Ignoring own reporting, Wash. Times headline claimed “McCain refuses to pander”

A Washington Times headline claimed in reference to Sen. John McCain: “McCain refuses to pander.” In fact, The Washington Times itself has reported on McCain's efforts to satisfy conservative Republicans by changing his positions on issues such as taxes and immigration.

A February 14 Washington Times headline, featured above the fold on the front page of the newspaper, claimed in reference to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “McCain refuses to pander.” In fact, The Washington Times itself has reported on McCain's efforts to satisfy conservative Republicans by changing his positions on issues such as taxes and immigration. In an October 31, 2007, article headlined “McCain caters to GOP voters,” the Times' Stephen Dinan, who also wrote the February 14 article accompanying the headline “McCain refuses to pander,” reported: “Sen. John McCain has quietly been piling up flip-flops, including ditching his long-held support for the Law of the Sea convention and telling bloggers he now opposes the DREAM Act to legalize illegal alien students. ... Republican primary voters tilt to the right, and the sea treaty is another example of Mr. McCain veering to try to align himself with them, recanting positions along the way on immigration, tax cuts and campaign-finance reform.”

Washington Times McCain

The February 14 headline was also highlighted by the blogs Think Progress and the The Carpetbagger Report, both of which offered several examples of what they cited as McCain's pandering.

In the article accompanying the headline, Dinan reported: “John McCain's campaign manager yesterday said the candidate will not pander for conservative support, even as his surrogates have made a second overture to see why chief competitor Mike Huckabee has not dropped out of the Republican presidential race.” Dinan added that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis “disputed the sentiment from some conservatives that Mr. McCain needs to make a specific gesture to conservatives, such as selecting a vice-presidential nominee they can be excited about, to win their support.” Dinan went on to note that following his victories in the Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia primaries on February 12, McCain “did send out an e-mail ad through Human Events, the conservative weekly newspaper, titled 'We must unite as a party,' pleading for financial support. 'I cannot succeed in this endeavor without the support of dedicated conservatives like you. And today, I write to ask for your support,' he wrote.”

Media Matters for America has documented several instances in which McCain has changed his positions to satisfy conservative Republicans:

  • Tax cuts. After opposing President Bush's tax cuts in 2001, McCain voted against legislation in 2003 to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut taxes on dividends and capital gains. In 2006, however, he voted for the bill extending some of 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.” A Wall Street Journal editorial on February 18, 2006 -- headlined “McCain's Tax Reversal” -- suggested that McCain's “reversal” was politically motivated, stating: “Our guess is that Mr. McCain may also be looking ahead to the 2008 GOP Presidential primaries, which won't be kind to candidates who've voted for tax increases.”

    Additionally, McCain has repeatedly claimed during his presidential campaign that he initially opposed the Bush tax cuts because they were not accompanied by offsetting spending cuts, even though he made no mention of spending cuts in his 2001 floor statement. Indeed, in his floor statement, 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.”

  • Immigration. McCain has reversed his position on immigration -- more closely conforming to the views of the GOP base -- in at least two ways: While McCain now says that border security must be addressed before any other reforms can be made, he previously said that border security could not be disaggregated from other provisions in legislation on comprehensive immigration reform. A November 4, 2007, Associated Press article about McCain's change in position noted that his prior support for comprehensive immigration reform “hurt him politically” and quoted McCain stating: “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.”

    Additionally, during CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, McCain asserted that he “would not” now support his own comprehensive immigration proposal if it came to a vote on the Senate floor.

  • Religious right. During his 2000 presidential run, McCain called Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance,” asserting: “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the right." However, McCain stated on the April 2, 2006, edition of NBC's Meet the Press that he no longer believed Falwell was an “agent of intolerance.” Subsequently, McCain delivered the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University in May 2006. A May 14, 2006, Los Angeles Times article (retrieved from the Nexis database) described McCain's address as “an olive branch to Christian conservatives who could impede his presidential ambitions.” The Times also noted that "[a]fter McCain accepted the invitation, critics accused him of pandering for political purposes."

Additionally, McCain admitted that during the 2000 South Carolina primary, he pandered to Republican primary voters by failing to take a consistent position on whether the Confederate flag should fly atop South Carolina's Capitol dome. As reported in an April 20, 2000, New York Times article, McCain said that the flag was a “symbol of racism and slavery” but on the very next day called it a “symbol of heritage.”

Indeed, in an April 20, 2000, speech, McCain stated that he had “compromise[d]” his “principles” in his statements on the flag:

McCAIN: My ancestors fought for the Confederacy, and I am sure that many, maybe all of them, fought with courage and with faith that they were serving a cause greater than themselves. But I don't believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors.


McCAIN: As I admitted, I should have done this earlier, when an honest answer could have affected me personally. I did not do so for one reason alone. I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So, I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.