April 2007

In an attempt to court primary voters, Republican Senator John McCain is reasserting his conservatism and his consistency. An Associated Press article yesterday said,

“His defense of the war in Iraq has hurt him with independents who backed his White House bid in 2000. His stands on immigration and campaign finance have raised doubts among some conservatives, still wary of his criticism of evangelical Christian leaders in the 2000 campaign…. ‘My record is very clear. It’s very consistent. It’s very conservative,’ McCain said.”

On Fox News Sunday, McCain spoke with Chris Wallace extensively about accusations of flip flops on everything from taxes to ethanol.

“WALLACE: You have an 82 percent lifetime rating for the American Conservative Union. And yet one of the things that always surprises me whenever we have you on is I get e-mail from conservatives who say you’re a RINO.

Do you know what that means?

J. MCCAIN: Sure.

WALLACE: Republican in name only….

WALLACE: You were one of two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, one of three Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts two years later.

At that time, you said that they were fiscally reckless and that they skewed — they favored the rich. Now you say you would not allow the tax cuts to expire. Is that a flip-flop?



Obama has run on a platform touting clean and, above all, open government. Has he been an exemplar of open government and a leader of transparent legislating? Is he practicing the “new politics” that he preaches?

According to Barack Obama’s website:

“Barack Obama has been a leader in the fight for open and honest government. As a U.S. Senator, he spearheaded the effort to clean up Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. In a politically charged election year, Obama acknowledged that corruption was a problem that plagued both political parties.”

Well, in the past week information has been coming out that suggests Obama may not be so squeaky clean after all. His current words and past actions don’t seem wholly aligned.


John McCain has been very consistent that we should not withdraw from Iraq. However, while America’s involvement in Haiti and in Somalia were very different from the Iraq war, statements on troop withdrawal about those two conflicts do shed some light onto his feelings on troop withdrawal in the past. In terms of Somalia, he said on the Senate floor in 1993,

“Date certain, Mr. President, are not the criteria. What’s the criteria and what should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal from Somalia. And if we don’t do that and other Americans die, other Americans are wounded, other Americans are captured because we stayed too long, longer than necessary, then I would say the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States, who did not exercise their authority under the Constitution of the United States….”

Check out the rest of the video for a longer statement.

Also, take a look at his statements on Haiti.

According to the New York Times, Mitt Romney has come out swinging to try to change or at least complicate his reputation as the biggest flip-flopper among the leading Republican nominees:

‘On Thursday, he gave an interview in New Hampshire in which he sought to deflect criticism on [the flip-flopping] front, telling The Associated Press that “everybody in this race that I know has changed their mind on certain positions, and they’ve done so as they gained more experience.” […]

‘“Senator McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts,” Mr. Romney told The A.P. “Now he’s for them. He was opposed to ethanol. Now he’s for it. He said he was opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. Now he’s for overturning Roe v. Wade.”

‘“Mayor Giuliani has made a number of changes over his career, and there are places where I’ve made changes,” Mr. Romney said in the interview. […]

The article goes on to discuss McCain’s response to some of the charges:

‘[McCain] told reporters that although he did not originally support President Bush’s tax cuts — which he argued at the time would lead to deficits and benefit the rich — he had proposed his own set of more affordable tax cuts, which he said would have left money to help shore up Social Security and for contingencies, like the war in Iraq.

‘And he explained that he did not support repealing the cuts now, because doing so would amount to a tax increase for millions of people.

‘Mr. McCain was cool toward ethanol in 2000, but has recently been promoting it as a method to help the United States become less dependent on foreign oil. He said Thursday, however, that he still opposed subsidizing it. […]

‘When it comes to abortion, Mr. Romney was apparently referring to an interview Mr. McCain, who has always opposed abortion, gave in 1999 in which he said that he would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

‘More recently, Mr. McCain has spoken in favor of a South Dakota effort to ban almost all abortions. At a rally in Columbia, on Thursday he praised the Supreme Court for its recent decision upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. […]

‘…he noted that “I have voted pro-life for 24 years, consistently, without any deviation.”

The article notes that Romney explained that his comments were not intended as attacks but, to quote one of his campaign spokesmen, as efforts to provide “a reflection of the fact that sometimes people change with the benefit of experience.”  We can surely expect more such high-mindedness from the candidates as this long race continues to heat up.

Earlier in the week, we wrote about Hillary Clinton’s use of a southern twang when addressing a group of African-Americans (which garnered substantial national press). According to the Associated Press, yesterday she defended her accent, which often differs depending on who she’s speaking with. She noted that she’s lived in all parts of the country–Arkansas, Illinois and the East Coast.

Check out a recent story from an NBC affiliate’s station about flip flopping in the age of the internet and television.

Reality Check is usually devoted to inconsistencies and flip flops, but it’s only fair to acknowledge consistency when it comes up. It’s been spoken about frequently, but McCain’s consistency on Iraq and his support of Bush’s troop surge could cost him the Republican nomination. Let’s take a brief retrospective at some of his statements.

A Reuters article today discusses his consistency:

“I don’t think about it [failure in Iraq]. It’s far more important than any political campaign. I’d rather lose a campaign than lose a war [McCain said].” The article continues, “McCain supporters say his stance on Iraq is one reason he has been unable so far to break out of the pack of Republican candidates in New Hampshire, where McCain crushed George W. Bush with a 2000 victory of 18 percentage points….But for whatever reason, McCain’s crowds at events in South Carolina and New Hampshire were not all that big. Question-and-answer sessions with him were dominated by Iraq. News coverage barely touched on other aspects of his candidacy, such as his support for a flatter tax rate, a campaign to curb government spending and a reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil….While supporting the troop buildup, McCain is going out of his way to denounce the Bush White House’s Iraq policies through four years of warfare, blaming Bush himself and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld….While it may be difficult for voters to see the nuance in his position….”

And then, of course, there were McCain’s comments last month that received substantial press when he said he was so confident about Iraq it was safe to walk through Baghdad markets, yet he was accompanied by 10 armored hum-vees, 22 armored soldiers with rifles, and 2 apache helicopters overhead. (On 60 Minutes almost three weeks ago, McCain explained his remarks).

His web site even has a petition entitled “surrender is not an option.”

  • The decision of the Senate made on March 27 to call for a date certain withdrawal from Iraq is nothing more than a guaranteed date of surrender.
  • It is a refusal to acknowledge the dire consequences of failure, in terms of the stability in the Middle East and the resulting impact on the security of all Americans, whether home or abroad. (more…)

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