May 12, 2002


McCain Switch? Please. (David S. Broder, May 12, 2002, )
[I]t does amaze me to see this lively, gutsy and quirky man, one of the most useful members of the Senate, who has never given anyone reason to doubt his fidelity to his principles or his party, become the target of an attempted political kidnapping by prematurely pessimistic liberals. [...]

Those who really know McCain know better. Mark Salter, a senior staffer who shared the writing duties on McCain's most recent book and drafts most of his speeches, said to me, "He supports stem cell and fetal tissue research, but he is pro-life. The minute he says, 'I was pro-life, but not any longer,' it's over." In other words, his credibility -- his greatest asset -- would be gone.

David Broder is revered as the dean of American political writers, but he must have slept through the last few years if he genuinely believes what he says above. First of all, it has been widely reported that John McCain negotiated with the Democrats to switch parties and swing the Senate to them, before Jim Jeffords out-traitored him. Second, Senator McCain spent the entire presidential primary of 2000 ditching his conservative principles. Of course, he'd already launched an attack on the First Amendment with his "campaign finance reform" proposals, which he made the centerpiece of his campaign. But he also curried favor with the Left on various other issues, from gay rights to abortion. As I recall, at one point he'd played so much footsie with the pro-choicers that he actually had to make public statements saying that he hadn't abandoned the pro-life position. Being forced to reign yourself in because of the dynamics of your own party's internal politics is hardly the same as a principled commitment to an issue. He's been even worse since, supporting things like gun control and expanded federal health care coverage and actually voting against the Bush tax cut. It's not readily apparent that he has any conservative core beliefs left that are uncompromised. Why not switch parties?

Mr. Broder's point about the danger of altering his position on abortion is even more perplexing. After all, if McCain ran as a pro-choice Democrat, he'd be up against two other candidates who had similar conversion experiences when it came time to seek the nomination : Dick Gephardt and Al Gore. Both had sterling pro-life records until ambition got the better of their consciences. A third, Joe Lieberman, maintains a pro-choice position despite the fact that his own religion forbids it. Who's going to call John McCain a hypocrite? Al Sharpton?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2002 3:15 PM
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