Double-standard bearer

To suggest that Arizona senator and serial GOP presidential wannabe John McCain enjoys a favorable relationship with what we conservatives call the “mainstream media” is to state the obvious. He is almost universally portrayed in print and over the airwaves as an unfailingly honest, courageous maverick devoid of the hypocrisy and word-parsing so common among Washington politicians.

McCain and his managers, of course, promote this image with the complicity of an adoring press corps. He travels through the primary states aboard his “Straight Talk Express” and vows at stop after stop that he alone among those seeking the White House has the courage to speak the truth to America and stick to his guns regardless of the consequences. Reporters traveling with him eat it up and pass this self-serving bunkum on to a public that should be able to rely on them for straight talk.

No one can question McCain’s courage or his patriotism. John McCain is rightly admired for his service and suffering on behalf of his country, but even the most cursory examination of his supposed courage and consistency as an elected politician reveals the man to something less that he claims.

Other candidates who change their positions on important issues are described as “flip-floppers,” but John McCain is viewed as that rare politician whose views on important issues have “matured” over the years.

Thus, McCain appears justifiably disgusted when confronting political opponents like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani for changing their positions on various issues over the years, but is never forced to face his own hypocrisy in doing the same. From taxes to his relationship with social conservatives and his position on Second Amendment or “gun” issues, McCain has shown an unending willingness to do just what he so self-righteously accuses others of doing — tailoring his position to suit his needs of the moment.

His opposition to the Bush tax cuts at the time they were passed, for example, was accompanied by quasi-class warfare rhetoric of the sort we now identify with Democratic populists like John Edwards. As he prepared to run this time, however, the rhetoric changed, as in deciding to get straight with the GOP base he discovered that maybe those evil tax cuts ought to be made permanent after all.

McCain and his friends wouldn’t describe that flip-flop as a flip-flop, of course, any more than they saw his flip-flop on Second Amendment questions some years ago as such. In fact, though the Arizona senator had been considered by most gun owners and NRA members like me as a reliable supporter of the Second Amendment, in 2000 he reversed field and threw in with the gun control lobby.

This, remember, was when he was trying to get to the “left” of George W. Bush and appeal to liberals to join what he at one point termed his attempted “hostile takeover” of the GOP. He joined Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, then a Democrat, in sponsoring legislation to kill what he termed the “gun show loophole” and jumped in to support a state anti-gun initiative in Colorado by appearing in television and radio ads paid for by Andrew McKelvey, the liberal multimillionaire founder of Monster.com and George Soros ally, and even made an anti-gun “trailer” shown in movie theaters around the country.

That, of course, was then. Today, the good, courageous and straight-talking senator is a born-again supporter of the Second Amendment who says, “John McCain believes that the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual constitutional right that we have a sacred duty to protect.” He goes further, in fact, and claims that he has always opposed just the sort of anti-gun show legislation he put his name on not that many years ago.

He is now against the sort of background-check “waiting period” that would have essentially closed down gun shows attended each year by as many as 5 million Americans around the country — which he supported then, though he implies on his campaign Web page that his current stance has always been his position. This, from the candidate who will “always” tell us the truth.    

When someone had the temerity the first time around to ask McCain why he had thrown in with McKelvey and his friends on gun control questions, McCain said, “I do believe my view has evolved.”

“Evolved”? That, one has to assume, is “straight talk” for flip-flopped.

Now his view has … what? “Re-evolved”?

Keene is a member of the Board of the National Rifle Association and is chairman of the American Conservative Union. He can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com