McCain meets with the Grahams

John McCain met Sunday with evangelist Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, at the family's mountaintop retreat.

The Republican presidential candidate, who is actively courting religious voters and trying to reassure skeptical conservatives, visited privately with the Grahams on the grounds of Little Piney Cove in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina.

“We had a very excellent conversation. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with them,” McCain said after the 45-minute meeting.

McCain's visit to North Carolina was his first sit-down with Billy Graham, 89, and with Franklin Graham, although McCain and the elder Graham are acquainted. McCain's father and Billy Graham also knew each other.

After the meeting, Franklin Graham issued a statement praising the Arizona senator.

“I was impressed by his personal faith and his moral clarity on important social issues facing America today,” said Franklin Graham.

Graham said his father told a story about meeting McCain's father, a Navy admiral, on a trip to Vietnam during the war when John McCain was being held as a prisoner of war after his military plane was shot out of the sky. The two prayed for John McCain during his captivity.

Franklin Graham said his father “expressed gratitude for the senator's long and brave service” to the country.

“We had an opportunity to pray for the senator and his family, and for God's will to be done in this upcoming election,” Franklin Graham said.

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

Earlier this month, Barack Obama, McCain's Democratic rival, met with the younger Graham, who was among some 30 evangelicals Obama met with in Chicago.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Gen. Wesley Clark challenged McCain's claim to be better prepared to be president.

Clark said that while he honored McCain's service as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam war and on the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has no executive experience.

When moderator Bob Schieffer noted that Obama hadn't had those experiences nor had he ridden in 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.”