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McCain Chats With Letterman

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From CBS News' Dante Higgins:

NEW YORK CITY -- John McCain detoured from his week-long biographical tour for an appearance on "Late Show with David Letterman" yesterday.

"You know who I like? I like that John McCain," Letterman said in his monologue. "He looks like the guy who makes keys at hardware store. He looks like the guy who has wiry hair growing out of new places," Letterman said as McCain walked onto the stage.

"Hey Letterman," he said. "You think that stuff's pretty funny don't you? Well you look like a guy whose laptop would be seized by the authorities. You look like the guy smuggling reptiles in his pants. You look like the guy who neighbors later say, 'he mostly kept to himself.'" McCain laughed the entire time and even mimicked Letterman's posture on the stage.

McCain returned later to the guest's chair to chat with the host. This was his first appearance on the show since he announced his bid for the presidency on his show in February 2007. When Letterman reminded him of it McCain joked, ""Right then we plummeted. Right then it was all your fault... We managed to recover despite."

McCain made fun of his campaign's tight budget and reports that he gave up his charter for cheap commercial flights at one point.

"I was riding on a well-known airline in group D. You know that's the one where you get to sit the center seat between two heavyset Americans. I was carrying my own bags, that was good training a good experience," McCain said.

John McCain's talking points at town halls and other campaign events have lots of jokes embedded in them already. Without hesitation he whipped those jokes out for Letterman's national late night audience. At one point McCain appeared to be enjoying himself so much that he asked if he could give another one of his lines about how Ronald Reagan used to say Congress spends money like a drunken sailor.

Later in the interview the tone became more serious as Letterman asked about the issues being discussed on the campaign trail.

On the economy, Letterman asked if it was likely to get as bad as the 1930s and if so "what the heck are we going to do?" McCain replied, "Well, I pray it's not likely. I think it's serious, I know it's serious." McCain maintained that the fundamentals of our economy are strong and there is reason to be hopeful that things will get better but acknowledged again that we are in a tough time.

McCain has not formally proposed any type of assistance for Americans who have lost their homes as a result of the broken market. Tonight he threw an idea out to Letterman. "You know right now you get a deduction for the payment of you home loan mortgage, maybe increase that to give people added incentive to stay in their home."

McCain talked about the Bear Stearns collapse saying the government's involvement "probably was necessary because of the ripple effect it might have had on other institutions. But it's absolutely disgraceful when the guy whose the head of Bear Stearns sells stock and makes $60 million. That kind of thing has got to stop," he said.

On the Iraq war, Letterman mentioned that 4,000 American troops have been killed dead, then asked McCain how many Iraqis have died.

"I think it's hard to make these estimates but it's in the hundreds of thousands obviously and millions more fled the country," McCain conceded.

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