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Meet the presidential candidates

John McCain

DES MOINES, Iowa - Several Iowa daily and weekly newspapers have endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain as the Republican candidate they claim is most qualified to lead the country.

McCain was chosen because, as the Des Moines Register stated, he offers tested leadership in foreign and domestic affairs and ''is most ready to lead America in a dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.''

McCain's military service and his time in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam earned him the label of ''hero.'' The Iowa newspapers pointed out that his service as a naval officer instilled in him the strength to face many difficult challenges, and that he is ready and competent to lead.

McCain had appeared to be an ''almost-ran'' in the early stages of the Iowa campaign, and remained in the middle of the pack as of press time, according to polls conducted by Iowa's newspapers.

There is no doubt that his military service and survival of a five-year stint in a Vietnam POW camp has drawn many supporters to his side because of his stand on the Iraq War and on immigration. McCain does not favor a pullout from Iraq until that country is sufficiently stable.

He supports veterans organizations, which are very important to Indian country, and has gone on record to ask for additional funding and a special card that would allow veterans to receive health care at any health facility. He argues that the veterans hospitals are filled and that veterans need health care.

In Iowa, the immigration factor has grown into a major topic among residents, and McCain has strong ideas on immigration, especially because his state is right in the middle of that debate. McCain supported the construction of a 700-mile fence that will separate Mexico and the United States.

He has said in the past that immigrants need to be treated with dignity and that they are ''God's children also.''

That fence will divide Tohono O'odham Nation relatives between Mexico and the United States. The Tohono O'odham are victims of the immigration influx. Many Mexican undocumented workers cross through their territory; some do not survive their journey. The Tohono O'odham easily make the trip between the countries through the San Miguel Gate, an opening in the now barbed wire fence. With the wall, that gate may be eliminated.

Federal recognition of tribes has become a double-edged sword for some tribes that are recognized and for those who have applied for that status. The process is slow, cumbersome and frustrating at best, and disappointment and large expenditures are part of the process.

McCain, while chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2005, recognized the pitfalls of recognition and issued statements that support many of the tribes' positions. He chaired many hearings on the subject and on all of the issues that affect Indian country.

''The solemnity of federal recognition, which establishes a government-to-government relationship between the United States and an Indian tribe, demands not only a fair and transparent process, but a process that is above reproach. And while the relationship established is federal, the impacts are felt locally as well, as has been reported to this committee by states attorneys general and local communities,'' he said in 2005.

McCain's success in Indian country was his support of the Arizona tribes with legislation favorable to them. Many potential pieces of legislation that could have moved from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs that may have impacted all of Indian country did not make it to the floor of the Senate, through no fault of McCain's.

McCain did support his constituency tribes. After his first step into the world of presidential campaigning in 2000, he was criticized by many tribal leaders from the Great Plains who said he was too busy running for president to pay attention to their concerns.

McCain's health care plan consists of tax credits: $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to enable them to purchase private health insurance. For Medicaid recipients, he would create a fund to draw from in order to purchase private insurance.

McCain has a transparent record of support for Indian country over the years he spent on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs before and after the committee became permanent. He has chaired and attended many committee hearings over the past 30 years on nearly every issue that affects Indian country.

At present, his campaign does not have, or at least has not made public, a definitive American Indian policy. Attempts by Indian Country Today to contact his campaign have not received a response.