If conservatives are paying attention to the facts rather than the overheated rhetoric of some on the right, they will find a lot of facts in recent days that ought to allay their unease with John McCain (whose campaign, full disclosure, I advise on foreign affairs).
One of the claims that some conservatives make is that McCain, of all people, is soft on terrorism because he wants to close Guantanamo and not waterboard detainees. But that hardly means he wants to house them in a Hilton, give them a nice robe and comfy slippers, and let them hold back information about plots against the United States and our allies.
Yesterday the Senate voted, 51-45, to pass a Democratic-crafted bill that would force the CIA to use only the 19 approved interrogation methods in the Army field manual. McCain voted no. Here is a news article that explains his position:
Sen. McCain voted against the measure and said the law he negotiated with the Bush administration in 2006 allows some government agencies to use “some additional techniques” along with those in the Army Field Manual. “I’ve made it very clear that I believe waterboarding is torture and illegal,” Sen. McCain said. “But I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual. That’s my position, and that’s been my position.”
On a related note, while he wants to close Guantanamo because rightly or wrongly it has become an international embarrassment, McCain also wants to transfer the detainees to the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth where their living conditions would probably be more grim. And as this horrified post by a liberal blogger notes, he would not grant detainees the constitutional rights of normal criminal defendants; he would proceed with trials under the military tribunal system.
The day before casting his vote on the interrogation bill, McCain voted on the wiretap bill the administration has sought. As this editorial notes, he voted in favor of giving telecom companies immunity for their cooperation with the government, while his likely opponent, Barack Obama, voted against immunity (Hillary Clinton was not present). In short, McCain supports maintaining the electronic surveillance that has kept us safe, notwithstanding the caterwauling of some self-appointed civil libertarians.
Meanwhile, this excellent op-ed by Kevin Stach demolishes attempts to paint McCain as a tax hiker or an opponent of tax cuts. Stach shows that he has had a careerlong devotion to tax cuts which led him to, among other things, vote against the 1990 budget deal crafted by the George HW Bush administration. So why would he vote against the 2001 tax cut plan put together by the George W. Bush administration?
Stach explains that:
what is not remembered is that, two weeks earlier, Mr. McCain voted to approve the final version of the Budget Resolution — the blueprint used by congressional committees for spending and tax bills — which included $1.35 trillion in tax cuts (the Bush proposal) coupled with a $661 billion cap on discretionary spending. When the promised spending cap never materialized, Mr. McCain denounced the wasteful earmarks and pork-barrel spending that he felt jeopardized the budget, and lodged the now famous protest vote against the tax cuts.
This is hardly the record of a liberal.