From McCain's interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, airing tonight:From McCain's interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, airing tonight:
GIBSON: Why then in recent days have you focused so in what you've had to say on Sen. Obama's character, talked about the fact that we don't know him, that he's come out of nowhere, that he's not an open book, etc.
MCCAIN: Well, I'm not sure that's character. What I think it is, is does he have the experience and the knowledge and judgment and has he made the right decisions and has he told — been candid with the American people. I think that's important.
They certainly know me.
GIBSON: You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries and all the campaigning, running for president as long as you have? Two years?
MCCAIN: No, actually I don't. In fact, Sen. Clinton in their debates said that the American people didn't know enough about him, including his relationship with Mr. [William] Ayers. That's what she said. And I agree with that. He said he was a guy in the neighborhood. We know that's not true. He said — he wrote down a piece of paper that he would take public financing for his presidential campaign if I would. He betrayed the trust of the American people there.
He looked in the camera twice during the debate with Sen. Clinton and said, "I will sit down and negotiate with John McCain before I decide to forgo public financing for my campaign." He never called me. He looked in the camera and told the American people something that was patently false. He told the American people about his relationship with Mr. Ayers, that he was a guy in the neighborhood.
He wasn't a guy in the neighborhood.
He launched his political career in his living room, in Mr. Ayers' living room. And I don't care about two washed-up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America. But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him and whether he's being truthful and candid about it.
GIBSON: Do you think his character or lack of candor disqualifies him to be president of the United States?
MCCAIN: I'll leave that up to the American people. But I have every right to insist that he be candid and truthful with the American people. And he needs to be asked about it, and he needs to be forthcoming.
GIBSON: Do you think the relationship with Ayers is a critical issue in this campaign or factor in this campaign?
MCCAIN: I think it's a factor about Sen. Obama's candor and truthfulness with the American people. That's what I think it's about. As I say, I don't care about Mr. Ayers who on Sept. 11, 2001 said he wished he'd have bombed more. I don't care about that. I care about him being truthful about his relationship with him. And Americans will care.
GIBSON: And you're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?
MCCAIN: I think it's something that needs to be examined. Sen. Clinton said it should be examined during their primary and never was.