The auditorium at Kofa High School was packed to the rafters Thursday night by hundreds of people who wanted to hear what Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had to say about health care, and the current situation in Afghanistan.
After a brief opening statement, members of the audience were eager to field questions and get some answers.
"I love to listen. This is my favorite. I would rather be at town hall meetings than at anything else," McCain said.
"Listen to them, listen to the people, that's what it is supposed to be all about. I tried to make my remarks as short as possible so that I can hear from them as much as they hear from me."
One of the audience members broke down into tears and could hardly speak to the senator because of issues her family is facing as a direct result of the Great Recession.
"Everyone was very enthusiastic, and some of it was very touching," McCain said. "I wish every member of Congress, the head of the Federal Reserve and the administration could have seen that young woman tonight literally in tears because her family is at the end of the line."
One of the hot button issues of the evening was the current health care bill making its way through Congress.
"Well I hope in its present form, we can defeat it because it is a massive tax increase, and a significant incursion into the private sector," McCain said. "It's getting in between doctors and their patients and it is government involvement in a way that I think is very bad for the best health care system in the world. (The bill) does not bring the costs under control."
McCain is concerned with how the federal government plans to pay for any health reform.
"If we keep piling up that debt, and the Chinese keep buying our debt, then sooner or later you're gonna have to debase the currency, which means deflation, which (is) the greatest enemy of middle income America. We are borrowing, from the Chinese and others, 43 cents out of every dollar."
McCain said America is facing a $9 trillion deficit over the next 10 years.
"We have spent $787 billion on a stimulus package and now unemployment is at 10.2 (percent) when they assured us... that unemployment would not go over 8 percent if they passed this stimulus package. I don't know where it's gone, but I can tell you it hasn't created any jobs in America, and has given us $1.1 trillion debt."
McCain said he is well aware of the concerns many private citizens have about actions the government is taking that they disagree with.
"We are facing a very very difficult situation and obviously what is going to happen in the United States Senate will matter," McCain said. "I believe the American people have spoken loudly and clearly. They do not want this debt laid on our children, or our grandchildren and they don’t want the government to take on health care in America."
McCain said he is proud Americans have become so involved with the affairs in Washington.
"My friends, if we would have had this town hall meeting say three years ago, I think this auditorium probably would be about a quarter full, if that. American people are fired up, riled. The American people are involved and engaged."
McCain encouraged those with grievances to continue to voice their opinions and go to the polls to cast their votes.
"There is a peaceful revolution going on here," McCain said. "It is here in Yuma, Arizona, and it is all over this country, and you’ve got to believe, as I do, that your actions and your involvement and your engagement (makes a difference) because that is what this country is founded on."
On a separate issue, McCain commented about a need for the expediency of sending more fresh troops to Afghanistan.
"Gen. McChrystal has made his recommendations," McCain said. "The president announced the strategy back in March. Our allies are becoming very uncertain of our commitment, and frankly, the men and women who are serving are beginning to wonder what we are going to do."
McCain said it is essential for Obama to make a decision soon.
"I think that Gen. McChrystal’s recommendation is a valid one, but every day that goes by without a decision is a day that goes by without us reinforcing the men and women who are already there and puts them in greater danger. That’s not right."
McCain said the U.S. can sustain and support a massive build up in Afghanistan.
"Sure, Yes. I think within a year to 18 months that we can begin to show success, but right now, without added resources over there, Gen. McChrystal says the situation is deteriorating."
McCain said there wouldn't be a dramatic increase in the deployment of troops stationed in Yuma if a surge is ordered.
"Not a lot, there would obviously be deployments but one thing about Marines, they deploy a lot anyway."
McCain noted, the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter might come to Yuma sooner, however.
"...We could see the F-35 here in Yuma by December of 2010. Now it is very likely that it wouldn't be that soon, but it is possible that it could be here quicker than we had originally thought."
Sun Staff Writer Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.