Posted by: Randy Allgaier | June 23, 2008

McCain: Opportunist and Not that bright

Ambition and lack of intellect- it seems like we are ending eight years of a leader who combined those two problems. Can we afford another President that is loaded with ambition but lacks the intellectual acumen to lead the nation? Let’s call a spade a spade- John McCain is not the brightest knife in the drawer. McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his Naval Academy class. This of course is made more disturbing since in essence he was a “legacy” student. His family has been in the military since the French and Indian War and both his father and grandfather were both four star admirals. So- it seems that getting into the Academy was a no brainer and he scraped through by the skin of his teeth.

I know the man is a military hero and was a brave prisoner of war, but in all due respect to Mr. McCain’s clear sacrifice for his country- he is not the first man to sacrifice for his country, he isn’t the last and many more have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives. It seems disconcerting that Mr. McCain’s resume centers around his sacrifice to his nation.

Other than McCain’s horrible ordeal as a prisoner of war his military career was lack luster. John McCain relied on family connections for every job he has held. His career before marrying Cindy Hensley was solely through family ties. When he married Cindy McCain he went to work for his father in law. Cozy huh? He became Vice President for Public Relations for Hensley and Company. There he gained political support among the local business community, meeting powerful figures such as banker Charles Keating, Jr., real estate developer Fife Symington III, andopen seat in Arizona’s 1st congressional newspaper publisher Darrow “Duke” Tully. In 1982, McCain ran as a Republican for an district. As a newcomer to the state, McCain was hit with repeated charges of being a carpetbagger. McCain responded to a voter making the charge with what a Phoenix Gazette columnist would later label as “the most devastating response to a potentially troublesome political issue I’ve ever heard”:

“Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”

There has been some sort of myth that McCain would never capitalize on his time as a POW- that it somehow is demeaning. It is and it is in bad taste- but Mr. McCain has been playing that experience since his entry on to the political stage. Quite frankly it is insulting to every man and woman who has come home from war injured or in a body bag that Mr. McCain uses this experience as his trump card. Who would dare challenge his sacrifice so he uses it to its highest political advantage. McCain didn’t have a real resume to tout so he resorted, and continues to do so, to shamelessly using his POW expereince to shut up opposition.

And there was “Mr. Straight Talk’s” envolvement with the Keating Six. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in legal political contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and his associates at Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, along with trips on Keating’s jets that McCain failed to repay until two years later. In 1987, McCain was one of the five senators whom Keating contacted in order to prevent the government’s seizure of Lincoln, which was by then insolvent and being investigated for making questionable efforts to regain solvency. McCain met twice with federal regulators to discuss the government’s investigation of Lincoln. Poor judgement from a not so bright guy. McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee- so much for the straight shooting guy!

McCain developed the reuptation of a “maverick”, but only because it suited him in his 2000 presidential bid. He walked in lockstep with the Republicans for years. The Pew Research Center recently found, the word Americans now most frequently use to describe John McCain is not “maverick,” but “old.” But he has always been an opportunist and it is more blatant than ever.

I will grant that all politicians back pedal on issues, including Senator Obama whom I admire and ardently support. But Mr. McCain’s recent reversals give new meaning to the term “flip flop” (a term I use reluctantly because it is so over used by the punditry it makes me gag). The clearly opportunist approach of having absolutely no moral compass at all shows a man of limited intellect and wild ambition. But I’ll get to that record in a moment.

First let’s address the man’s horrible attempts at humor. There was his “rhymes with rich” item regarding Hillary Clinton and the wildly offensive joke about Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Janet Reno should make any woman cringe and it is sheer stupidity that any politician would make such remarks. Then of course there is his “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran” remark. Tacky and stupid again.

He can’t seem to keep straight the difference between Sunni and Sh’ia, he seems not to have a clue as to the number of troops in Iran, he seems to be clueless about the growing threat in Afghanistan and instead concentrates every fiber of his foreign policy on Iran.

