PORTSMOUTH - Standing in the middle of Prescott Park, Republican Sen. John McCain used the backdrop of Portsmouth Harbor to officially announce his candidacy for president of the United States in 2008.
Hundreds of supporters assembled in front of a podium situated next to the parking lot off State Street, surrounded by national and local media, along with a dozen or so war protesters. The senior senator from Arizona will travel to Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada for similar rallies in the coming days.
Many mistakes, both foreign and domestic, were made under the Bush administration that are unacceptable, according to McCain, who vowed to lead with the knowledge of experience and a "common sense, conservative and comprehensive" approach to solving the nationís challenges.
"We face formidable challenges, but Iím not afraid of them. Iím prepared for them," he said. "Iím not the youngest candidate, but I am the most experienced."
McCain said if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be successful, the country must rethink and rebuild the structure and mission of the military. Alliances with countries must be strengthened and expanded, and Americaís moral credibility must be preserved.
"America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success," he said. "We did not meet this responsibility initially and we must never repeat that mistake again."
McCainís support of the troop surge in Iraq and opposition to withdrawal apparently have not resonated with the American people, as evidenced by declining poll numbers and lagging fund-raising. The official announcement and subsequent stops at early-contest states, he hopes, will help revive his campaign.
McCain criticized the Bush administrationís response to national catastrophes, referencing failures to provide adequate communication devices for emergency responders during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to deliver bottled water to Katrina victims.
"When Americans confront a catastrophe, natural or man-made, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government."
Lessening Americaís dependency on foreign oil is also a priority, McCain said, and he plans to introduce an energy policy that encourages discovery and production of alternative energy.
"Our dependence on foreign sources of energy not only harms our environment and economy," he said. "It endangers our security."
McCain also called for an end to wasteful spending and promised to work toward an answer to problems with Social Security and Medicare. The two hot button issues have been widely ignored by politicians seeking re-election, he said, but are problems that need to be addressed.
"You canít sell me on hopelessness. You canít convince me our problems are insurmountable," he said. "Donít tell me what we canít do. Donít tell me we canít make our country stronger, and the world safer. We can. We must."