April 08, 2008

McCain's Torture

After the American Century

In a world of political spin, perhaps I should not be surprised that John McCain continues to enjoy the reputation of a moderate maverick. Sadly, this is not the case.

McCain has courted extremists, notably Rod Parsley who is a well-known Moslem basher and John Hagee, a preacher from San Antonio Texas, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for granting gay rights. He has also called the Catholic Church a "false cult." Hagee wrote a book, Jerusalem Countdown, which reads current events in the Middle East as the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy. Iran and Armegeddon, as 'twas foretold. This is ideal reading material for a future commander-in- chief. We will all sleep more comfortably, if we are certain that President McCain sees diplomacy as a part of escatology. President Bush made a start in this direction, but an even more militant attack on "evil" is surely just what the nation needs. Otherwise, we might get distracted by the economy, as it slides into recession.

At the end of February, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called on McCain to disavow Hagee's endorsement. At the very same time that Obama was being roasted by the press for statements that his pastor had made, but McCain got off lightly, with relatively little attention to his relationship with Hagee.

There is no space here to discuss McCain's conservatism in its entirely. But consider that this is the man who voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Think about that for a moment, and keep in mind that he has a poor record on civil rights laws.

Consider next that he voted against a legal ban on waterboarding. Yes, the man known for his suffering as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and for his opposition to torture did not want to stop waterboarding. He cast this vote in this election year, showing where he stands on the torture question. But if waterboarding is OK, McCain is adament that abortion should be outlawed. He is also a fiscal conservative when it comes to liberal frills, like children's health care, which he voted against last year. To make certain no one would mistake his view, he defended George W. Bush's veto of the bill.

Many people think McCain is pro-environment, but in 2007 the League of Conservation Voters studied his voting record and found he deserved a zero. That is a truly remarkable result for a Senator from Arizona, a state with some of the nation's most attractive scenery and with real environmental problems. Arizona's conservatives often have been environmentally aware, notably Barry Goldwater. He was among the first 100 people ever to go down the Grand Canyon in a boat, and he had a reverential attitude toward wilderness. McCain has a more utilitarian view of nature. How is it that in 1964 Barry Goldwater had no chance of winning the presidency, where today McCain, with similar positions on many issues, has a very real chance of winning?

The Republican Party as a whole has moved so far to the right since 1964 as to be almost unrecognizable. Had McCain stood for election 44 years ago, he would have seemed to the right of Barry Goldwater. But today, McCain is widely perceived as being to the left of President Bush.