Sen. McCain is not right for the Right



NEW YORK — There is plenty to admire about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. His torturous Vietnam experience demands the deepest respect. His eternal vigilance against absurd and costly government boondoggles is unsurpassed. And he forcefully backed President Bush’s military surge, such that a largely pacified and increasingly functional Iraq lately has drifted from the front pages.

But plenty more about McCain argues against his presidential bid. McCain diligently has stymied conservative, free-market policies. While he generally is appropriately hawkish overseas, he is dangerously soft on captured terrorists. And, thanks to the McCain Uncertainty Principle, it often is anyone’s guess whether he will support the Right or sandbag its efforts.

McCain famously opposed President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. “No,” he told Fox News’ Rich Lowry last Dec. 28, those votes were not mistakes. Rather than simply disinfect Washington’s cash-for-favors culture, McCain-Feingold muzzles free speech within two months of Election Day — precisely when speech should be freest. Last summer’s permissive McCain-Kennedy bill turbocharged conservative rage over illegal immigration.

But McCain’s legislative rap sheet is longer and laden with lesser-known apostasies:

UAs barrels of oil oscillate between $90 and $100, and rising energy prices make driving, flying, and heating costlier, GOP voters should know that McCain rejected drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at least four times. Had April 2002 legislation prevailed “to reduce dependence on foreign sources of crude oil and energy ... and to promote national security,” an area the size of Washington-Dulles Airport would augment Earth’s petroleum supply. Instead, McCain joined Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to defeat this measure. Thus, U.S. wallets are lighter, the economy is running out of gas, and America pumps increasing billions into OPEC, some of which fuels car bombs.

UThe McCain-Lieberman bill would combat alleged “global warming” by making power producers pay to exceed government-imposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions. The John Locke Foundation’s Roy Cordato cited a July 2007 Environmental Protection Agency letter to McCain measuring McCain-Lieberman’s de facto energy tax:

“The present value of the cumulative reduction in real GDP for the 2012-2030 period ranges from $660 billion to $2.1 trillion,” EPA calculates.

UMcCain voted to extend President Bush’s ’01 and ’03 tax cuts and now wants them permanent. Still, among Republicans, only he and Lincoln Chaffee — Rhode Island’s defeated senator — originally spurned them. As McCain told NBC’s Tim Russert in April 2004: “I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthiest Americans.”

UMcCain opposed the Death Tax’s repeal in 2002. Also, he backed a 1998 motion by former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to waive the Budget Act and approve Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement that included a $1.10-per-pack cigarette-tax hike.

UMcCain vocally resists waterboarding, even though that interrogation technique finally elicited intelligence from taciturn al-Qaida leaders and Sept. 11 conspirators Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Their revelations helped U.S. officials capture and imprison at least 10 hardened Islamo-fascist terrorists who collectively had murdered 3,216 and wounded 8,795.

It would be bad enough if McCain merely voted against key conservative and free-market priorities. But as he did regarding military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees in fall 2006, he erupted from nowhere and ambushed Republicans.

X Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.