McCain visits evangelist Billy Graham and his son

From Times Wire Services

Republican presidential candidate John McCain met privately Sunday with evangelists Billy and Franklin Graham at the family’s mountaintop retreat in North Carolina.

It was McCain’s first sit-down with Billy Graham and his son, although McCain and the elder Graham are acquainted.

With 89-year-old Billy Graham in poor health, McCain flew to North Carolina expecting to meet only with Franklin Graham -- president and chief executive of the group his father founded in 1950, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.

McCain, who is courting religious voters and trying to reassure skeptical conservatives, said he had “a very excellent conversation” with the two “great leaders.”


Franklin Graham issued a statement after the meeting praising the Arizona senator’s “personal faith and his moral clarity.”

He said he was not endorsing anyone for president, but was urging “men and women of faith everywhere” to vote and to be involved in the political process.

McCain said last week that he did not consider the meeting with Franklin Graham to be political.

Franklin Graham was among 30 evangelicals with whom Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama met this month in Chicago.


In Washington, retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark challenged McCain’s claim that he was better prepared than Obama to be president.

Clark said he honored McCain’s service as a prisoner during the Vietnam War and respected his role on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Clark said McCain had no executive experience, and added that the Navy squadron McCain commanded was not a wartime squadron.

“He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall,” Clark said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


When moderator Bob Schieffer noted that Obama hadn’t had those experiences, nor had he flown a fighter plane and been shot down, Clark replied: “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

Obama took a break from campaigning Sunday but still had a busy day.

The Illinois senator managed a 30-minute workout at a gym near his home on Chicago’s South Side, then got a haircut at the Hyde Park Hair Salon, where he’s been a customer for several years.

Barber Ishmael Alamin, who was working at the shop, said Obama got “a regular clipper cut.”


Obama returned home to pick up his daughters and take them to the East Bank Club in the River North neighborhood to play basketball. His wife, Michelle, joined them.

In Orlando, Fla., police were investigating the spray-painting of dozens of city vehicles, some with disparaging messages about Obama and McCain.

The vandals even left business cards on the vehicles criticizing both candidates. The cards voiced support for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s former opponent.

Clinton won the Florida Democratic primary, but the contest was held early in violation of party rules. Party leaders initially said that as punishment the state’s delegates would not be seated, then eventually agreed to seat half of them at the national convention.


Clinton’s supporters wanted the state’s delegation fully restored.

Instead, the compromise pushed Obama toward the nomination.