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Friday, May 16, 2008

McCain vs. McCain

McCain faces his mirror image
John McCain knows the issues inside and out, left to right, top to bottom. There's a reason for that -- on most issues, McCain's taken both sides of the argument at one time or another. If you don't like his position on an issue, just wait a while. Once his position becomes unpopular or inconvenient for himself, he'll take another.

When John Kerry was ridiculed for saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," few noted that he was talking about two different bills. The media, assuming as they always do that you're a freakin' moron, called this "nuance." Vote for the original bill, then vote against the amended franken-bill monstrosity it later becomes and that's a "flip-flop." But what happens when you oppose a law you had a hand in creating?

The media labels you a "straight talker."

The Hill:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has told conservative activists that he will vote to strip a key provision on grassroots lobbying from the reform package he previously supported.

The provision would require grassroots organizations to report on their fundraising activities and is strongly opposed by groups such as the National Right to Life Committee, Gun Owners of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union.


McCain sponsored legislation last Congress that included an even broader requirement for grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. But now he will vote to defeat a similar measure.

Of course, the fact that Baghdad Johnny's running for president and needed lobbyist money to re-energize a failing campaign wouldn't have had anything to do with that.

McCain's "straight talk" has a bad habit of bending straight around to the position most popular at the moment. Far from being a maverick, McCain is the very definition of a "finger in the wind" politician who, with his nose in polling data and policy papers by special interests, leads by following. Often, the McCain of the present denies the McCain of the past ever existed.

Before the invasion of Iraq, it was John McCain who told us, "We will win this conflict. We will win it easily." It's not the only time he'd said something like that. He threw around words and phrases like "easy," "overwhelming victory," and "a very short period of time."

But that was then, when the invasion was fairly popular. Now it's about as popular as salmonella and now McCain not only says it isn't easy, he ridicules those fools who said it would be.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It grieves me so much that we have not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be. And it has contributed enormously to the frustration that Americans feel today because they were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach, which many of us fully understood from the beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking.

What about abortion; is John for or against it? That depends on who he's trying to please. "I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary," McCain said in 1999. "But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

But that was before he decided he needed the religious right to be elected. His position as shifted slightly since then -- about 180 degrees. "I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support," he told George Stephanopoulos in 2006.

Sometimes, it doesn't take him long to do a complete 180 at all. This January, McCain piled on Mitt Romney for wanting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Of course, that wasn't so much true -- sometimes "straight talk" has to take a few liberties. But McCain made it clear that setting a date for withdrawal would mean chaos and genocide.

In fact, a month later, Baghdad Johnny sat down with Stephanopoulos again and told him, "I still say setting a date for withdrawal is chaos, genocide, and we'll be back, because Al Qaeda will then succeed."

Of course, back then he hadn't focus-grouped that message and found out it was a sure loser. After finding out how unpopular an open-ended commitment was, McCain adjusted his opinions of timetables and dates for withdrawal.


On the same day that Sen. John McCain gave an ambitious speech laying out what he intends to accomplish by the end of his first term in office, his campaign released an accompanying Web ad dramatizing those hypothetical achievements.

“The year: 2013,” an announcer says as the words “2013” appear on screen. Then the ad goes through a laundry list of accomplishments McCain envisions: stabilizing the Middle East, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism, strengthening border security, advancing energy independence, reforming wasteful spending by the federal government, delivering health care choice, and restoring economic confidence. “The year: 2013, the president: John McCain,” the announcer says as McCain’s image appears on screen.

What happens in 2013? We'll let Baghdad Johnny answer that one. In a speech that put future events in present tense McCain, like some weird Republican swami, told us yesterday, "By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and -women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension."

Wouldn't January of 2013 be something like a date? Wouldn't all of these predicted accomplishments represent steps along the way? Wouldn't that be the very definition of a "timetable for withdrawal?"

Not if you ask him. "It's not a timetable, it's victory," he said later. "I'm promising that we will succeed in Iraq."

This is like saying, "It's not a timetable, it's a schedule. They're different words."

McCain has a habit of putting things in different words, mostly because he constantly holds different positions. There doesn't seem to be any central philosophy guiding John McCain's political life -- other than "always kiss up to those most likely to help you."


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