But the most current changes in his stances on virtually everything is what is most disturbing. This isn’t just political expedience – it is pandering and it is the vestige of a man who just isn’t too bright.
In his eternal quest for the Republican presidential nomination John McCain has repeatedly reversed long-held positions and compromised purportedly core principles. From the Bush tax cuts, the religious right and immigration reform to overturning Roe v. Wade, proclaiming Samuel Alito a model Supreme Court Justice and bashing France (just to name a few), McCain changed sides as changing political conditions dictated.

McCain’s recent rapid fire, acrobatic flip-flops have produced whiplash, at least for voters. Ten times since the beginning of June, McCain has retreated from, upended or just forgotten positions he once claimed as his own. On Social Security, balancing the budget, defense spending, domestic surveillance and a host of other issues so far this month, McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” did a U-turn on the road to the White House.

1. Social Security Privatization. John McCain has apparently learned the lesson that the more President Bush spoke about his Social Security privatization scheme, the less popular it became. On Friday, Mr. Straight Talk proclaimed at a recentl New Hampshire event, “I’m not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be.” Sadly, McCain and his advisers like ousted Hewlett Packer CEO Carly Fiorina are on record declaring fidelity to the idea of diverting Social Security dollars into private accounts. On November 18, 2004, for example, McCain announced, “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.” And in March 2003, McCain backed his President, declaring, “As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it – along the lines that President Bush proposed

2. Raising – and Slashing – Defense Spending. John McCain was also for boosting American defense spending before he was against it. In the November 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, McCain argued “we can also afford to spend more on national defense, which currently consumes less than four cents of every dollar that our economy generates – far less than what we spent during the Cold War.” But facing the $2 trillion budgetary hole the McCain tax plan is forecast to produce (a sea of red ink even the Wall Street Journal noticed), Team McCain changed its tune. As Forbes scoffed in amazement:
“McCain’s top economic adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, blithely supposes that cuts in defense spending could make up for reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% and the subsequent shrinkage in federal revenues. Get that? The national security candidate wants to cut spending on our national security. Wait until the generals and the admirals hear that.”

3. First Term Balanced Budget Pledge. With its on-again/off-again/on-again promise to balance the budget by January 2013, the McCain campaign executed that rarest of political maneuvers, the 360. During a February 15th rally in La Crosse, Wisconsin, “McCain promised he’d offer a balanced budget by the end of his first term.” But just days later, McCain’s senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz_Eakin announced a deficit-ending target of 2017. In mid-April, Holtz-Eakin proclaimed, “I would like the next president not to talk about deficit reduction.” McCain, too, signaled the retreat from his first-term balance budget commitment, explaining to Chris Matthews on April 15th that “economic conditions are reversed.”

Apparently economic conditions have improved dramatically since then. On June 6, Holtz-Eakin squared the circle, announcing, “That plan, when appropriately phased in, as it has always been intended to be, will bring the budget to balance by the end of his first term.”

4. The Media’s Treatment of Hillary Clinton. No doubt, John McCain suffers from recurring bouts of selective amnesia. And some episodes take only days to manifest themselves. During his disastrous “green screen” speech on June 3, McCain reached out to Hillary Clinton’s supporters by proclaiming, “The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received.” But by June 7, McCain denied to Newsweek that his media critique never passed his lips, “I did not–that was in prepared remarks, and I did not–I’m not in the business of commenting on the press and their coverage or not coverage.”

5. The Estate Tax. Just days before his contortionist act on Social Security, John McCain reversed course on the estate tax as well. On June 8, 2006, McCain on the Senate floor expressed his agreement with Teddy Roosevelt that “most great civilized countries have an income tax and an inheritance tax” and “in my judgment both should be part of our system of federal taxation.” But after years of battling Republican colleagues dead-set on dismantling the so-called “death tax” and instead promoting a $5 million trigger, on Tuesday John McCain sounded the retreat. Now, he insists, “the estate tax is one of the most unfair tax laws on the books.”

