The Hill's A.B. Stoddard asserted of Sen. John McCain: "[H]e is seen as so nonpartisan, someone who has bucked his party so many times, if he did something even nakedly partisan now, we'd all have trouble seeing it that way." In fact, McCain has reversed his positions on numerous issues to align himself more closely with his party's base.
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On the April 16 edition of MSNBC Live, The Hill's A.B. Stoddard asserted of Sen. John McCain: "[H]e is seen as so nonpartisan, someone who has bucked his party so many times, if he did something even nakedly partisan now, we'd all have trouble seeing it that way." In fact, on numerous issues -- including taxes, immigration, and his view of the religious right -- McCain is not currently "buck[ing] his party" but rather has reversed his positions to align himself more closely with his party's base.
Indeed, The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller wrote in a March 3 article:
Senator John McCain likes to present himself as the candidate of the "Straight Talk Express" who does not pander to voters or change his positions with the political breeze. But the fine print of his record in the Senate indicates that he has been a lot less consistent on some of his signature issues than he has presented himself to be so far in his presidential campaign.
Mr. McCain, who derided his onetime Republican competitor Mitt Romney for his political mutability, has himself meandered over the years from position to position on some topics, particularly as he has tried to court the conservatives who have long distrusted him.
Bumiller noted that McCain has made a "striking turnaround ... on the Bush tax cuts, which he voted against twice but now wants to make permanent," and has "moved from his original position on immigration." Bumiller also noted that "McCain went so far at a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in January to say that if his original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, he would not vote for it." She also wrote: "To the degree that he is shifting to the right, he is shoring up his standing among conservatives."
Earlier in the segment, speaking of McCain's appearance on the April 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, co-host Mika Brzezinski asserted: "John McCain sits there for an hour with [Hardball host] Chris Matthews looking kind of presidential." As Media Matters for America has noted, on the February 7 edition of Morning Joe, Brzezinski asked presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: "[A]t this moment in history, isn't John McCain the perfect candidate to deal with what challenges we face as a country, and given the presidency that is just coming to a close right now?"
From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the April 16 edition of MSNBC Live:
BRZEZINSKI: Let's get right to Jonathan Capehart, editorial writer for The Washington Post, and A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist with The Hill newspaper. Jonathan, I'll start with you. What's this -- is it a competition as to who -- what, who had more humble roots, or what's going on here, as John McCain sits there for an hour with Chris Matthews looking kind of presidential.
CAPEHART: Well, I think they're all trying to beat back the elitism charge. The Obama campaign wants it to be clear that Senator Obama and Michelle Obama are not people who come from families with silver spoons in their mouths, and I thought that clip of Michelle Obama is a great retort to the elitism charge.
CAPEHART: And on the flip side, you've got the Clinton people saying, you know, "We're not -- we're not elites either, you know. We left Arkansas and came to Washington with barely anything and left Washington with nothing. And this $109 million that we've been able to take in since leaving the White House in 2001 is, you know, gosh, aren't we lucky?"
BRZEZINSKI: I gotta tell you, it kind of seems like a silly argument. A.B., Clinton's lost 16 points, when we look at these polls, in her electability. Obama's up 20. She's down nine points as the stronger leader. He's up 10. But Clinton has a large -- she's got 43 points over Obama when it comes to experience. What do you think, when it comes down to the voting booth, what matters the most?
STODDARD: Well, we don't know because in all these contests preceding Pennsylvania, we've seen the electability-versus-change, electability-versus-trustworthy numbers bounce around so much that we're not clear on where those are going to take us. I mean, I think the trustworthy attribute is really a tricky one for her. These things are cumulative. You know, her advisers are upset because the Bosnia story, they feel, was really -- had such a strong impact on her numbers only because of all of her years in the White House. Well, that's -- that is the truth. I mean, if you look conversely at someone like John McCain, he is seen as so nonpartisan, someone who has bucked his party so many times, if he did something even nakedly partisan now, we'd all have trouble seeing it that way.
STODDARD: So for Hillary Clinton, this perception has dug in, and she's running out of time to reverse it.
BRZEZINSKI: And Jonathan, how much -- how difficult do you think it is to sort of read into these polls pertaining to how people answer versus how they may make a decision in the voting booth, especially pertaining to Pennsylvania?