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Not So Straight Talk

Posted on Oct 31, 2006
McCain and Bush

Media Matters pokes holes in John McCain’s image with this list of the “straight-talker’s” flip-flops and equivocations.

Media Matters:

In her latest column, posted online on October 29 and that will appear in the November 6 edition of U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News contributing editor and CBS News national political correspondent Gloria Borger asserted that “[n]o one would accuse [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ] of equivocating on anything.” Writing about the prospect of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) running for president in 2008, Borger contrasted him with McCain, asserting that Obama’s “penchant for wishy-washy is well documented.” Yet as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, despite an abundance of well-documented backtracks, flip-flops, and inconsistencies, the media continue to describe McCain with words such as “honest” and “authentic” and generally regard him as an unwavering purveyor of “straight talk.” Some examples of McCain’s hedging include:

Tax cuts for the wealthy

Regarding President Bush’s 2001 tax cut package, which overwhelmingly benefited the rich and contributed to the transformation of the budget surplus into a deficit, McCain said, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief,” according to a February 27 article in The Washington Times. Yet in 2006, when Congress was considering extending Bush’s 2003 capital gains tax cuts, which benefited mainly the richest Americans, McCain voted with his Senate Republican colleagues to keep them on the books. When asked during the April 2 broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press why he changed his mind on Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, McCain replied: “I do not believe in tax increases. ... The tax cuts are now there, and voting to revoke them would have been to—not to extend them would have meant a tax increase.” Even tax-cutting advocates who cheered McCain’s reversal could not help but call it what it was: “It’s a big flip-flop,” said conservative movement leader and president of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist, “but I’m happy he flopped.”


As the Associated Press reported on August 24, 1999, while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire that year, McCain proclaimed himself a pro-life candidate. However, he told reporters that “in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade.” When his comments came under fire from pro-life groups, he wrote a letter to the National Right to Life Committee, stating: “I share our common goal of reducing the staggering number of abortions currently performed in this country and overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision.”

When Republicans in South Dakota passed a ban on almost all abortions, providing an exception only to save the life of the woman, McCain was asked by the National Journal’s The Hotline what he would have done had he been governor of the state. His office replied that McCain “would have signed the legislation, but would also take the appropriate steps under state law—in whatever state—to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included.” He gave no indication what steps he could take to change a law he already signed.


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By Louise, November 4, 2006 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wouldn’t it be nice if once, just once we could discuss whether or not the candidate ... any candidate was listening to and speaking for the constituents he/she represents?

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could have a reasoned discussion about said candidate being there to (heaven forbid) represent the people who put him/her there, as opposed to whether or not he/she was a seasoned game player?

And finally when will we the people start paying enough attention to put people in office who see the value of keeping their word and staying true to their oath (to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States) as far more important than pleasing the press and the party?

On that point, as far as I’m concerned, McCain shouldn’t even be considered as a potential presidential candidate. In spite of the Media Hype, McCain the mediator caved and basically gave Bush carte-blanche to throw out Constitutionally guaranteed liberties!

Obama on the other hand is, as stated, reasonable. Now the challenge is for us to figure out what “reasonable” means.

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By Montie L. Shields, October 31, 2006 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John McCain is the biggest hypocrite out there.
ie: Before Bush lied him out of the race for
President he had said Bush was lower than a
whale’s belly, then after he was out he start
telling us that Bush is going to be our savior.
When President Clinton was bombing Kosovo you
could hardly watch Larry King without seeing
McCains white head on TV there asking Whats his
end game, When everyone knew President Clinton
had said you leave Kosovo I will stop BOMBING!
What could be plainer than that. I have yet to
hear him ask Bush whats his end game is, I guess
it’s because he knew Bush had no end game.Also
He made the Introductory speech at the Repub-
lican National Convention. How can he sleep
at night knowing he did nothing to stop BUSH
from starting a needless War. Getting Thous-
ands killed. I believe between him and Colin
Powell went blindly along with BUSH just to
be a part of the Republican Party. Now McCain
is talking about wanting to be President. He
need to tell the people which John McCain they
would vote for.
            Montie Shields USAF RET.
P.S. It serves Powell right they only had him
to begin with because of his credibility AT
THAT TIME, he has none now.

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By kevin99999, October 31, 2006 at 9:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gloria Borger and others in the employ of corporate media do mind being wishy-washy themselves when it comes to supporting GOP candidates.

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By Helmut, October 31, 2006 at 8:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Part of McCains image is the contention that he is a hero for having been a captive of the people he was sent to bomb. The reality is that he was a survivor. He is still a survivor. Way to go, huh?

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By Stephen Smoliar, October 31, 2006 at 8:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reading the full article that concludes with the full Borger quote, it sounds as if she is taking Obama to task for being too thoughtful (she uses the word “judicial”) in his determination to acknowledge that any serious issue has more than one side.  She is probably right that this is usually not an asset in the political arena.  Media Matters is probably right to take her to task, but I am not sure she is guilty of much more than a poor choice of words.  Now that I am catching up on the Book TV broadcasts of October 15 (!), I suspect that, following the reasoning of James MacGregor Burns (RUNNING ALONE), what may matter most is how well Obama “plays well with others.”  McCain has been very good at giving the impression of being a lone wolf;  but, underneath it all, his political experience has made him a really good team player.  So, at the end of the day, he knows how to “hedge for the team,” whether or not it involves speaking his own mind.  (Compare him with Goldwater, who always gave top priority to speaking his own mind.)  Combine this with the Halperin/Harris analysis (THE WAY TO WIN);  and it all comes down to whether the candidate places optimum political strategy above his or her own values.  Obama has not been in the game long enough for us to tell how he will come down on this question.

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