6. FISA, Domestic Surveillance and Telecom Immunity. When it comes to the Bush administration’s program of domestic spying on Americans, McCain has performed similar logical gymnastics. On December 20, 2007, McCain suggested to the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Savage that President Bush had clearly crossed the line. As Wired’s Ryan Singel noted:

“I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is,” McCain said. The Globe’s Charlie Savage pushed further, asking , “So is that a no, in other words, federal statute trumps inherent power in that case, warrantless surveillance?” To which McCain answered, “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law.”

But on June 2, McCain adviser Holtz-Eakin put that notion to rest, telling the National Review:
“[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.”

Pressed to explain the glaring inconsistencies, John McCain on June 6 played dumb, deciding that cowardice is the better part of valor. As the New York Times reported, McCain now believes the legality of Bush’s regime of NSA domestic surveillance is unclear and, in any event, is old news:

“It’s ambiguous as to whether the president acted within his authority or not,” he said, saying courts had ruled different ways on the matter. “I’m not interested in going back. I’m interested in addressing the challenge we face to day of trying to do everything we can to counter organizations and individuals that want to destroy this country. So there’s ambiguity about it. Let’s move forward.”
As for immunity for the telecommunications firms cooperating with the White House in what before August 2007 was doubtless illegal surveillance, there too McCain’s position has evolved. On May 23, campaign surrogate Chuck Fish announced that McCain would not back retroactive immunity “unless there were revealing Congressional hearings and heartfelt repentance from those telephone and internet companies.” Subsequently, the McCain campaign swiftly backtracked, claiming its man supports immunity unconditionally.

7. Restoring the Everglades. On June 5, John McCain traveled to the Everglades to win over Floridians and environmentally-minded voters. There he proclaimed, “I am in favor of doing whatever’s necessary to save the Everglades.” Sadly, as ThinkProgress documented, McCain not only opposed $2 billion in funding for the restoration of the Everglades national park, he backed President Bush’s veto of the legislation in 2007. “I believe,” he said, “that we should be passing a bill that will authorize legitimate, needed projects without sacrificing fiscal responsibility.”

8. Divestment from South Africa. During his June 2 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), John McCain called for the international community to target Iran for the kind of worldwide sanctions regime applied to apartheid-era South Africa. Unfortunately, McCain’s lobbyist-advisers Charlie Black and Rick Davis each represented firms doing business with Tehran. Even more unfortunate, John McCain was frequently not among those offering “moral clarity and conviction” in backing “a divestment campaign against South Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid.” As ThinkProgress detailed:

Despite voting to override President Reagan’s veto of a bill imposing economic sanctions against South Africa in 1986, McCain voted against sanctions on at least six other occasions.

9. Fighting Job Losses in Michigan. During the run-up to the Michigan primary, John McCain cautioned workers there in January that he didn’t want to raise “false hopes that somehow we can bring back lost jobs,” adding that it” wasn’t government’s job to protect buggy factories and haberdashers when cars replaced carriages and men stopped wearing hats.” But after getting trounced in Michigan by Mitt Romney and watching the economy deteriorate further, McCain has had a change of heart. As Bloomberg noted on June 5:

“Nowadays, the party’s presumptive nominee is singing a different tune, striking a populist pose and saying “new jobs are coming”… …Over the past few months, however, McCain has taken a lesson from Romney, acknowledging recently that “Americans are hurting.” Returning to Michigan last month, the Arizona senator told a local television station that he would fight for new jobs and the state wouldn’t “be left behind.”

Perhaps the good people of Michigan, as John McCain suggested to a Kentucky audience in April, can make a living on eBay.

