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    February 19, 2008

    Has McCain qualified as a flip-flopper?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Johnmccainhands Has John McCain reversed himself yet on enough of his "principled" long-standing positions to be considered a flip-flopper? Let's examine the record.

    1. Most recently, McCain made a U-turn on one of his fundamental issues, that the United States should not torture prisoners. As a prisoner of war himself for more than five years during the Vietnam War, McCain has the most credibility of any politician on this issue. Last week, when the Senate tried to explicitly codify the prohibition of torture by the U.S. (the U.S. is already a party to the Geneva Conventions which prohibits torture, but somehow the Bush Administration didn't understand this treaty), McCain voted against a bill that would have specifically prohibited the U.S. from using water boarding or other interrogative techniques not allowed under the Army Field Manual. Andrew Sullivan, a McCain supporter said it well when he claimed he was heartbroken over how easily McCain dumped his principles on this important issue.

    2. McCain has been a long time champion of immigration reform. In fact he and Senator Kennedy led the fight last year to pass President Bush's comprehensive immigration reform bill. In doing so, he went against a majority of his Republican Party colleagues as well as the GOP base. McCain defended himself by saying immigration reform was one of the principles he believed in very strongly. Now, however, when facing an angry Republican base during the primaries, Media Matters points out that McCain's position has changed so much that he says as president he would not sign the same immigration reform bill he sponsored last year. Media Matters labels this a flip-flop. McCain's talking points have switched from we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform to border security -- building a bigger, longer taller fence. McCain's principles and backbone on immigration seem to have evaporated in the heat of the primary battles and the pressure generated by the Republican base.

    3. When President Bush proposed his tax cut packages, Senator McCain made principled arguments that you couldn't cut taxes for the rich or during a war, and he voted against the Bush tax cuts. Now that he is running for president, he has reversed himself on this principled stance by saying he would extend the Bush tax cuts. And this past Sunday on "This Week," McCain officially pledged "no new taxes" as president. The reason McCain gives for this U turn is that we are heading into a recession, and tax cuts will be a good stimulus to help the economy. There is one problem with the contrived reasoning, however. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2010. It is impossible for anyone to know what the economy will be like at that time, so the arguments that it is necessary to extend the cuts to avoid a recession or that not to extend the cuts will hurt the economy if we are in a recession are bogus. No one knows what 2011 will be like, and permanent tax cuts are not how you generate a stimulus to fight a recession.

    4. Senator McCain long ago made himself a reformer when it comes to campaign financing and transparency in the financing of elections. This same senator now, however, refuses to release his own personal tax returns during the primaries. The fact that the Senator had to get personal loans to keep his campaign afloat during the the lean times of the primary season warrants a look at his personal finances to get a better idea of where the money is coming from or going to. It seems like a reasonable thing to expect that a long held position advocating transparency in financing elections should apply today as well as in the past. However, when it comes to his own situation, Senator McCain appears to be using different standards today than those he has long advocated for others in past.

    5. Finally, and most distant, but something that should have foreshadowed how elastic Senator McCain's principles could really become ... the Jerry Falwell U turn. When McCain ran for president in 2000, he courageously called Jerry Falwell one of America's "agents of intolerance." But in 2006 when McCain began running for president again, he apologized to Falwell and took it all back by telling Falwell he had "spoken in haste." Then on "Meet the Press" McCain completed his U turn by saying that Falwell is no longer an agent of intolerance.

    These five examples qualify McCain as a flip-flopper. The changes were not the result of changing circumstances or deliberate re-examination of principles and positions. They were due solely to personal political expediency.

    The flip-flopper accusation was used very effectively by George Bush in 2004 against Democratic nominee John Kerry. Since then, it's been overused and worn out. So what might be a new catchy 2008 term be that applies to Senator McCain?

    Maybe the "double talk express," the "U turn express," "forked tongue express," the "about-face express," "the retreater." Any other suggestions?



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