Scarborough, Brzezinski advance myth that McCain "stayed with" his immigration position

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough advanced the myth that Sen. John McCain hasn't flip-flopped on his position on immigration reform by asserting: "[T]here are a lot of issues that Republicans have despised John McCain for taking positions on. He stayed with those positions, and it makes him much stronger in the fall campaign because of it, and I speak mainly of illegal immigration." In response, co-host Mika Brzezinski said, "Absolutely." Indeed, conservatives have praised McCain's rightward shift on the issue.

On the April 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asserted: "[T]here are a lot of issues that Republicans have despised John McCain for taking positions on. He stayed with those positions, and it makes him much stronger in the fall campaign because of it, and I speak mainly of illegal immigration." In response, co-host Mika Brzezinski said, "Absolutely." In fact, McCain's current position on immigration -- that the borders must be secured before other reforms can be addressed -- is a reversal of his previous position that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, conservatives have noted McCain's rightward shift on the issue with approval.

In a March 30, 2006, Senate floor statement, McCain said: "While strengthening border security is an essential component of national security, it must also be accompanied by immigration reforms." He added: "[A]s long as there are jobs available in this country for people who live in poverty and hopelessness in other countries, those people will risk their lives to cross our borders -- no matter how formidable the barriers -- and most will be successful." Arguing that "[o]ur reforms need to reflect that reality," McCain said, "We need to establish a temporary worker program that permits workers from other countries -- to the extent they are needed -- to fill jobs that would otherwise go unfilled."

However, during CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, after McCain was asked if he would vote for his own comprehensive immigration proposal, which would have established a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship, if it came to a vote on the Senate floor, he replied, "No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first." McCain has also reversed his position on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have allowed "illegal immigrants under age 30 to remain in the United States and gain legal status if they attend college or join the military."

A November 3, 2007, Associated Press article about McCain's change in position on immigration quoted him telling reporters that "I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift" and that "I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders." The article also quoted his assertion at a South Carolina campaign stop: "I got the message ... We will secure the borders first and then go on to other issues."

Conservatives have noted with approval McCain's rightward shift on immigration. On the March 28 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs said of illegal immigration, "[I]t's not going to be resolved by this nonsense from [Sen. Barack] Obama and [Sen. Hillary] Clinton on comprehensive immigration reform. It's nice to hear Senator McCain say he's gotten the message, so we'll see." Dobbs added, "We take him at his word." Similarly, at a March 5 press conference, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said of himself and McCain, "We did not agree on the comprehensive [immigration] plan last year, and he has said he got the message. He realizes security first is the right way to go."

Numerous media outlets have noted McCain's previous support for comprehensive immigration reform without noting that he has since changed his position. Indeed, on the February 4 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Brzezinski said of McCain, "[F]or the most part, he really does stick to his views even if they're unpopular," adding that McCain's "views on immigration were unpopular, and he stood by them even at the peril of his campaign." McCain has also reversed his positions on issues such as taxes and his view of the religious right to align himself more closely with the base of his party.

From the April 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: McCain is a -- if there's any candidate that can fight against the tide this year on the Republican side, it's John McCain.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, absolutely. He's tough.

SCARBOROUGH: 'Cause he's tough; he's not a traditional Republican. Now, there are a lot of issues that Republicans have despised John McCain for taking positions on. He stayed with those positions, and it makes him much stronger in the fall campaign because of it, and I speak mainly of illegal immigration.

BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely. And he'll appeal to Democrats, too.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, he will. He appeals to a lot of Democrats.

From the March 28 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Governor [Donald] Carcieri [R-RI] deserves great commendation to start doing something about an issue that's going to plague his state, irrespective of what anyone says. I mean, they have a crisis to deal with.

BILL TUCKER (correspondent): They do, indeed. And in fact, Lou, he did it by signing an executive order.

DOBBS: Right, an executive order that a lot of governors don't have the guts to sign. Although in all fairness, we're starting to see a lot of states --

TUCKER: We are.

DOBBS: -- take action, a lot of communities. Leaving most of the -- well, the spineless folks who sit in the United States Senate kind of wondering what's happening in the country around them. I think it's going to be fascinating. And this president -- good Lord, I mean --

TUCKER: Well, it's interesting. What's happening at the local level, Lou, is they're doing something. And they're doing it in a tougher fashion than they discuss in Washington, which is comprehensive immigration reform.

DOBBS: I have to tell you, these little silly people sitting in the United States Senate and that silly fellow who's sitting in the White House, talking about stuff as if it had no impact whatsoever on real people, everyday citizens to whom they have a responsibility. I mean, it's disgusting.

At some point, this is going to have to be resolved. And it's not going to be resolved by this nonsense from Obama and Clinton on comprehensive immigration reform. It's nice to hear Senator McCain say he's gotten the message, so we'll see. We take him at his word.

From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

CATHERINE HERRIDGE (correspondent): Senator John McCain, along with Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, drew the ire of conservatives for backing immigration proposals that would have given illegal immigrants some form of legal status. In this election year, one Republican said that he believes McCain is coming around to their point of view.

SESSIONS: I intend to vigorously support Senator McCain. He's our nominee, and I have great admiration for him. We did not agree on the comprehensive plan last year, and he has said he got the message. He realizes security first is the right way to go.

Posted In
Elections, Immigration
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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