10. Opposing Hurricane Katrina Investigations. During a June 4th town hall meeting in Baton Rouge, John McCain answered a reporter’s question regarding Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the New Orleans levees by announcing:

“I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. I’ve been here to New Orleans. I’ve met with people on the ground.”

As it turns out, not so much. McCain’s revisionist history neglects to mention that in 2005 and 2006 he twice voted against a commission to study the government’s response to Katrina. He also opposed three separate emergency funding measures providing relief to Katrina victims, including the extension of five months of Medicaid benefits. And as Think Progress pointed out, “until traveling there one month ago, McCain had made just one public tour of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina touched down in August 2005.”

And so it goes. As surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day, so too will John McCain change positions. (Like that other law of nature, McCain’s flip-flops are literally becoming a daily occurrence. Since this piece was originally drafted on Saturday, McCain added two new policy turnabouts – on phasing out rather than repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and on requiring a litmus test for his judicial appointees – to his litany of reversals.)

Of course there is also the issue of torture on which McCain has so heinously showed himself as an opportunist of the lowest order. As Andrew Sullivan of “The Atlantic” wrote:

“McCain reveals himself as a positioner even on the subject on which he has gained a reputation for unimpeachable integrity. McCain has indeed been a leader in preventing the military from torturing terror suspects, and in banning waterboarding. But by leaving this lacuna in the law, he gives this president the space he wants. As president himself, of course, McCain would surely instruct the CIA to uphold the American way of interrogation, and not to adopt techniques once used by the Gestapo and prosecuted by the US as war crimes. But we now know that there will be one difference between Obama and McCain in November. One will never tolerate torture; the other just did.”

And last but not least is the issue of off shore oil drilling. McCain recently decided that along with a “gas tax” holiday he would again pander to the stupidest among us, because that is what he knows best, by reversing himself on the issue of off shore oil drilling as a remedy to the high price of gas. SAY WHAT?

Opening America’s coastal waters to oil drilling, as John McCain urged in an address Tuesday, is unlikely to provide Americans with more oil for at least seven to 10 years. That’s the estimate from the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry trade group. The Interior Department offered a wide range of estimates of how much oil might be within reach of U.S. offshore drilling in a 2006 report. It estimated that the Outer Continental Shelf could hold 115.4 billion barrels. However, it also estimated that recoverable reserves off U.S. coasts in areas now banned from production probably hold only about 19 billion barrels. One thousand million barrels equals 1 billion, so if there are 19 billion barrels in the areas McCain would open to drilling, that’s enough to provide about 920 days, or about 2.5 years, of current U.S. consumption.

Mr. McCain is an unabashed opportunist who has played his undeniably horrendous experience in Viet Nam with an unashamed gall that diminishes his own sacrifice and is insulting to every man and woman who has sacrificed for our nation, he has used every family connection he could use including connections that were morally corrupt (Keating), he doesn’t seem to hold an opinion very long if it is politically uncomfortable and he seems to take bad advice. He is not to bright but dangerously ambitious. Haven’t we had enough of that?


  1. Politics is also unpredictable. No one four years ago could have predicted that in the US an African-American Democratic Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton, the predicted woman candidate competing for the presidency of the United States in 2008 she will urge her backers to bankroll t Obama’s bid, No one likely would have predicted that the Conservative Stephen Harper the Canadian PM of a minority government would last even this long.

  2. […] McCain: Opportunist and Not that bright McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his Naval Academy class. This of course is made more disturbing since in essence he was a “legacy… […]

  3. […] McCain: Opportunist and Not that bright Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in legal political contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and his associates at Lincoln… […]

  4. Nice and thorough take down of McCain. I’m from the I-don’t-trust-either-of-these-charlatans school of thought myself, but I thought you analysis above was fair, insightful, and rigorous.

  5. […] (like John McCain), who's primary Claim To Fame is getting shot-down (well…..besides his mastery of opportunism)…. … the expense of jettisoning a bona-fide EAGLE, who'd completed ALL missions….with […]

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