From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain likes to present himself as the candidate of the “Straight Talk Express” who does not pander to voters or change his positions with the political breeze. But the fine print of his record in the Senate indicates that he has been a lot less consistent on some of his signature issues than he has presented himself to be so far in his presidential campaign.
Mr. McCain, who derided his onetime Republican competitor Mitt Romney for his political mutability, has himself meandered over the years from position to position on some topics, particularly as he has tried to court the conservatives who have long distrusted him. His most striking turnaround has been on the Bush tax cuts, which he voted against twice but now wants to make permanent. Mr. McCain has also expressed varying positions on immigration, torture, abortion and Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary.
Mr. McCain’s advisers say that he has evolved rather than switched positions in his 25-year career in the House and Senate and that he has been remarkably consistent on his support for the war in Iraq and the American troop escalation there.
Evolved? I thought those to whom Captain Underpants is pandering doesn’t believe in evolution! Someone get John Hagee and the evangelical fundies on the phone!!
Mr. McCain’s varying positions speak to the balancing act he is trying to do as he heads into the general election as his party’s likely nominee. To the degree that he is shifting to the right, he is shoring up his standing among conservatives. Yet he is also trying to retain his ability to defy neat ideological labels and hang onto the streak of unpredictability that has fueled his appeal to the moderates and independents he might need in November.
NiteThe risk, Republicans acknowledge, is that Mr. McCain may no longer be seen as above pandering and will be increasingly vulnerable to criticism from both sides.
Criticism? Big deal! He’s 71 years old. He probably won’t hear most of it.
In May 2001, Mr. McCain was one of only two Republicans — the other was Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — to vote against President Bush’s $1.35 trillion 10-year tax cut.
Two years later, Mr. McCain was one of three Republicans to vote against additional Bush tax cuts — he and Mr. Chafee were joined by Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine — because, he said then, the costs of the Iraq war were not yet known.
Later, he said he also opposed the 2003 tax cut because it, too, disproportionately benefited the rich.
These days, Mr. McCain says at almost every campaign stop that he wants to make those tax cuts permanent rather than have them expire, as the law stipulates, because getting rid of them would have the effect of a tax hike. He rarely mentions that he originally opposed them or that he did so in large part because he thought they were too tilted to the rich — an objection that conservatives consider heresy.
Mr. McCain has also moved from his original position on immigration. In 2005, he joined forces with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to co-sponsor an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Although the legislation included toughening border security, its center was a provision that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for many of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Conservatives immediately branded the bill as amnesty and fired steadily at Mr. McCain. […] These days he speaks almost exclusively about border security, although he does say that it is not possible to deport 12 million illegal immigrants and that he would never deport the mother of a soldier serving in Iraq.
Even so, Mr. McCain went so far at a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in January to say that if his original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, he would not vote for it.
On abortion, Mr. McCain has long been an opponent, but he has been dogged over the years by differing statements on the issue. In August 1999, in an often-cited interview with The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, Mr. McCain surprised conservatives when he made comments about whether he supported overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
“I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary,” Mr. McCain told The Chronicle. “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.”
Since then, Mr. McCain has hardened his position. “I do not support Roe v. Wade — it should be overturned,” Mr. McCain told about 800 people in February 2007 in South Carolina, a crucial primary state with large numbers of conservative voters.
More recently, Mr. McCain has overstated his original position on Mr. Rumsfeld. In 2004, Mr. McCain said repeatedly that he had no confidence in the defense secretary, whose management of the Iraq war was under increasing fire.
But unlike a group of retired generals who called for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation in the spring of 2006, Mr. McCain never did. He said it was the president’s prerogative to keep him.
Mr. McCain offered a different story to voters as he campaigned across the country in recent months. “I’m the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go,” Mr. McCain said at the Reagan Library debate on Jan. 30, in typical comments.
Finally, Mr. McCain has been under fire from human rights advocates for his vote last month against a bill that would require the Central Intelligence Agency to abide by the restrictions on interrogating prisoners outlined in the Army Field Manual.
Mr. McCain has said he opposed the bill, which the Senate passed last month with a vote of 51 to 45, because he believes that C.I.A. interrogators should have the flexibility to use additional tactics not listed in the field manual. Mr. McCain has argued that none of those tactics would include torture because “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” is banned in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
But human rights advocates say there is disagreement over what tactics are actually prohibited. Although Mr. McCain calls waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, an illegal form of torture and the C.I.A. says it no longer uses it, the Bush administration has not ruled it out.
Note: Kids, I apologize. My bathroom is being remodeled (well, actually being finished. The work was started in August–long story, I will tell you all about it someday.), and the contractor’s helper seemed to have knocked out the electricity that powers my internets connection, my computer, and the televisions. After several hours, they finally got the power back on, and I only had less than an hour to slap together a movie poster and a diary.