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Six Big Lies About John McCain

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

LIE #1: John McCain isn’t a loyal Republican.

TRUTH: McCain has been a stalwart Reagan Republican since he first entered politics in 1981.

He has never backed Democratic candidates for president or lesser posts – other than supporting his friend Joe Lieberman in his Independent campaign for US Senate in 2006. Over the years, he has campaigned tirelessly for Republican office-holders in every corner of the country – including vigorous campaigning that helped win elections for his former rival George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004. McCain has earned a lifetime rating of 83 for his Senate voting record from the American Conservative Union; his friend, Fred Thompson, won a very similar lifetime rating of 86 and appropriately dubbed himself “a consistent conservative.” While some of McCain’s harshest critics regularly talk of abandoning the GOP for some third party option (and some did so to back Pat Buchanan’s embarrassing run in 2000), McCain has never abandoned his party. On three crucial items in the Bush agenda – taking the offensive against terrorists, cutting wasteful government spending, and comprehensive immigration reform – no member of Congress has provided more loyal or significant support for the President of the United States and the leader of the Republican Party.



LIE #2: McCain represents a betrayal and rejection of the Reagan coalition.

TRUTH: McCain is a consistent, passionate Reagan Republican who, like the greatest president of recent years, is unabashedly pro-life, pro-second amendment rights, pro-military, pro-peace through strength, pro-small government, pro-spending cuts, and pro-tax cuts.

Many leaders of the Reagan Revolution – Jack Kemp, Senator Phil Gramm, Senator Dan Coats, General Alexander Haig, George Shultz and many more – proudly back Senator McCain. The conservative Senators who know McCain best – John Kyl, Tom Coburn, Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham, Trent Lott – support his presidential campaign after working with him in the Senate for years and seeing his commitment to Reaganism. During the six years he served in Congress under President Reagan, McCain supported the administration as one of its most effective “foot soldiers.” Unlike many of his critics, McCain echoes the Reagan approach – not the Buchanan approach – to free trade and immigration reform.


LIE #3: John McCain organized “The Gang of Fourteen” to Block the Confirmation of Conservative Judges.

TRUTH: John McCain organized “The Gang of Fourteen” to win- not to block -the Confirmation of Conservative Judges, and his efforts succeeded in the Senate.

This group of seven Republicans and Seven Democrats (representing a full 14% of the US Senate, obviously) ultimately broke the logjam that had delayed confirmation of some of the most conservative nominees of President Bush. Because of McCain’s leadership, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito won Supreme Court confirmation without filibuster from the Democrats. He also secured the previously blocked confirmations of Appellate Judges William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Brett Kavanaugh, previously filibustered by Democrats. At the same time, McCain and his “gang” managed to protect the right to filibuster – an important tool with obvious value now that Republicans find themselves in the minority. McCain has never opposed a Republican nominee for the Supreme Court; unlike some of his prominent fellow Republicans, he actively supported the nomination of Judge Robert Bork. His disagreement with Senate Republican leader Bill Frist on the “Gang of Fourteen” issues involved questions of tactics, not the goal of securing a judiciary that honors the principles of strict construction.



LIE #4: John McCain supports higher taxes.

TRUTH: John McCain has never voted for an increase in tax rates in 25 years in Congress—never – and clearly and consistently supports cutting and simplifying taxes.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform has acknowledged that even though McCain refuses to take the “no new taxes” pledge he has kept that pledge with his voting record, throughout his service in the Senate and the House. Yes, he did vote against Bush tax cuts – but did so because no cuts in spending accompanied the cuts in taxes. Unlike some of his colleagues, he insists that tax cuts and increased revenues won’t be enough to close the deficit – there must be spending cuts as well. It’s increasingly obvious that he’s right: tax cuts without spending cuts won’t shrink the national debt or trim the size of government. He currently supports making all the Bush tax cuts permanent before their schedule expiration in 2010 to allow individuals and businesses to plan their futures without uncertainty. He also backs an immediate cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% (second highest rate in the world) to 20% (one of the lowest in the world) as a means of stimulating the economy and creating jobs. He also backs instituting new rules requiring a super majority – a three-fifths vote of both houses of Congress-- rather than simple majorities, to approve any tax increases. This would make it vastly more difficult for future Congresses (even under Democratic control) to take more money from hard-working Americans.


LIE #5: McCain is an advocate of “amnesty” and “open borders.”

TRUTH: As Senior Senator from Arizona, McCain has fought for years to tighten border security, stop illegal immigration, increase workplace enforcement and to resist “amnesty” for those who entered the country without authorization.


McCain’s rival for the nomination, Mitt Romney, unequivocally and rightly acknowledged that his opponent’s position in no way amounts to “amnesty” or “open borders.” In the Fox News debate in South Carolina on January 10, Governor Romney declared: “All of us on this stage agree… that we secure the border, we have the fence, and we have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the border; and that we have an employment verification system of some kind….We all agree that anybody who’s committed a crime should be sent home.”

