Sunday, July 11, 2010

UK Guardian: "McCain has flip-flopped from left to right to save his Arizona seat in the Senate"

When does being a maverick turn into a shameless flip-flopper? Pretty much about now, according to many observers of the long and storied political career of former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Senator McCain, pictured, is now caught in one of the toughest political fights of his life, facing off in a primary fight against the Tea Party-style challenger JD Hayworth. And he is doing it in Arizona, which has just passed a strict anti-illegal immigrant law so controversial the White House is taking it to court.

All this means that McCain's traditionally liberal attitudes to immigration reform were always likely to take a bit of a hit. But few people can have predicted just how far McCain would go in rowing away from the previous positions that won him praise as recently as 2007 when he co-sponsored reform legislation with famed liberal Senator Ted Kennedy. McCain then appealed for illegal immigrants to be treated as human beings, and granted a path to citizenship in return for payment of back taxes. He was praised by liberals, and even Republican opponents admired his political guts.

But he has not so much hardened his previous stance, as turned it into steel-reinforced concrete. "No amnesty," he told a Tucson radio station, adding: "Many of them need to be sent back."

It is hard to imagine that he was once seen as a politician who stuck to his beliefs and always put a good policy ahead of self-interested politics. Since he lost to Barack Obama in 2008 he has retreated into the Republican right wing as the Tea Party's grip on the party's activist roots has strengthened. He was a strident critic of dropping the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on gays serving openly in the military. He has changed or softened his stance on issues such as closing Guantánamo Bay and financial reform.

But McCain was never the principled rogue many of his former media fans believed in. As he himself said recently: "I never considered myself a maverick." Which is in itself a reversal of his previous position. In the 2008 campaign, the term "maverick" was used prominently. Perhaps it should be replaced with "just another rightwing politician".

From the UK Guardian

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