MSNBC's Watkins repeated false and misleading claims about McCain's record on taxes and immigration

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

On MSNBC, Joe Watkins asserted: "The reality is that John McCain actually supported tax cuts. The reason why he didn't support the tax cuts earlier is because he said you've got to slow down government spending. You can't spend and cut at the same time." In fact, McCain said in a May 2001 statement on the Senate floor that he was voting against the Bush tax cuts because "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." Watkins also claimed McCain "crafted that [comprehensive immigration reform] bill with Democrats, with Teddy Kennedy among other people. ... [H]ere's a guy willing to take big-time risks," but didn't note that McCain has said he would not support the bill if it came to a vote on the Senate floor.

On the July 14 edition of MSNBC's News Live, MSNBC political analyst and Republican strategist Joe Watkins made false and misleading claims about Sen. John McCain's record on taxes and immigration. When host Tamron Hall noted that McCain now supports making President Bush's tax cuts -- which he previously opposed -- permanent, Watkins asserted: "The reality is that John McCain actually supported tax cuts. The reason why he didn't support the tax cuts earlier is because he said you've got to slow down government spending. You can't spend and cut at the same time." But contrary to Watkins' assertion that McCain said he voted against the tax cuts because "you've got to slow down government spending" -- a claim that echoes McCain's own current explanation for opposing the tax cuts -- in 2001, McCain said on the Senate floor that he was voting against the tax cuts because "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."

McCain also voted against legislation in 2003 to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut dividends and capital gains taxes. On the April 11, 2004, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain said, "I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthy Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit. But the middle-income tax credits, the families, the child tax credits, the marriage tax credits, all of those I would keep."

Watkins also cited "the issue of immigration" as an example of "where John McCain put his own political life and ambitions on the line for the sake of America," asserting: "I mean, he crafted that bill with Democrats, with [Sen.] Teddy Kennedy [D-MA] among other people, for the sake of America. And so here's a guy who's willing to take big-time risks, John McCain." But Watkins did not note, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, that McCain said during the January 30 Republican presidential debate that he would not support the comprehensive reform bill he co-sponsored with Kennedy if it came to a vote on the Senate floor. McCain now says that "we've got to secure the borders first" -- a position at odds with his prior assertion that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform.

From the July 14 edition of MSNBC Live:

WATKINS: Well, this is -- this is a whole new day. I mean, throw away all the rules in the campaign. I mean, this is a whole new day. You've got an African-American who is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. You've got John McCain on the Republican side of the aisle, and you've got guys like [Sen.] Joe Lieberman [I-CT], the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, now siding with John McCain. This is a whole different world. And when it comes to -- to -- to Barack Obama, I think Republicans are -- they're not going to make it personal because Barack Obama has a beautiful family. I mean, he certainly strikes a wonderful image, standing alongside his wife and talking with his kids, wonderful image. They'll attack him on all the issues because he's flip-flopped. He's made so many big changes. Democrats are having buyer's remorse.

HALL: But is that smart when they can counter, Joe, and say, "Look, John McCain did this too"?

WATKINS: Well, he hasn't.

HALL: I can just bring up one thing, the tax cuts, that's what the Repub -- the Democrats point to.

WATKINS: And -- and -- and that's a great one to try to bring it up on. The reality is that John McCain actually supported tax cuts. The reason why he didn't support the tax cuts earlier is because he said you've got to slow down government spending.

HALL: Yeah.

WATKINS: You can't spend and cut at the same time. But, take -- take -- take -- take the issue of immigration, where John McCain put his own political life and ambitions on the line for the sake of America. I mean, he crafted that bill with Democrats, with Teddy Kennedy among other people, for the sake of America. And so here's a guy who's willing to take big-time risks, John McCain is.

HALL: But, we're almost out of time, so yes or no, are they having a hard time?

WATKINS: Yeah, they've had a tough time.

HALL: Phil, yes or no, is there a hard time right now with the GOP to attack Barack Obama?

PHIL MUSSER (Republican strategist): Obama has been deft in dodging attacks. But look, one of the things that we need to do, and the McCain campaign, I think, needs to do, is to double down on the strategies on where to attack him.

HALL: Right.

MUSSER: This is a little bit tactical. But look, the -- 2008, the online community is driving the debate in a whole different way. The Republican Party --

HALL: It is. It's interesting.

MUSSER: I'm sorry?

HALL: I said -- no, I agree. It's interesting.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes, Immigration
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Watkins
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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