As Romney pointed then out: “The place of difference between us is what we do with the 12 million people who are here illegally.” Romney’s answer? “Those who are here illegally today would be looked at person by person, given a specific time period by which they arrange their affairs, they stay here during that time period. When that time period is over, they go home…”

Alone among Presidential candidates, McCain has shown the courage to stand up against such simplistic sloganeering. No President will ever succeed in driving out all 12 million illegals – the greatest forced migration in all human history. Illegals represent more than 5% of America’s work force and the cost of firing and, ultimately, deporting for forcing out every one of those people would cripple the economy far worse than any recession. The immigration bills McCain supported (along with President Bush and the Senate Republican leadership of Mitch McConnell, Trent Lott and John Kyl) never granted “amnesty” or automatic citizenship for undocumented aliens. Instead, McCain’s idea of immigration reform always emphasized “earned legalization” and assimilation– not automatic privileges – in an effort to separate the immigrants who wanted to begin playing by the rules and to enter the American mainstream, from those who continued to defy those rules and have no long-term stake in the country. It’s not amnesty to charge $6,000 in fines and payment of back taxes, to require background checks and mastery of English, and to demand registry with the government and acknowledgment of wrong-doing before an immigrant received legal status. Before an illegal could become a citizen, the process required at least nine years (and in most cases fourteen) of cooperation, commitment and patience. Moreover, two crucial elements of last year’s immigration bill received almost no attention: under the bill any immigrant who attempted to enter America illegally after the passage of immigration reform would be apprehended, identified, finger-printed and biometrically recorded, and forever banned from receiving legal status to work or live in the United States. Second, the unfinished (and ultimately unsuccessful) compromise bill included a “trigger provision”: no illegal immigrant would receive legal status until after Congress certified that the border had been effectively secured. McCain emphasizes this provision in his current proposals: insisting we secure the border first, before we make arrangements for future guest workers and give a chance to some (but by no means all) current illegal residents to earn legal status in the U.S.



LIE #6: McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform represents a devastating assault on free speech.

TRUTH: McCain-Feingold was a piece of useless, misguided legislation but it’s done no serious damage to the country, the constitution or the conservative pro-life cause. After nearly seven years on the books, robust and impassioned discussion of political issues and candidates is more vibrant and free-wheeling than ever. The pro-life movement (with McCain’s enthusiastic support) has made substantial progress in the last seven years, changing minds and hearts and driving abortion rates to their lowest point in 29 years—unimpeded by McCain-Feingold. More people are involved in donating to candidates and causes than before the legislation, and there’s been an increase in the broadcast of campaign ads and distribution of political materials, not a reduction. Does any American – particularly those in key primary states – honestly believe we now have a shortage of political ads on TV? Those who say that McCain-Feingold took away free speech make no more sense than leftists who claim that the Patriot Act destroyed civil liberties or crushed dissent: their arguments remain utterly disconnected from the real world experience of every American. Hard-hitting, free wheeling debate is alive and well in the land of the free. McCain favored counterweights to lobbyist influence and the corrupting impact of money in politics because he saw that commercial involvement as a powerful force toward corporate welfare and government expansion—betraying the small government ideals he has always embraced.

Of course, this discussion only begins to scratch the surface when it comes to the smears and distortions against Senator McCain from some of his long-standing foes in the Republican establishment. Fortunately, the Senator himself is getting more opportunity to speak directly to the American people, above the heads of the talk radio hosts who are leading the hysterical charge against him.


On the night of his primary victory in South Carolina, for instance, McCain gave a concise, eloquent summary of his conservative philosophy:

“I seek the nomination of our Party,” he said, “because I am as confident today as I was when I first entered public life as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution that the principles of the Republican Party – our confidence in the good sense and resourcefulness of free people – are always in America’s best interests. In war and peace, in good times and challenging ones, we have always known that the first responsibility of government is to keep this country safe from its enemies, and the American people free of a heavy-handed government that spends too much of their money, and tries to do for them what they are better able to do for themselves. We want government to do its job, not your job;; to do it better and to do it with less of your money; to defend our nation’s security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us; to respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; to enforce the rule of law that is the first defense of freedom; to keep the promises it makes ot us and not make promises it will not keep. We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, and then get out of the way so that the most industrious, ingenious, and enterprising people in the world can do what they have always done: build an even greater country than the one they inherited.”

McCain’s critics have every right to prefer other candidates, or to reject his increasingly powerful bid to unite the party and defeat the Democrats in November.

They are wrong, however, to lie about his policies, his principals, his record and his character. Instead of the endless concentration on distorted reasons to dislike McCain, the complainers should concentrate on the basis for admiring the candidates they do support. The Republican Party would benefit from an open, honest debate about the virtues of the various candidates that make them worthy of support, rather than incessant and self-destructive focus on alleged vices of the front-running candidate that make him worthy of contempt.


Again and again in his 25 years in politics, John McCain has risked his career to provide straight talk to the American people. Those who claim to cherish the integrity of the conservative movement owe it to their party and their country to talk straight about all four of the excellent candidates remaining in this race.

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