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McCain campaigns for George Wallace, Jr.

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — U.S. Sen. John McCain promised Monday to continue to push for passage of an anti-torture amendment during a visit to Alabama to campaign for Public Service Commissioner George Wallace Jr., a candidate for lieutenant governor.

"The image of the United States is suffering terribly throughout the world, terribly," the Arizona senator and former Vietnam prisoner of war said during a reception he attended on behalf of Wallace. "And if you don't believe me, ask any person in any foreign country."

McCain also made appearances for Wallace Monday in Mobile and Huntsville.

The $250-per person Birmingham reception was at The Club, where people could pay an additional $1,000 to have themselves photographed with McCain, Wallace and Wallace's wife Elizabeth.

The Birmingham News reported that in remarks at the reception, McCain praised Wallace as "a good and decent American" who wants to reform Alabama education and broaden the Republican Party's base.

But the senator and possible presidential candidate spent more time talking about the U.S. involvement in Iraq, which he termed "a noble cause," and the need for the nation to stay the course. He said he disagreed with the recent call by veteran U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Vietnam veteran, for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

"To set a timetable, when it doesn't comply with the situation on the ground, I think is a recipe for disaster," McCain said.

The National Democratic Committee released a statement Monday criticizing McCain for campaigning for Wallace. The release said Wallace has on several occasions spoken to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group, which opposes interracial marriage, massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples, hate crime legislation and multicultural courses in schools, denies that it is a hate group.

Wallace, the son of former four-term Gov. George Wallace and Gov. Lurleen Wallace, makes speeches to a number of different organizations, campaign manager Chris Brown said. He said just because Wallace agrees to speak to a group does not mean he supports all of the opinions of that group.

"George Wallace gives the same speech to everyone and talks about public service and how much he loves Alabama and bringing people together," Brown said.

A spokesman for McCain could not immediately be reached for comment.

He said he hopes to make progress on getting his anti-torture amendment to become law. McCain got the Senate to approve the amendment, which forbids "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners by the CIA or military officers, by a 90-9 vote. The amendment is part of a defense spending bill, and the Bush Administration has vowed to veto the bill if it contains the McCain amendment.

McCain said his office was discussing the amendment with the White House and National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, and "we aren't going to back off on it."

He said such notable military retirees as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John Vesey were in favor of the amendment.

Asked if there should be any exceptions to a no-torture policy, particularly when someone has information that could save thousands of lives, McCain said, "If you do that, then you carve out exceptions, and then you end up with gulags."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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