NBC's Ann Curry: John McCain is Old, He's 71. Did I Mention He's 71?

The "Today" show's Ann Curry interviewed Cindy McCain on Thursday morning and got her to promise that the McCain campaign won't go negative. However Curry, herself, repeatedly pressed a point that is sure to be part of a, not-so-quiet, whisper campaign against the Arizona Senator this fall--that he's too old to be President. [audio available here]

ANN CURRY: And she laughed when asked if she has any concerns about his age. You're laughing. Why are you smiling about that?

CINDY MCCAIN: Come spend the day with us.

CURRY: I mean there's never been an older president, at 71. So you've got, this, this is a fair question.

MCCAIN: It is a fair question.

CURRY: And you've seen, as a wife of a senator, what that job does to the men elected to it.

MCCAIN: I would challenge anybody who has a question about his age to come travel with us for a day, on the campaign, because I have to pull off sometimes. He's too much for me. This is about experience. This is a man, who not only has experience, but has the, the, the compass that his life's skills and his life experiences have given him.

CURRY: Can't take away the numbers. 71?

The following is the full interview as it occurred on the May 8, "Today" show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now to a "Today" exclusive. An interview with Cindy McCain, the wife of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. Ann caught up with her on Wednesday. She's been doing a lot of campaigning for her husband.

ANN CURRY: She has. In fact she flew in directly from the campaign trail to our interview, Meredith. With Democrats getting closer to choosing a nominee the spotlight now begins to shine on the general election now just six months away. How nasty might it get? Well Cindy McCain's answer this morning.

[On screen headline: "Curry On The Trail, Cindy McCain: We Won't Go Negative"]

CINDY MCCAIN: And what you're gonna see is, I, I believe we're going to see a great debate. Which, which the American public deserves, more importantly. None of this negative stuff though. You won't see it come out of our side, at all. Because--

CURRY: None of the negative stuff will come out of your side?

MCCAIN: My husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all.

CURRY: Cindy McCain expressed strong feelings on numerous subjects, including the devastation in Myanmar.

MCCAIN: I can't sit still. I, I want, you know, I want to be there. And I want thousands people to follow me. I'm, I'm, I'm appalled at the government of Myanmar doing what they're doing. They didn't tell their citizens, number one, warn them that this was coming. And number two, now that this disaster has occurred they're not allowing humanitarian help in. I don't understand it. I'm, I'm shocked, appalled and I'm angry.

CURRY: She also feels strongly about Iraq.

MCCAIN: These young men and women are the finest that America has to offer.

CURRY: Their 19-year-old Marine son Jimmy served in Iraq and could go again. She knows the pain of missing his call.

MCCAIN: I burst into tears when I looked down and saw the number because the numbers were the same at these, you know, these strange numbers came up in the phone. And, and, you know I'm no different than every other parent who has a son or daughter serving any where in the world. You want to talk them and just know they're safe. And I missed the call. And I just quietly burst into tears. Nobody wants war. Nobody does. My husband and I, least of all because we have a son that was there. But these young men and women are doing their duty like no other.

CURRY: You say you want to bring them home with honor. Some people might say, "We just want to bring them home alive." Why is Iraq worth risking the lives of your sons? American--

MCCAIN: Freedom, freedom. Freedom from, freedom from oppression. Freedom. We live, we--

CURRY: For Iraqis?

MCCAIN: Yes.

CURRY: She defended her own right to keep her tax returns private.

MCCAIN: You know my husband and I have been married 28 years and we have filed separate tax returns for 28 years. This is a privacy issue. My husband is the candidate.

CURRY: So you'll never release your saying--

MCCAIN: No, no.

CURRY: Never?

MCCAIN: No.

CURRY: Even if you're First Lady?

MCCAIN: No.

CURRY: Because that is, even though a not elected position you would be in a very public role.

MCCAIN: I'm not the candidate.

CURRY: She disputed what has been described as her husband's temper.

MCCAIN: It's not a temper it's passion.

CURRY: And she laughed when asked if she has any concerns about his age. You're laughing. Why are you smiling about that?

MCCAIN: Come spend the day with us.

CURRY: I mean there's never been an older president, at 71. So you've got, this, this is a fair question.

MCCAIN: It is a fair question.

CURRY: And you've seen, as a wife of a senator, what that job does to the men elected to it.

MCCAIN: I would challenge anybody who has a question about his age to come travel with us for a day, on the campaign, because I have to pull off sometimes. He's too much for me. This is about experience. This is a man, who not only has experience, but has the, the, the compass that his life's skills and his life experiences have given him.

CURRY: Can't take away the numbers. 71?

MCCAIN: Oh he's...I'm 53 and he's much younger than I am, I can tell you.

(Curry laughs)

CURRY: Really?

MCCAIN: Yes!

CURRY: In what way?

MCCAIN: Oh he, listen, he's gonna hike the Grand Canyon again, this summer, with our sons. I'm not gonna go. I'll freely tell you right now. He's, he's just a ball of fire.

CURRY: It's six months to go before the election, you talk about that none of the nasty kind of campaign that we've been seeing will come from your side. But are you prepared for the next six months, knowing that, that's how it generally does go?

MCCAIN: Well I'm never ready for those kinds of things, particularly when it involves my children but I can tell you that having been through this before I'm glad, I'm actually glad, grateful that I've been through it before. Because if things do turn that way, from the other side, I would hope that I would behave the same way I did before and that is with grace and dignity. And, and rise above it.

CURRY: Even if it doesn't help you win the presidency?

MCCAIN: I believe I can speak for my husband on the same thing. We'd rather not win than have to do that. That's not worth winning for.

CURRY: I also asked Cindy McCain about published reports this week that she and her husband didn't vote for George W. Bush after their bruising campaign loss in 2000. She said that's not true. Meredith?

VIEIRA: Very adamant about those tax returns. A lot of people have been wondering if she's gonna release them. She, quite definitively, said no.

CURRY: She's an extremely wealthy woman. She's reportedly worth something like $100 million. But she, she is adamant that she will never release them because she's not a candidate. She's actually not someone who's a candidate ever to be elected. Anyway.

VIEIRA: Alright Ann, thank you very much. Very interesting. Thank you.

CURRY: Thanks.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.