On NBC's Meet the Press, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood said of presumptive presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I tell you what, when you have taken on a president of your party on taxes, torture, and campaign finance reform, your street cred as a maverick is pretty solid.” Harwood, however, did not explain how, or if, his assessment of McCain was affected by McCain's February vote to extend President Bush's tax cuts, which McCain had long opposed.
On the May 14 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood said of presumptive presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I tell you what, when you have taken on a president of your party on taxes, torture, and campaign finance reform, your street cred as a maverick is pretty solid.” Harwood, however, did not explain how, or if, his assessment of McCain's “street cred as a maverick” was affected by McCain's February vote to extend President Bush's 2003 tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, which McCain had long opposed, saying they exacerbated the budget deficit. Harwood's own newspaper's conservative editorial board saw it as a politically expedient flip-flop. Also, Harwood apparently ignored the fact that, after an initial rebuke, McCain has been silent on Bush's unprecedented issuance of “signing statements” declaring his authority to bypass laws passed by Congress -- including the anti-torture amendment McCain added to a defense authorization bill.
From the May 14 broadcast of Meet the Press:
HARWOOD: Tim [Russert], a couple of years ago, John McCain and the people around him had a decision to make: “Is the right way to run for president to go third party, to run independent, or to run within the Republican Party?” Once they chose that fork in the road, to stay in the Republican Party, speeches like this [McCain's May 13 commencement address at Liberty University] were a given. And his team thinks it's a good thing to get it out of the way now, rather than next year when he announces for president. There is some cost.
You know, I wrote a story recently about John McCain, described him as a maverick, and the editor said, “Wait, isn't that wrong? Isn't he a former maverick?” But I tell you what, when you have taken on a president of your party on taxes, torture, and campaign finance reform, your street cred as a maverick is pretty solid.
As Media Matters for America noted, a February 18 Journal editorial surmised that McCain, in voting to extend Bush's 2003 tax cuts after years of opposition, “may also be looking ahead to the 2008 GOP Presidential primaries, which won't be kind to candidates who've voted for tax increases.” A February 27 Washington Times article quoted a statement from McCain's office explaining his vote. According to the Times:
In a statement released by his office, Mr. McCain said he supported the capital gains and dividend income tax-cut extensions because of his concerns about “the leveling of some key economic indicators such as real GDP growth rates.”
“American businesses and investors need a stable and predictable tax policy to continue contributing to the growth of our economy. These considerations lead me to the conclusion that we should not reverse course by letting the higher tax rates take effect,” he said.
Also, as Media Matters noted, the Bush administration threatened for months to veto any legislation that restricted the president's authority over war policy, but eventually entered into negotiations with McCain over his torture amendment, and Bush agreed to endorse the amendment after both the House and Senate passed the bill by veto-proof margins. Bush, however, after signing the bill amid much fanfare, quietly attached a "signing statement" to the bill, declaring:
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of ... protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.
In response to the signing statement, McCain and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) issued a statement rebuking the president:
We believe the President understands Congress's intent in passing by very large majorities legislation governing the treatment of detainees included in the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations and Authorization bills. The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our Committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the Administration's implementation of the new law.
Since then, however, McCain has said nothing about that signing statement, or in response to a report -- also largely ignored by the media -- in The Boston Globe that Bush has declared the authority to disregard more than 750 acts of Congress, including McCain's torture ban and the 2006 USA Patriot Act reauthorization.