AP claimed "GOP maverick" McCain has "crossed swords" with Bush on tax cuts -- but didn't mention his flip-flop

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

An Associated Press article on President Bush's plan to endorse Sen. John McCain reported: "Bush will be giving his stamp of approval to a GOP maverick who's crossed swords with him on things like campaign finance, tax cuts and waterboarding. But the White House insists that Bush's endorsement will be heartfelt." In fact, while McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, he now supports making the tax cuts permanent.

A March 5 Associated Press article discussing President Bush's plan to endorse Sen. John McCain that day reported: "Bush will be giving his stamp of approval to a GOP maverick who's crossed swords with him on things like campaign finance, tax cuts and waterboarding. But the White House insists that Bush's endorsement will be heartfelt." In fact, McCain reversed his position on tax cuts to align more closely with Bush and the Republican Party. While McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, he now supports making the tax cuts permanent and during his campaign has misrepresented his stated reason for previously opposing them.

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 February 2006, however, he switched positions and voted to extend the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends through 2010. Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, reportedly said at the time: "It's a big flip-flop, but I'm happy that he's flopped." 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." In May 2006, he voted for the final version of a bill that extended the tax cuts on dividends and capital gains. McCain has repeatedly asserted on the campaign trail that he originally voted against the Bush tax cuts not because they benefited the wealthy but because they were not paired with spending cuts. But in his 2001 floor statement, he made no mention of the absence of offsetting spending cuts.

Nevertheless, numerous media outlets have, like the AP, reported McCain's past positions on issues such as taxes without noting that he has changed his position. By contrast, The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller noted in a March 3 article that McCain has made a "striking turnaround ... on the Bush tax cuts, which he voted against twice but now wants to make permanent."

Media Matters has also documented the broadcast and print media's habit of using the label "maverick" when discussing McCain, while ignoring his recent rightward shift on several high-profile issues, including immigration and taxes.

From the March 5 AP article, headlined "Bush Is Set to Endorse John McCain":

Once McCain's bitter primary rival himself, the president is rolling out the red carpet. There'll be a formal welcome at the North Portico, followed by lunch in Bush's private dining room and a formal endorsement in the Rose Garden.

Bush will be giving his stamp of approval to a GOP maverick who's crossed swords with him on things like campaign finance, tax cuts and waterboarding. But the White House insists that Bush's endorsement will be heartfelt.

In recent weeks, Bush has gone out of his way to defend the senator's conservative credentials, saying big-name conservative attacks on McCain have been grossly unfair.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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