John McCain may be a maverick but he is no push-over. He gets to the nub of President Obama’s grandstanding on Guantanamo:
“I think that it’s a wise move,” McCain said about closing Guantanamo Bay. “But I also think that we should have addressed this whole issue completely, because it did not address the issue of those who we have in custody and can’t — and no country will take them back. We should have addressed the issue of those who we know would pose a threat to the United States, but we don’t have sufficient evidence to move forward.”
McCain said instead of closing Guantanamo Bay outright, he would have first continued the military commissions, which “after years of delay and obfuscation” were finally moving toward trials.
“So, the easy part, in all due respect, is to say we’re going to close Guantanamo,” McCain said. “Then I think I would have said where they were going to be taken. Because you’re going to run into a NIMBY [not in my backyard] problem here in the United States of America.”
There is something quite odd about freezing the military trials after years of complaining that detainees were being held without legal recourse. And declaring that Guantanamo is closing is the sort of PR stunt one might expect from a candidate, but not from a President intent on setting aside “childish things.”
McCain is equally skeptical about the spend-a-thon “stimulus” bill:
“I hope we can work together to, frankly, be a real stimulus package and not just a spending package that has every cat and dog and pet project that people have,” he said. “Because the object of a stimulus package is to stimulate the economy, not to just spend more and run up the debt to our kids and our grandkids.”
In addition to a real stimulus package, McCain said he believes the government should work to cut or eliminate payroll taxes.
“I think we should spend the money that we can immediately, but at the same time if we have a couple of quarters of positive GDP growth, then let’s start reducing and eliminating the huge, massive, unprecedented deficits that are going to accrue from these actions,” he said.
McCain is of course the Democrats’ favorite Republican — so long as he is taking positions contrary to his own party. Whenever he injects a dose of reality into the national security debate or fiscal conservative ideas into the economic debate, he is simply another Republican to be ignored in their eyes. But if the President is serious about working with Republicans and not simply humoring them, he might take some of his former rival’s words to heart.