to begin is his vice presidential pick.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Arizona senator's decision to choose a first-term governor of Alaska over personal favorites, like independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, or more familiar figures, involved both politics and instinct, says senior campaign adviser South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: Senator Lieberman was a potential choice. But every Republican operative was saying, "No, don't go down that road; it'd divide the party."

    He had his old buddy, Tom Ridge, who he just loves, and respects, and adores, but he's pro-choice. That would have created a conflict.

    John wanted to make a statement with his pick. And when he looked at Governor Palin, he saw in her a bit of himself. He wants to let the American people know that, if he gets to be president, buckle your seats, because we're going to do things different.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Graham, a close friend of McCain's, insists it was a calculated move and not a spontaneous roll of the dice.

  • SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

    I'm not so sure it was impulse, certainly from his gut. John knows what he wants to do when he gets to be president.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    I've been called a maverick. Now we have a team of mavericks that's going to…

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    McCain has long been described as a maverick, a title he's happy to brandish. As evidence, he touts his work with Democrats on issues like campaign finance and immigration reform. McCain staffers describe a boss who makes decisions outside of partisan pressures.

    MARK BUSE, Chief of Staff, McCain Senate Office: He has a concept of party. He believes in his party, but he's more than happy to cross the aisle. And he does it all the time to the anguish of those who demand party unity.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mark Buse is McCain's Senate office chief of staff. Buse started working for the senator 17 years ago as an intern.

  • MARK BUSE:

    The Senate leadership used to get very frustrated with him when they would do their whip checks, their vote counts in advance of votes. He wouldn't answer. He wouldn't give an answer. His answer would be, "I'll vote how I want to vote." He wouldn't let them count his vote necessarily.

    He doesn't do the daily attendance check.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What's that?

  • MARK BUSE:

    In the Senate, every morning, they check to see what numbers are there so that they know what might happen. We don't respond to that. While he respects the leadership, he respects their jobs, he's not there to serve them.

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