Wash. Post claimed McCain "diverged from conservatives" on immigration, taxes, without noting his flip-flops

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

In an article on Sen. John McCain's efforts "to rally conservatives to his candidacy," The Washington Post asserted that McCain "has diverged from conservatives on several issues, including campaign finance legislation, immigration policy and President Bush's tax cuts." But, unlike a previous Post article that documented McCain's "flip-flops" on taxes and immigration, this one did not mention that McCain has changed his positions on those two issues to more closely align himself with the base of the Republican Party.

In a February 9 article on Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) efforts "to rally conservatives to his candidacy," Washington Post staff writer Juliet Eilperin asserted that McCain "has diverged from conservatives on several issues, including campaign finance legislation, immigration policy and President Bush's tax cuts." Yet Eilperin failed to note that on two of the issues she cited -- taxes and immigration -- McCain has changed his positions to more closely align himself with the base of the Republican Party. Indeed, Eilperin's colleague, Washington Post staff writer Michael Dobbs, documented several of McCain's "flip-flops," including on taxes and immigration in a February 5 Post article, which was paired with a sidebar.

In May 2001, McCain voted against the final version of Bush's initial $1.35 trillion tax-cut package. In a floor statement explaining his opposition, McCain said that while he supported an earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," he could not "in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." In 2003, McCain voted against legislation to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut dividends and capital-gains taxes. In 2006, however, he voted for the bill extending the 2003 tax cuts. When asked during the April 2, 2006, broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press why he had changed his position, McCain replied: "I do not believe in tax increases. ... The tax cuts are now there and voting to revoke them would have been to -- not to extend them would have meant a tax increase." Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, reportedly said at the time: "It's a big flip-flop, but I'm happy that he's flopped."

A press release on McCain's campaign website asserts, "John McCain will make the Bush income and investment tax cuts permanent, keeping income tax rates at their current level."

Regarding immigration, McCain has reversed his position on a key element of the immigration debate. During the congressional wrangling over immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, he called for comprehensive reform that addressed the creation of a guest-worker program, a path to citizenship, and border security. He argued at the time that border security would be ineffective "no matter how formidable the barriers" without the establishment of a "temporary worker program." However, McCain now says border security must be addressed before other reforms can be made. A November 4, 2007, Associated Press article about McCain's change in position on immigration quoted him saying: "I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift. ... I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders."

Further, McCain has made inconsistent statements on whether he would support his own immigration bill. During CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, McCain asserted that he "would not" support his own comprehensive immigration proposal if it came to a vote on the Senate floor, despite having stated on the January 27 edition of Meet the Press that he would sign that very legislation into law if he were elected president. In a February 5 column, nationally syndicated conservative columnist Mona Charen noted McCain's changes on immigration and wrote that "his own flip-flops leave him with a huge H (for hypocrite) on his forehead when he singes Mr. [Mitt] Romney for opportunism."

From Eilperin's February 9 Washington Post article:

With his top rival out of the race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sought to rally conservatives to his candidacy Friday on a cross-country campaign trip that included stops in Virginia, Kansas and Washington state.

A day after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney abandoned his bid for the GOP nomination, McCain told a crowd in Wichita that while "primaries are tough ... we also understand once the dust settles, we come together, because we all know what will happen to America if the wrong party wins in November."

Promising that he would engage in "a spirited debate" with whomever the Democrats nominate, the senator promised to adhere to his party's values. "I am proud to carry the banner of a conservative Republican, with a record of conservative voting," he said.

McCain also said that he plans to meet with Romney, whom he fought openly with during the campaign, so they can work on "uniting the party and move on to victory in November."

While the senator tried to appeal to conservatives on the stump, his top advisers were trying to set up meetings with some of the nation's more influential evangelical ministers, including Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," and Joel Osteen, to find common ground. The effort has been spearheaded by Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), who endorsed McCain after dropping his own presidential bid in November.

When asked about that effort, McCain said, "I'll be glad and willing to meet with anyone who wants to meet with me." He added that there is no formalized strategy to reach out to religious leaders.

McCain has diverged from conservatives on several issues, including campaign finance legislation, immigration policy and President Bush's tax cuts. McCain has consistently voted against abortion but has argued against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the grounds that it is a state issue.

From Dobbs' February 5 article:

McCain has altered his position on such issues as taxes, immigration, the religious right, Roe v. Wade and ethanol. McCain has moved toward mainstream Republican positions on all these issues, including an embrace of the Ronald Reagan philosophy that tax cuts always lead to higher government revenue.

The senator has sought to disguise his flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts by arguing that the main reason he opposed them was that they were not accompanied by cuts in government spending. This was not the explanation he gave at the time, however. In a May 2001 speech on the Senate floor, he said he could not "in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief."

From the sidebar accompanying Dobbs' February 5 article:

Top McCain Flip-Flops

1. Taxes. John McCain was one of two Republican senators to vote against President Bush's tax cuts of 2001, saying that he could not support cuts that benefited the rich rather than the middle class. He now favors making the tax cuts permanent.

2. The religious right. During the 2000 presidential campaign, he attacked Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance." He withdrew that remark in a 2006 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying that the Christian right has a "major role to play in the Republican Party."

3. Immigration. Last year, he sponsored a bill that would combine a temporary-worker program and a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants while also increasing border security. He now emphasizes securing the borders first.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes, Immigration, Immigration Reform
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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