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Not So Straight Talk

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.”

Abortion

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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