Monday, March 13, 2006

He's Not the Right Man

Paul Krugman provides some "straight talk" about John McCain, in his NYT column, The Right's Man, in which he tries to debunk the McCain Myth of Moderation.

Krugman's column is timely, in light of articles such as the one that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, McCain status rising for '08?. Steven Thomma analyzes the political landscape for McCain, noting that "[t]he conventional wisdom of the moment - that McCain could win the general election but not the Republican nomination, because conservatives oppose him - may be changing." What is implicit, but not discussed in the piece, is the fact that McCain would benefit from Democratic and Independent voters in the general election. The article itself focuses on his repairing his image with the conservative contingent of the Republican party. He apparently already has his Democratic base locked.

Both sides need to reconsider McCain. As Krugman explains, he doesn't need a make-over. Rather, as he observes:

The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right. How far right? A statistical analysis of Mr. McCain's recent voting record, available at, ranks him as the Senate's third most conservative member.

* * * *

So here's what you need to know about John McCain.

He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.

And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.

It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on -— shame on you. Fool me -— you can't get fooled again."
My opinion of McCain has been voiced in The Company You Keep and Not the Real McCoy. McCain is a conservative all dressed up in moderate clothing.

Dick Polman, the political analyst for the Inquirer, also describes McCain and Bush: Politics' odd couple. He's at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and he observes the delicate dance that McCain is engaged in, balancing the need to placate the conservatives while not alienating the moderates who are already in his corner. I just hope he's not a good dancer.

(For those with access to the NYT column, it can be found reprinted at the Economist's View)

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