LA Times misled on "maverick" McCain's immigration stance, defense of votes against Bush tax cuts

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

The Los Angeles Times claimed that Sen. John McCain's "biography tour" may "soften conservative discomfort with the maverick senator, who has strayed from Republican orthodoxy on immigration." In fact, McCain has abandoned his previous support for comprehensive immigration legislation to more closely align himself with the base of the Republican Party.

In a March 31 article, the Los Angeles Times claimed that Sen. John McCain's "biography tour" may "soften conservative discomfort with the maverick senator, who has strayed from Republican orthodoxy on immigration and campaign reform." In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, McCain has abandoned his previous support for comprehensive immigration legislation to more closely align himself with the base of the Republican Party. McCain asserted on January 30 that he "would not" support his original comprehensive immigration proposal if it came to a vote on the Senate floor, now saying that "we've got to secure the borders first" -- a position at odds with his prior assertion that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective.

Further, in the article, Times staff writer Johanna Neuman asserted that McCain "opposed the Bush administration's tax cuts because they were not linked to spending controls." In fact, McCain's current claim that he originally opposed the Bush tax cuts because "they were not linked to spending controls" is contradicted by his May 2001 Senate floor statement explaining his opposition, as Times staff writer Janet Hook noted during a January 30 Democratic presidential debate. Furthermore, Neuman did not note that McCain now supports making those tax cuts permanent.

In a May 2001 floor statement explaining his opposition to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) conference committee report -- the final version of Bush's initial tax-cut package -- McCain did not mention the absence of controls spending, and suggested that neither the cost of the tax cut nor the spending restrictions that would result were the deciding factor behind his opposition. McCain said: "I supported a $1.35 trillion tax cut" -- referring to his support for the Senate version of the EGTRRA (known as the RELIEF Act) -- "despite my concern that a tax cut of that size would restrict our ability to fund necessary increases in defense spending." The conference committee version of EGTRRA -- the one McCain said he was voting against -- also had a 10-year total estimated cost of $1.35 trillion. McCain asserted that while he supported the earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," he could not "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." In the floor statement McCain made during the May 2003 Senate debate on the conference committee report of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, McCain did mention "the cost of the war" and "growing deficits" as reasons he would not be supporting the bill. McCain stated that "in a time where we are also facing growing deficits and must also pay for the cost of the war, what the conferees did in the interest of 'getting a deal' was the height of irresponsibility." However, as he did in 2001, McCain also decried the targeting of the 2003 tax cuts toward the wealthy, saying of "this so-called growth bill": "The only thing growing will be the tax breaks for the wealthiest citizens of this country." The Associated Press reported in a January 31 article that McCain's explanation -- "I disagreed when we had tax cuts without spending restraint" -- "does not fit with McCain's comments when he opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003."

In contrast with Neuman's reporting, Times staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske wrote in an April 9, 2007, article that, in 2001, McCain "called the tax cut "too tilted" to the rich, a charge he repeated in 2003":

McCain criticized the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

"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 need tax relief," he said in 2001. He called the tax cut "too tilted" to the rich, a charge he repeated in 2003.

Those comments, as well as McCain's votes, angered conservatives. The Club for Growth called it "class-warfare-laced opposition."

McCain's advisors say his votes were based more on fine-print disputes about the legislation than on ideology. They said McCain voted last year to extend some of the cuts, saying that to vote otherwise would effectively mean supporting a tax increase.

From the March 31 Los Angeles Times article:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took his "biography tour" to Mississippi on Monday as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., stumped in Pennsylvania three weeks before that state's crucial primary.

During a weeklong tour to "reintroduce" himself to voters, McCain, who has clinched the GOP presidential nomination, visited Meridian, Miss., where generations of McCains were raised and where a local air base is named for his grandfather and namesake, John Sidney (Popeye) McCain, who was a flight instructor and admiral.

"As a boy, my family legacy, as fascinating as it was to me, often felt like an imposition," said McCain, 71.

"I knew from a very early age that I was destined for Annapolis and a career in the Navy," he said, referring to his eventual enrollment in the U.S. Naval Academy, and "often rebelled in small and petty ways to what I perceived as an encroachment on my free will."

McCain's tour, meant to capture voter attention while his two Democratic rivals continue to battle for the nomination, may also soften conservative discomfort with the maverick senator, who has strayed from Republican orthodoxy on immigration and campaign reform.

McCain, who opposed the Bush administration's tax cuts because they were not linked to spending controls, said Monday that "government spending must not be squandered on things we do not need and can't afford."

Arguing that schools were lagging, he said, "government can't just throw money at public education while reinforcing the failures of many of our schools, but should, by choice and competition, be rewarding good teachers and holding bad teachers accountable."

Network/Outlet
Los Angeles Times
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