September 04, 2008

McCain’s Bait and Switch

John Judis reports that what we’ll hear tonight probably won’t bear much resemblance to what we’d get:

1. Abortion: In attempting to sell Sarah Palin to the delegates in the delegate breakfasts, McCain surrogates highlighted her opposition to abortion. Talking to the Arkansas delegation, for instance, on Monday morning, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn described Palin as “pro-life, pro-family, pro-business, pro-second amendment, pro-everyone of us.” Notice what came first. But any mention of abortion or “life” was absent from Palin’s acceptance speech. She didn’t need to tell the delegates what she thought. But she and the McCain campaign wanted to hide her sentiments from the Hillary Democrats and pro-choice independents the campaign hopes to attract.

2. Immigration: With Sen. Ted Kennedy, McCain backed what is called “comprehensive immigration reform”—meaning a combination of border security with increases in legal immigration and a path to visas and citizenship for illegal immigrants. Faced with Republican opposition to this stand in the primaries, McCain backed off, and said he favored border security first. But then this summer, he told the League of United Latin American Citizens that he favored comprehensive reform after all. What position does McCain really take? The convention platform’s position on immigration opposes comprehensive reform. In private briefings, top McCain advisors indicate he still backs comprehensive reform. But except for a passing mention in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s speech, immigration has not been a public topic at this convention—either in the public discussions open to the media or in the major televised addresses. Will McCain discuss it tonight? My guess is no: he doesn’t want to offend either white working class voters leery of illegal immigrants or Latinos.

3. Foreign Policy: McCain has let it be known that his main expertise and interest is in foreign policy, and the positions he has taken since 1999 have strongly reflected the influence of neo-conservatism. In this campaign, his most influential advisors are neo-conservatives closely identified with very hawkish views on the Middle East, Russia, and China. But from the convention’s public events that are open to the media, you wouldn’t know what McCain’s deepest convictions are and who has shaped them. McCain’s actual advisors have been notably absent from public forums on foreign policy. Randy Scheunemann bowed out of a Humphrey Institute forum at the last minute. Richard Fontaine appeared at one forum, but his comments were devoted to things like McCain’s support for ending malaria in Africa.

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