Paul Krugman checks John McCain's credentials as a moderate straight talker and as a maverick within the Republican party and finds they don't hold up to close scrutiny:
The Right's Man, The Real McCain, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: It's time for some straight talk about John McCain. He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be.
Mr. McCain's reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us." But now — at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war... — Mr. McCain ... 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. ... Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat ...; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain's ... 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. ...
Mr. McCain still thinks the war was a good idea, and he rejects any attempt to extricate ourselves from the quagmire. "If success requires an increase in American troop levels...," he wrote last year, "then we must increase our numbers there." He didn't explain where the overstretched U.S. military is supposed to find these troops.
When it comes to social issues, Mr. McCain, who ... met with Reverend Falwell late last year... is now taking positions friendly to the religious right. ... Mr. McCain's spokesperson says that he would have signed South Dakota's extremist new anti-abortion law. The spokesperson went on to say that the senator would have taken "the appropriate steps ..." to ensure that cases of rape and incest were excluded. But that ... makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest. ...
Mr. McCain's reputation as a maverick ... comes from the fact that every now and then he seems to declare his independence ..., as he did in pushing through his anti-torture bill. But a funny thing happened on the way to Guantánamo. President Bush, when signing the bill, appended a statement that in effect said that he was free to disregard the law ... Mr. McCain protested, but ... at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference he effusively praised Mr. Bush. And I'm sorry to say that this is typical of Mr. McCain. ... he always returns to the fold, even if the abuses he railed against continue unabated.
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 ... 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 ... But when it matters, ... 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."