Monday, November 20, 2006

Carrying McCain's Water

Conservatives like me have criticized John McCain for seemingly having no interest in the GOP Presidential nomination. While a candidate unloved by conservatives should tack right during nominating season, McCain has seemed to continue to try to alienate conservatives, rather than embrace them. Comprehensive Immigration Reform (TM) is the most prominent example.

Along comes Carpetbagger with a criticism of McCain's sharp turn to the right. It's a good post. And while Carpetbagger intends it as a criticism, it's something McCain's people ought to be mailing to primary voters:

  • McCain criticized TV preacher Jerry Falwell as “an agent of intolerance” in 2002, but has since decided to cozy up to the man who said Americans “deserved” the 9/11 attacks. (Indeed, McCain has now hired Falwell’s debate coach.)
  • McCain used to oppose Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy, but he reversed course in February.
  • In 2000, McCain accused Texas businessmen Sam and Charles Wyly of being corrupt, spending “dirty money” to help finance Bush’s presidential campaign. McCain not only filed a complaint against the Wylys for allegedly violating campaign finance law, he also lashed out at them publicly. In April, McCain reached out to the Wylys for support.
  • McCain supported a major campaign-finance reform measure that bore his name. In June, he abandoned his own legislation.
  • McCain used to think that Grover Norquist was a crook and a corrupt shill for dictators. Then McCain got serious about running for president and began to reconcile with Norquist.
  • McCain took a firm line in opposition to torture, and then caved to White House demands.
  • McCain gave up on his signature policy issue, campaign-finance reform, and won’t back the same provision he sponsored just a couple of years ago.
  • McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.
  • McCain was anti-ethanol. Now he’s pro-ethanol.
  • McCain was both for and against state promotion of the Confederate flag.
  • And now he’s both for and against overturning Roe v. Wade.

Carpetbagger also makes an important political point: Democrats who want to defeat McCain ought to start painting the narrative today, of a moderate who's sold his soul to capture the nomination. That's an exaggeration, but defining the opponent has been a formula for success in American politics for a while. (Just ask Pompous John Kerry, Earth Tone Al Gore, 'Bridge to the 19th Century' Bob Dole, Out-of-Touch George Bush 41, and soulless technocrat Mike Dukakis).

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