On the March 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Congressional Quarterly reporter Jonathan Allen claimed that Sen. John McCain is "good for Democrats on climate change, on deficit reduction perhaps," and "also on ethics issues." Allen did not elaborate on how McCain is "good for Democrats ... on deficit reduction," given his support for tax cuts and the war in Iraq. Nor did Allen expand on his claim that McCain is "good for Democrats ... on ethics issues," given his close ties to lobbyists, the Federal Election Commission chairman's charge that McCain is currently violating spending limits, McCain's signed loan agreement last year that could have obligated him to stay in the race whether or not he had any chance of winning, in order to obtain public funds to repay the loan, and his long list of falsehoods and flip-flops.
Hardball host Chris Matthews asked during the Hardball segment: "Can John McCain offer himself as a third alternative here, not to the current policies, but to -- and not to the left policies, which he could portray the Democrats as having, but something different down the middle?" Allen replied that McCain is "going to try to find a good point between George Bush and whoever the Democratic nominee is and settle right there, and pin the Democrat to the left." Shortly thereafter, Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of Independent Women's Forum, stated: "He is a centrist." However, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted, McCain has asserted that he is "proud to be a conservative," and that his "record in public office taken as a whole is the record of a mainstream conservative."
Matthews also claimed that McCain suggested "we should go to war with alliances, strong alliances, not going it alone like President Bush," but did not note McCain's highly critical statements about France, Germany, and Belgium during the run-up to invasion of Iraq, including saying that the French "remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who's still trying to dine out on her looks, but doesn't have the face for it."
From the March 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: I just think if you're going for the Knights of Columbus vote, you ought to get your bowling down a little better than that. Let me ask you about John McCain. I had a whiff of a theory today -- and I want to try it by all three -- that John McCain could win the general election, not by defending the last eight years of economic policy or the war in Iraq as it's been fought, but triangulating the way that Bill Clinton once did, in the case of -- in his case saying, we should go to war with alliances, strong alliances, not going it alone like President Bush, that we need a different economic policy.
Could he, Howard, triangulate this campaign and win a state like Pennsylvania? I'm talking John McCain.
HOWARD FINEMAN (Newsweek senior Washington correspondent): No, I understand, and I totally agree with you, Chris. That foreign policy speech he gave was a mirror image on the right of a Clinton triangulation on the left. That's exactly what it was. He said, "Wait a minute, I'm McCain, but I'm not a warmonger. You know, I want to do the alliances. I want to adopt the Democratic view of the need for diplomacy and alliances, and even the one that predated George W. Bush."
FINEMAN: "I'm with Bush on the war, but only the war."
MATTHEWS: Let me ask the same question of Jonathan. Can he triangulate? Can John McCain offer himself as a third alternative here, not to the current policies, but to -- and not to the left policies, which he could portray the Democrats as having, but something different down the middle?
ALLEN: John McCain's the nightmare candidate for Democrats 'cause he can talk to Democrats like a Democrat, and that's exactly what he's going to do on any issue he thinks that it benefits him. He's good for Democrats on climate change, on deficit reduction perhaps, also on ethics issues, and that's what he's going to do in this campaign. He's going to try to find a good point between George Bush and whoever the Democratic nominee is and settle right there, and pin the Democrat to the left.
MATTHEWS: And he's going to be very strong for Israel, I think, Michelle, too. I think he's going to look where he sees weakness on the other side; he's going to go for it. What do you think about his triangulation abilities?
BERNARD: I think his abilities to do this are excellent. He is a centrist. He is -- I agree with everyone speaking tonight. He is the Democrats' worst nightmare, particularly if the general election turns out to be one of Senator McCain versus Barack Obama. They're going after the same voters. They're going after moderate Republicans. They're going after independents. They're going after voters who are just slightly right of center and slightly left of center, and it's going to be a very rancorous debate if it's between the two of them.
FINEMAN: But bowling notwithstanding, if Barack is the nominee, he has some triangulation abilities, as well, that have not yet quite been tested. We'll see.
MATTHEWS: And I wouldn't want to have to defend a recession. I wouldn't want to have to defend a 100-year occupation in Iraq --
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: -- even if it was reportedly to be peaceful. Anyway, thank you, Michelle Bernard. Welcome back.
BERNARD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And Howard Fineman, welcome back.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I miss you both. And I've missed Howard a long time, he's my favorite. Anyway, Jonathan Allen, thank you, sir, for joining us.
Correction: This item originally critiqued Howard Fineman's comment that Sen. John McCain suggested, "I'm with Bush on the war, but only the war" in addition to Jonathan Allen's comments. However, it was brought to our attention that the context indicates that rather than referring to McCain's record in general in comparison to President Bush's, Fineman made the comment in reference to McCain's rhetoric about foreign policy. Therefore, noting McCain's commonalities with Bush on a number of issues unrelated to foreign policy does not rebut Fineman's assertion; we have removed that part of the item. We regret the error and appreciate having it brought to our attention.