The McCain Pander Ramps Up

While Mitt Romney might be getting all of the negative press for his botched pander attempt (this cover from today's Boston Herald is particularly brutal), the former Massachusetts governor is far from the only Republican in the field for 2008 whose blatant pandering has garnered notice in recent days. Take, for instance, Adam Nagourney's latest in The New York Times.

As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country.


Mr. McCain, for example, appeared to distance himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he formed an alliance last year on an immigration bill that stalled in Congress.

"What I've tried to point out is we couldn't pass the legislation," Mr. McCain said. "So we have to change the legislation so it can pass. And I've been working with Senator Kennedy, but we've also been working with additional senators, additional House members."

Mr. McCain focused instead on the proposal by Mr. Pence, a conservative. "Pence has this touchback proposal," Mr. McCain said at a news conference. "I said hey, let's consider that if that's a way we can get some stuff."

One might argue that this is an example of how politics should work: A candidate listening to actual voters on the stump and incorporating their concerns and beliefs into his own platform. After all, who needs expensive pollsters when you a candidate actually speaks with real voters, right?

But on the flip side of this coin, it becomes clear that not one of the three leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination who are currently in the race has been able to refrain from pandering to ultra-conservatives in the worst kind of way, that not one has been willing to stick with his core beliefs even if they do not correspond with those of the far right. Romney's flip-floppery might be the most obvious and comical, but McCain has been no less of a blatant political opportunist and cynic. And with every one of these new tacks -- including leaving the cause of meaningful immigration reform in favor of bashing Hispanics -- McCain has proven himself to not be a man of integrity or genuineness but instead just another calculating politician willing to sell out his beliefs in the hopes of winning an election.

Tags: immigration, John McCain, Mitt Romney (all tags)



"... willing to sell out his beliefs"

What beliefs?

by Populism2008 2007-03-20 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: willing to sell out his beliefs

Touché. The touchstone of McCain's career -- campaign finance reform -- was an attempt to distance himself from his Keating 5 days. Great point.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-03-20 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: The McCain Pander Ramps Up

We really need to focus more of our fire on Rudy and Mitt.  McCain is not the front runner, is fading badly, and is starting to look old and bewildered.  As George Wallace said in one of his Alabama campaigns about a weak rival, "My momma taught me to never say anything bad about the dead, even the politically dead."

Rudy, right now, looks like the one Republican who can beat us.  Do you honestly think they apply the same standards to their own?  It's Ok if you are Republican (IOKIYAR)will protect him if he is the clear front runner.  We'll know on August 11 at the Iowa Straw Poll.

by David Kowalski 2007-03-20 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: The McCain Pander Ramps Up

Two observations:

1) While McCain has been pandering a whole bunch here, this one has got to be one of the sharpest turns yet. I was there when McCain was honored by LULAC at their legislative gala last year (alongside Kennedy), and his speech was rather fierce and uncompromising. Well he left the door open to compromise legislatively, as did Kennedy, but definitely within the parameters of adhering to the core vision of their legislation, which the Pence proposal definitely does NOT meet. There's already been an effective job done of contrasting McCain's panders on a whole host of issues; just add this one to the list folks!

2) McCain's reviving the "Straight Talk Express" as a campaign ploy isn't exactly a new type of pandering; the whole thing always was. Check out this excerpt from GOP pollster/wordsmith Frank Luntz' book, talking about "Twenty-one words and phrases for the Twenty-First century:"

But John McCain was not the first person to use the phrase "Straight Talk." When I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania back in 1983, I wrote a newspaper column for the Daily Pennsylvanian called "Straight Talk." As an undergraduate, I was already fascinated by words, and I thought "straight talk" was the most explicit way to communicate the notion of matter-of-fact language. A decade later, in several presentations to Senate Republicans just before and just after the 1996 presidential elections, I explicitly advocated that senators pick up on the concept of "straight talk." I was somewhat amused to see Senator McCain start using the phrase a year later. I can't be sure whether he got the idea from me--maybe we're just wired the same way. But whatever its origins, "straight talk" is a political winner.

by sip1983 2007-03-20 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: The McCain Pander Ramps Up

This is amazing. Truly. Mike Pence's bill is a "fallback"? It is diametrically opposed to almost everything about the Kennedy/McCain approach.

The man has no core beliefs. Even I thought that his immigration stance was one of the few points on which he seemed to have some principles. And to backtrack now ... when he's staked out the other side so publicly ... wow. Craven and stupid.

by BriVT 2007-03-20 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: The McCain Pander Ramps Up

I am no fan of McCain's, and certainly some of his pandering, such as cozying up to Jerry Falwell, is egregious. However, I'm not too sure this one qualifies. As McCain says, "... we couldn't pass the legislation." And that's really what I see going on here. If you're trying to pass something and you don't have the votes, you can either hold to your principles and lose, or you can "sell out" and make some compromise that will bring some of your opposition over to your side.

Now you can argue, justifiably, that maybe Mike Pence is not the first guy you should try to make a deal with on immigration policy, but if you want to pass something, you're going to have to make a deal somewhere, and most likely that deal is going to make the legislation worse.

Now personally I would prefer that McCain use the platform of his presidential campaign to argue forcefully that immigration reform with a path to citizenship for current illegal aliens is good for America and also the right and humane thing to do. But the politics of such an argument are not good, so this is a) still not likely to work and b) guaranteed to cost McCain votes in Republican primaries, even in Iowa and New Hampshire, which have relatively small immigrant populations.

I would also note that characterizing a waffle on immigration as pandering to "ultra-conservatives" is fairly misleading; while Tancredo and his ilk may be the worst, illegal immigrants are regarded with suspicion and demonized by large swathes of the US population from across the political spectrum. I know I have had conversations with people who are otherwise fairly liberal but seem to have an irrational hatred of immigrants.

by taliesin 2007-03-20 10:43AM | 0 recs
by inconnii 2007-07-03 05:54AM | 0 recs


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