On the February 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for The Politico, claimed that Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain (AZ) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are "socially moderate Republicans" -- ignoring their overtures to Christian conservatives and their inconsistencies and evasions on issues such as abortion.
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
MEGYN KELLY (anchor): You know, Mike, when JFK ran, he announced in January for a November election. Now, we've got candidates announcing two years in advance of the election, and those who haven't announced are being accused of being, you know, recklessly lazy. In other words, they may not be able to win because they've waited so long. What accounts for the change in the way things are working?
ALLEN: Well, Megyn, it's partly because the contests that matter are going to happen earlier, and a potentially seismic event happened yesterday, Megyn, in my home state of California when a bill to move their February -- their primary up to February 5th from June passed and is supposed to be on the governor's desk within 10 days. Their contest was in June, when, of course, it made no difference.
Now, it's potentially decisive, and so you're going to see Republicans and Democrats spending tons of time in the most expensive state, California, and we have a twist this year, because two of the Republicans, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are the sort of pro-business, moderate -- socially moderate Republicans in the mold of the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who could actually run out there. If California were in play in the general election, that, of course, would be a real game-changer for an electoral map that is usually pretty stable.
As Media Matters for America has noted, McCain has actively sought to curry the favor of Christian conservatives who supported President Bush in the 2000 presidential election -- the same Christian conservatives McCain denounced at the time. The Associated Press reported on August 28, 2006, that McCain "would consider" speaking at Bob Jones University, "a school he criticized during the 2000 presidential campaign for its ban on interracial dating and anti-Catholic views." On May 13, 2006, McCain delivered the commencement speech at Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, even though McCain had criticized Falwell in 2000 as an "agent of intolerance." As noted by the weblog Think Progress, in April 2006, McCain claimed that Falwell was no longer an "agent of intolerance." Think Progress also noted that, on February 23, McCain will deliver a keynote address to the Discovery Institute, the nation's leading advocate for "intelligent design" -- an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution that many scientists dismiss as a thinly veiled effort to dress up "creationism" as science. The website further noted McCain's "ambiguous record" on whether "intelligent design" should be taught as science -- in 2005, he claimed that "[t]here's enough scientists that believe it does" and that "I think all points of view should be presented." In 2006, McCain stated that "intelligent design" should "[p]robably not" be taught in science classrooms.
McCain has taken inconsistent positions on other social issues as well. As Media Matters noted, in 1999, McCain said he "would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade" but then issued a "clarification" several days later, reportedly saying: "I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its repeal." In 2005, he adopted yet another position, saying that he agreed "to some degree" that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. In 2006, McCain also issued a statement indicating that if he were the governor of South Dakota, he "would have signed" a controversial bill outlawing all abortions except when the life of the woman is threatened, but that he "would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted: "But that attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest."
McCain also supported Arizona's Proposition 107, a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and civil unions, which Arizona voters rejected in 2006. On the November 19, 2006, broadcast of ABC's This Week, McCain denied that he was both "for" same-sex civil unions and "against" them.
Giuliani has shifted his stance on abortion in a seeming effort to appeal to religious conservatives. As Media Matters noted, Giuliani now says he supports a ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions, despite opposing such a ban in 2000. Giuliani explains his current support by noting that the current law banning the procedure contains an exception where it is necessary to protect "the life of the mother." This explanation, however, lacks credibility, because, as blogger and media critic Greg Sargent wrote: "The version of the ban that Rudy opposed back then contained the provision for the life of the mother that Rudy is now saying is a prerequisite for his support of it."
Also, as Media Matters noted, before becoming mayor, Giuliani trumpeted his opposition to abortion rights but reportedly shifted his position following the U.S. Supreme Court's July 1989 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. In an October 13, 1989, article, The New York Times called Giuliani a "support[er]" of "the right of a woman to choose an abortion." Giuliani said he had "talk[ed] to [his] wife" about the issue following the Webster decision. The Associated Press explained in an October 13, 1989, article: "Once an outright opponent, [Giuliani] now says he supports abortion rights, and would not seek to reduce funds or services, even though he remains personally opposed."