John McCain and Flip-Flopping


John McCain’s flip-flops have become a common topic of discussion in the news media and blogosphere. Keith Olbermann mentioned several in the video above (transcript under the fold). Crooks and Liars followed up with links to back up a list of flip-flops (including a link to a previous post here):

Political reform, Immigration, Gay marriage, Abortion, Nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Military actions against rogue states, Negotiating with Kim Jong Il, Negotiating with Castro, Negotiating with terrorists (acceptable in 2002 when Powell went to Syria. In 2006, McCain said sooner or later we’ll talk to Hamas, not appropriate now), Unilateral action against suspected terrorists in Pakistan (Confused leadership with Obama, not with Bush) Warrantless wiretapping, Torturing Detainees, Indefinitely holding detainees, Iraq War, Tax cuts for the rich, Estate tax, Privatizing Social Security, Balanced budget, Windfall profits tax, Offshore drilling, Bush fundraisers, Jerry Falwell, Pastor John Hagee, MLK Jr. holiday, South Africa divestment, the confederate flag, and alternatives to evolution being taught at school

McCain has not only flip-flopped on policy, but has also flip-flopped on his admission that he doesn’t know much about economics. First Read reminds McCain of the many times he as admitted this.

Steve Benen has compiled a long list of flip-flops and discusses the topic today. He notes that the media is much less concerned about flip-flops when McCain is being accused of this than when John Kerry was accused of flip-flopping in 2004. Flip-flops need to be evaluated on their individual merit. Most of the flip-flops that Kerry was accused of were based upon Republicans distorting Kerry’s position and then claiming a flip-flop when his actual position did not match what they claimed it was. Often it is justifiable to change one’s mind, especially when conditions change or when new information is available. Politicians must consider what their constituents want and what legislation has a chance to pass, which can vary over time.

Steve also agrees that a flip-flop is not always bad, but is concerned of the manner in which McCain has changed his mind out of political expediency when running for president:

But therein lies the point — McCain was consistent on most of these issues, right up until he started running for president, at which point he conveniently abandoned literally dozens of positions he used to hold. The problem isn’t just the incessant flip-flops — though that’s part of it — it’s more about the shameless pandering and hollow convictions behind the incessant flip-flops. That the media still perceives McCain as some kind of “straight talker” who refuses to sway with the political winds makes this all the more glaring.

As Josh Marshall recently put it, “McCain is absolutely gung-ho and certain that he’s right about whatever his position and ‘principles’ are at the given moment. But they change repeatedly.”

Following is the transcript of Keith Olbermann’s story on John McCain’s flip-flops:

This weekend, Senator John McCain said, quote, “This election is about trust and trusting people’s word. And unfortunately, apparently on several items Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted.”

In our third story tonight, judging candidates based on their consistency.

You see where I’m going with this.

The signing of the GI Bill, not the only time Senator McCain was against something, before he was for it — or vice versa — or both.

You may want to get pencil and paper and write all these down.

On political reform, McCain last January opposed a grassroots-lobbying bill he once supported. In 2006 the New York Sun reported that his presidential ambitions led McCain to reverse his support of a campaign-finance bill… called McCain-Feingold.

Last October, he said he would vote against the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act… that he co-sponsored. Then he said he would vote against an immigration bill that he introduced.

In 2006, he said on Hardball, quote, “I think that gay marriage should be allowed.” Then, after the commercial break, he added, “I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.”

On abortion… 1999, publicly supporting Roe v. Wade… privately opposing it, in a letter to the National Right to Life Committee. The 2000 debates… he would change the GOP platform to permit exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. May, 2008… no, he won’t, reports.

Storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain? Flip.

Military action against rogue states? Flip.

Negotiating with Kim Jong Il… not acceptable, until President Bush did it.

With Fidel Castro, acceptable in 2000… not 2008.

With terrorists? Appropriate when Colin Powell went to Syria… and in 2006, when McCain said “sooner or later” we’ll talk to Hamas. Not appropriate now.

Unilateral action against suspected terrorists in Pakistan? “Confused leadership” when Obama suggested it… not when Bush did it.

Warrantless wiretaps? Six months ago, presidents had to obey the law. Not any more.

Torture detainees? No way… except for the CIA.

Hold them indefinitely? Wrong in 2003. Right in 2008.

The Iraq War? “The right course,” 2004. “Stay the course,” 2005. Today, McCain’s always been a Rumsfeld critic.

Tax cuts for the rich? In 2001 he could not “in good conscience” support them. Now he can.

The estate tax? 2006: “I agree with President Roosevelt”–who created it. 2008: “most unfair.”

This month, not for privatizing Social Security, never has been. 2004, doesn’t see how benefits will last without it.

In February, promised a balanced budget in four years. By April… make it eight years.

In May, “glad to look…at the windfall profits tax.” By June, “that was Jimmy Carter’s big idea.”
2000, no new off-shore drilling. Last month, “would take years to develop.” This month, “very helpful in the short term.”

The Bush fund-raisers McCain called “coyotes,” breaking the law in 2000… by 2006 were co-chairing McCain fundraisers.

Buddy Jerry Falwell… an “agent of intolerance” in 2000.

The Reverend Hagee… In, then out, in this year alone.

In 1983, opposed Martin Luther King Day. Today, not so much.

1986, opposed South African divestment. This month praised it.

And in 2000, defended South Carolina’s Confederate Flag… “a symbol of heritage.” Two years later, McCain calling it, quote, “an act of political cowardice” not to say the flag should come down. Quote: “Everybody said, ‘Oh, look out, you can’t win in South Carolina if you say that.’”

McCain’s campaign says his positions evolve.

Ironically, in 2005, McCain said alternatives to evolution should be taught in school… Evolving the opposite position he took in 2000.

Update: The National Jewish Democratic Council has issued a fact sheet with McCain flip-flops and has a description at The Huffington Post.

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