Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

A wild and crazy candidate

Citizen Staff Writer

Opinion Editor

If McCain is this changeable now, one has to wonder how unpredictable he would be if he ever made it to the White House.

The scariest thing about Sen. John McCain isn’t his hawkish views, his closeness to President Bush or even his spiritual reliance on wacko televangelist Rod Parsley.

The scariest thing is McCain’s charm – and how many votes that may mean come November.

McCain is like the Jack Nicholson of Washington. You just can’t help but like the guy.

On “Saturday Night Live” recently, he reminded viewers with a straight face that he has “the courage, the wisdom, the experience and most importantly, the oldness necessary (to be president).”

(McCain will turn 72 on Aug. 29.)

The important thing about controlling government spending, he says, is being able to look your children in the eye.

“Or in my case, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren – the youngest of whom are nearing retirement.”

Besides good humor, the Arizona Republican also is known for human decency, an increasingly rare commodity in U.S. politics.

A current Newsweek article recalls McCain’s friendship with U.S. Rep. Mo Udall, a beloved liberal Democrat from Arizona.

For eight years, as Udall lay dying, unable to speak, McCain regularly visited his former mentor.

McCain has a humane approach to illegal immigration, too, pushing for comprehensive reform.

In an age of mounting xenophobic hysteria, he insists: “We are all God’s children.”

His push for comprehensive reform alienated members of his own party, though.

Republicans also were miffed when he pushed through campaign finance reform and when he tried to get a bill passed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

McCain has alienated lukewarm fans on the other side of the aisle as well by hopscotching all over the map on issues.

He opposed use of torture on prisoners, for example. A Navy veteran who was tortured himself during five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his view was important.

McCain cited waterboarding, specifically, as “a horrible torture technique.”

Then he voted against a ban on waterboarding.

McCain proclaimed himself a “strong supporter of protecting the privacy of Americans.”

Then he voted to extend retroactive immunity to telecommunications firms that had spied on Americans at the government’s behest.

In 2000, McCain said overturning Roe v. Wade would lead to women seeking dangerous, illegal abortions.

Today, he opposes abortion and says Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Recently, McCain, who regularly touts his support of the military, voted against an improved GI Bill.

He said its provision to pay university tuition for three-year enlistees would hurt troop retention.

(He didn’t address the point that the perk also would greatly enhance recruitment.)

McCain once was admired as a maverick for going his own way, voting his conscience.

Now his approach just seems schizophrenic: A hawk and veteran opposes the GI Bill; a privacy advocate supports spying on civilians; a torture opponent would allow waterboarding.

Even McCain’s insistence that we’re “all God’s children” conflicts with his opposition to gays’ right to marry.

If McCain is this changeable now, with no opponents in the Republican primary, one has to wonder how unpredictable he would be if he ever made it to the White House.

All charm aside, that’s very, very scary.

Billie Stanton is a Democrat who supports Barack Obama for president. Reach her at 573-4664 and bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com.

To see the YouTube video of John McCain’s “Saturday Night Live” performance, click on this story at tucson citizen.com /opinion.

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