Arizona senator John McCain appears to be the nation’s most popular Republican. That, at least, is what most polls show. It’s not entirely clear why. He has authored little noteworthy legislation during his 20 years in the Senate and, in fact, has accomplished almost nothing beyond co-sponsoring the McCain-Feingold Act — campaign-finance legislation that has failed to stem the influence of money in politics.
Not that he cares. McCain took up the cause of campaign finance only to salvage his reputation and political career, after getting caught as one of the “Keating 5,” who pressured federal agents to drop their investigation into one of their biggest campaign financiers.
McCain is not only cynical and opportunistic, he’s a hypocrite: when asked this past Sunday by George Stephanopoulos whether he intends to opt out of his own campaign restrictions, as John Kerry did in 2004, McCain would not rule it out.
McCain specializes in seizing on, and grandstanding about, feel-good issues like campaign-finance reform. He decries torture, steroid use in baseball, and Internet porn.
On tougher issues, he bends to whatever his political needs might be at any given moment. Currently seeking the Republican nomination, he is tacking hard to the right. He once defended Roe v. Wade; now he staunchly favors overturning it. Last year he stopped the Senate Republicans from deploying the “nuclear option” to confirm reactionary judges; last week he spoke to the conservative Federalist Society about the importance of appointing and confirming ideologically pure “originalists.” He voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003; this year he voted to make them permanent.
But his most cynical, and dangerous, campaign ploy is his insistence that the US must send more troops to Iraq.
As with his shameless embrace of campaign-finance reform after getting caught out on the issue, McCain has taken his most recent position on Iraq to salvage his reputation — now that his longstanding Iraq-war boosterism has turned into a political liability. By calling for more troops — which he knows will never happen — McCain will be able to claim that he could have averted whatever horrible events are in store for Iraq in the future.
Of course, to flog this policy he must, as he did on Sunday, agree in principle to sending already over-used troops back for third and fourth tours in the killing zone.
How can a former prisoner of war do this to US soldiers? Well, how could he tacitly approve of the Swift Boat slander of his friend John Kerry’s heroic military service? How could he bite his tongue at the convention where Republican delegates wore purple Band-Aids to mock Kerry’s Purple Heart?
John McCain has proven he is capable of doing anything if it serves his own political interest. He almost got America to buy his act in 2000; voters should be warier this time around.
Conservatives who aren’t buying McCain’s newfound embrace of their issues are looking at Mitt Romney as a possible alternative for the Republican nomination, as David S. Bernstein reports. All they will find is a politician who is just as opportunistic, self-serving, and hypocritical as McCain.
Romney’s audience-pandering shifts on abortion are well-documented. The Cato Institute saw through his claim to have never raised taxes as “mostly a myth.” His boasts of improving education are simply false, just as Bush’s similar claims about Texas were in 2000. He nearly sabotaged the painstaking health-care-reform compromise when, fearing displeasure among his corporate backers, he vetoed the employer contribution that funds the plan.
Romney is carefully cobbling together a conservative platform of ideas, none original or even interesting, along with a revisionist history of Massachusetts under his watch, in which jobs grew, budgets were balanced, and everyone thrived — and everyone loved him. He has recently told out-of-state audiences that, if he had run for re-election, he would have won handily. In reality, Kerry Healey’s forbiddingly unfavorable ratings mirrored Mitt’s almost precisely.
Romney could not have run for re-election, because to win he would have had to adopt the moderate views he ran on in 2002, and in 1994 against Ted Kennedy. He has a different campaign in mind, and thus different positions and beliefs.
Nothing better demonstrates Romney’s attitude than his made-for-national-consumption rally against same-sex marriage last weekend. With a huge American flag draped behind him, the governor who has taken no interest in his constituents’ health, safety, or economic security vowed to lodge a purely symbolic court challenge on behalf of those who feel they are harmed by their gay neighbors’ happiness.