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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Need to Get Wise to Chameleon McCain

by Pete Ross
Dems who bought into the meme that, well John McCain is too moderate to get the GOP presidential nomination should check out Paul Krugman’s recent NYT article “The Right’s Man.” Krugman demolishes this myth in short order with such nuggets as:

…At a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger – Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.


When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of “rogue state rollback,” anticipating the “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain’s aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.


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.

McCain is particularly adept at getting ‘mainstream’ journalists to describe him as a moderate, and he has a unique knack for appealing for bipartisanship in dulcet tones. I know several otherwise intelligent people who have been seduced by McCain’s style into ignoring his conservative record — to the right of 97 out of 100 U.S. Senators, according to one study cited by Krugman.
As the most mediagenic of Republican candidates, at least with respect to political moderates, McCain merits some extra scrutiny. There’s more in Krugman’s piece, and reality-based moderates — and Dems who want to better understand one of their shrewdest adversaries — are strongly urged to read the entire article.