Reports by ABC, USA Today, and CNN purported to contrast the positions of President Bush and John McCain on tax cuts by noting only McCain's initial opposition to Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. None of the outlets noted, however, that McCain has changed his position and now supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent, or that McCain has repeatedly claimed that he initially opposed the tax cuts because they were not paired with spending cuts, reasoning he did not mention in his 2001 floor statement explaining his vote.
In reporting on President Bush's March 5 endorsement of Sen. John McCain, several news outlets -- including ABC, USA Today, and CNN -- purported to contrast Bush and McCain's positions on tax cuts by noting only McCain's initial opposition to Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. None of the outlets noted, however, that McCain has changed his position and now supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Nor did the reports note that McCain has repeatedly claimed that he initially opposed the tax cuts because they were not paired with spending cuts -- reasoning he did not mention in his 2001 floor statement explaining his vote. In fact, McCain said both in 2001 and 2004 that he opposed the tax cuts because they favored the wealthy.
In his report during the March 5 broadcast of ABC's World News, correspondent Ron Claiborne reported that the "relationship between" McCain and Bush "has not always been so rosy. McCain and the president have clashed over a number of issues from tax cuts, to interrogation techniques, to military strategy in Iraq." Similarly, a March 6 USA Today article stated that McCain and Bush "have differed on domestic issues, including taxes," and during a report on the March 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano reported that "the two have differed sharply on tax cuts."
In fact, McCain has flip-flopped on his support for Bush's tax cuts, a fact omitted in each of these reports. In May 2001, McCain voted against the final version of Bush's initial $1.35 trillion tax-cut package. McCain voted against legislation in 2003, which would have accelerated the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut dividends and capital-gains taxes. In February 2006, however, he switched positions and voted to extend the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends through 2010. Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, reportedly said at the time: "It's a big flip-flop, but I'm happy that he's flopped." In May 2006, McCain voted for the final version of a bill that extended the tax cuts on dividends and capital gains. Now, while campaigning for the presidency, as Peter Baker reported February 7 on the washingtonpost.com campaign blog The Trail, McCain "says he supports making those tax cuts permanent."
Additionally, McCain has now claimed that he opposed the tax cuts because, as he stated during a January 24 Republican presidential debate, he "knew that unless we had spending under control, we were going to face a disaster." But that was not the reason he gave at the time of the 2001 vote. During the May 2001 Senate debate on the conference committee report of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), McCain made a floor statement in which he explained his vote against the bill, in which he stated: "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." McCain made no mention of the absence of offsetting spending cuts at the time. McCain reiterated this position in an April 11, 2004, interview on NBC's Meet the Press, saying: "I would have -- I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthy Americans."
From the March 5 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
CLAIBORNE: Several times, McCain said he would be happy to have the president campaign with him. The president said he would do whatever it takes to help him.
BUSH [video clip]: If my showing up and endorsing helps him, or if I'm against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.
CLAIBORNE: Relations between the two have not always been so rosy. McCain and the president have clashed over a number of issues from tax cuts, to interrogation techniques, to military strategy in Iraq. They were also bitter rivals for the Republican nomination eight years ago.
From the March 6 USA Today article, headlined "McCain Receives Bush Backing":
The political fates of Bush and McCain have been linked in recent years. Both bucked their party by saying illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship. McCain also called for a temporary boost of additional U.S. troops into Iraq before Bush implemented such a policy last year.
"He's not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy," Bush said. "He understands this is a dangerous world."
They have differed on domestic issues, including taxes, global warming and campaign financing. "There are differences," [White House press secretary Dana] Perino acknowledged. "That's plain for everybody to see."
From the March 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
[begin video clip]
QUIJANO: In 2000, an underground whisper campaign dogged Senator McCain and his family with vicious personal rumors. The rumors were never tied to the Bush team, but the damage destroyed McCain's chances of winning the GOP nomination. A few months later, McCain signaled he would move on, characterizing his political support for Mr. Bush this way.
McCAIN: I think your take the medicine now is probably a good description. For me to look back in anger or with any rancor would be a mistake.
QUIJANO: Since then, the two have differed sharply on tax cuts, campaign finance reform and even the early handling of the Iraq war. But in 2004, amid rampant speculation that Democrat John Kerry would ask McCain to be his running mate, the senator embraced the president, ultimately helping President Bush win a second term.
[end video clip]
QUIJANO: Now President Bush is returning the favor by embracing Senator McCain. And the main goals -- to raise money, and of course, to try to boost John McCain's standing among conservatives in the hopes of driving them to the polls come November -- Wolf.