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?



Yesterday we explored John McCain’s flip flop on ethanol–first he opposed it and then supported it. Today, when he unveiled his environmental policy platform, Senator McCain again lacked consistency with past statements.

According to Reuters, McCain took “swings…[at] tariffs that protect domestic ethanol producers….Speaking to reporters following his remarks, McCain said he would let lapse a 54 cent-per-gallon tariff on ethanol imports which expires at the end of 2008.

According to the NYTimes’ blog, The Caucus, here is how McCain skirted around opposing ethanol.

“Here is how Mr. McCain – who is planning visits to Sioux City and Des Moines later this week – described the issue without using the E-word in his speech today on energy issues:

‘Alcohol fuels made from corn, sugar, switch grass and many other sources, fuel cells, biodiesel derived from waste products, natural gas, and other technologies are all promising and available alternatives to oil. I won’t support subsidizing every alternative, or tariffs that restrict the healthy competition that stimulates innovation and lower costs.

‘But I’ll encourage the development of infrastructure and market growth necessary for these products to compete, and let consumers choose the winners. I’ve never known an American entrepreneur worthy of the name who wouldn’t rather compete for sales than subsidies.’’’

John McCain unveils his environmental policy tomorrow in a speech as part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Decision 2008 Series. We’ll likely take a look at the speech tomorrow, but given that today is Earth Day, it seems appropriate to look back at McCain’s ethanol flip flop. It gained some attention in the fall, and we highlight it again here, but more interesting, is which candidates actually drive fuel efficient vehicles based on their support of energy conservation policies.


John McCain has long opposed ethanol. When he campaigned for president in 1999 and 2000, he barely visited Iowa. An anti-ethanol position in the state with the first primary is political suicide since the state is the biggest producer of corn in the country. According to CNN,”…and in Iowa ethanol isn’t just another campaign issue. It’s the cash cow, the golden goose and the fountain of economic youth all wrapped up in one.”

Again ccording to CNN, McCain reiterated his position in November of 2003:

“Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it….Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business – tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests – primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality.”

In August of 2006 McCain did a complete about face. The AP reported McCain said at a speech in Grinnell, Iowa:

“I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.”

Given that ethanol is so important to Iowa voters, it’s not surprising that in addition to McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudolph Guiliani, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney (the six candidates Reality Check covers) all support ethanol. But given all sorts of commitments to energy conservation, do these six candidates drive fuel efficient vehicles? A recent Business Week article took a look at what the candidates drive.

Despite McCain‘s flip on ethanol, the Straight Talk Express bus does not run on ethanol or an environmentally friendly fuel source but on diesel. Senator John McCain also owns a Cadillac CTS, which is not very fuel efficient either.

Bill Clinton recently customized a Mercury Mariner hybrid. Senator Hillary Clinton also uses the car.

Senator John Edwards bought a 2007 Ford E scape gas-electric hybrid. He also owns a Chrysler Pacifica and GMC Sierra.

Governor Mitt Romney drives a Ford Mustang GT, Cadillac SRX, and Chevy Silverado.

Senator Barack Obama drives a Chrysler 300C sedan, which only gets 20 mpg. However, his campaign owns a flex-fuel GMC Yukon. It only get 17 mpg, but given that it runs ethanol certainly helps in Iowa.