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McCain praises community service

NEW YORK – Republican nominee John McCain distanced himself Thursday from comments made by his running mate, Sarah Palin, deriding Democratic rival Barack Obama’s service as community organizer.

Palin last week contrasted her background as a small-town mayor with Obama’s first post-college job helping public housing tenants and unemployed workers in Chicago.

She drew appreciative laughter when she said her work as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, was “sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

McCain backed away from those comments at a forum on service at Columbia University, where he and Obama appeared for back-to-back interviews.

“I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that, frankly, we all know could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals than doing what they did.”

Pressed by moderator Judy Woodruff, of PBS, about whether he condoned Palin’s tone, McCain insisted he respected the work of community organizers and went so far as to say he would consider asking Obama to oversee national service efforts in a McCain administration.

“Senator Obama’s record there is outstanding,” McCain said. Acknowledging that the tone of the campaign had been “rough,” he praised Obama for inspiring “millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn’t be involved in the political process.”

Obama returned the compliment in the next hour, lauding McCain’s service as Navy pilot.


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