AP, April 5, 2006
Sen. John McCain threatened yesterday to cut short a speech to union leaders who booed his immigration views and challenged his statements on organized labor and the Iraq war.
“If you like, I will leave,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, told the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, pivoting briefly from the lectern. He returned to the microphone after the crowd quieted.
“OK, then please give me the courtesy I would give you.”
The senator had been outlining his position on the Senate immigration debate, saying tougher border enforcement must be accompanied by guest-worker provisions that give undocumented aliens a legal path toward citizenship.
Murmurs from the crowd turned to booing.
“Pay a decent wage,” one audience member shouted.
“I’ve heard that statement before,” Mr. McCain said before threatening to leave.
Afterward, the senator said he offered to cut his speech short “because I wanted to be heard.”
But he took more questions, including a pointed one on his immigration plan.
Mr. McCain responded by saying that immigrants were taking jobs that nobody else wanted. He offered anybody in the crowd $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona.
Shouts of protest rose from the crowd, with some accepting Mr. McCain’s job offer.
“I’ll take it,” one man said.
Mr. McCain insisted that none of them would do such menial labor for a complete season.
“You can’t do it, my friends,” he said.
Some in the crowd said they did not appreciate Mr. McCain’s questioning their work ethic.