7) Plans for Iran
In early 2007, McCain spooked some voters by singing “Bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” after a questioner used the phrase. Earlier this month — after ticking off a list of suspect Iranian attitudes and actions — he (more soberly) urged the creation of a “league of nations” that would keep Iran in check. The question of whether and how to engage Iran may be the biggest foreign-policy issue the next president faces. If his hypothetical, Wilsonian-retro “league of nations” didn’t succeed, might McCain consider unilateral US action against Iran? And would he, under any circumstances, consider an Iraq-style invasion of the country?
8) How important is global warming?
This past Monday, at a wind-turbine-manufacturing plant in Portland, Oregon, McCain reiterated his previously stated belief in global warming, urged the use of free-market mechanisms to combat it, and took an oblique swipe at the Bush administration’s inaction on the issue. This should appeal to moderate and liberal voters. But as Joseph Romm noted in a recent Salon article, McCain’s professed urgency on global warming conflicts with his avowed admiration for conservative judges in the mold of Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito — who, like their fellow conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, seem to question the reality of global warming itself. (“Avoiding catastrophic climate change will require sweeping legislation that covers every sector of the economy,” claims Romm. “A McCain-stacked court led by Chief Justice Roberts will rule against any ambiguous or incomplete laws regulating [greenhouse gas] emissions in the commercial, industrial, utility, residential, transportation, or agricultural sectors.”)
Would McCain allow his concern about global warming to supersede his fondness for conservative judges? And under what circumstances, if any, would he pursue solutions that violated free-market principles?
9) Pork or no pork?
Way back in December 1999, then–Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell hit McCain with this question: “Senator, how do you reconcile the fact that you are one of the most vocal critics of pork-barrel politics, and yet while you were chairman of the Commerce Committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized appropriations?” Unfortunately, before a panicked-looking McCain could answer, Carell turned it into a joke (“I’m just kidding! I don’t even know what that means!”). Now would be a good time to get an answer.
10) The “character” question
By all accounts, John McCain comported himself heroically as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. But despite presenting himself as a moral exemplar — among other things, by authoring in 2005 (with aide Mark Salter) Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember (Random House) — McCain’s own behavior hasn’t always been praiseworthy.
One example: while McCain was in Vietnam, his first wife, former model Carol Shepp, was in a near-fatal car accident. According to a 2000 Times story, her injuries “left her four inches shorter and on crutches, and she had gained a good deal of weight.” A few years later, McCain divorced Carol and married his current wife, Cindy, a wealthy, attractive beer-distribution heiress 17 years his junior. There are caveats here: McCain was a former POW, relations with his ex and their children seem amicable today, marital faithfulness is not necessarily an indicator of presidential greatness. Still, this episode complicates the McCain Myth.