Well, that's the perception anyway. The facts tell a different story.
McCain, it seems, is very much of a ... well, very much of a politician.
To put it in plain English, he flip-flops, waffles, pathetically and shamelessly panders to whichever group he's currently trying to win over.
Let's look at a few of the most egregious examples.
- Abortion. In August 1999, McCain told the San Francisco Chronicle, "[I]n the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade." In the months that followed, he learned how difficult it is to win a Republican primary without the support of Evangelical Christians and by 2006 had completely reversed his position. In November of that year, when George Stephanopoulous asked if he favored overturning Roe vs. Wade, McCain answered, "Yes, because I'm a federalist."
- Tax cuts. McCain voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts, claiming, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief." Yet in 2006 - as the Republican primaries neared and he needed to ward off right-wing criticism that he was a bleeding heart lefty - he voted to extend the 2003 reduction on capital gains taxes, even though doing so primarily benefited the wealthy. (By the way, he originally voted against the 2003 reduction.)
- Ethanol. For most of his career, McCain derided ethanol production; in 2003, for instance, he stated that it " does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality." But then, in August of 2007, just a few months before the Iowa Caucuses - and Iowa, let's remember, has the most ethanol plants of any state in America - he touted ethanol, calling it "a vital energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects."
- Immigration. In 2005, McCain joined forces with Ted Kennedy and introduced a bill which, among other things, would have offered amnesty to illegal immigrants. In an interview with Tim Russert in January of this year, he said that, as president, he would sign the bill into law. Then, in a Republican presidential debate just a few days later, he claimed that, if the bill came to the Senate floor, he would vote against it.
- Waterboarding. Throughout 2007, McCain consistently opposed waterboarding, denouncing it as a torturous practice invented in the Spanish Inquisition and used by Pol Pot. Yet this February, at a time in which he was more desperate than ever to appease the right wing of the Republican Party, he voted against a bill which would have banned the C.I.A. from using the procedure.
The list of McCain flip-flops goes on and on, from campaign finance reform to whether South Carolina should fly the Confederate flag. Which raises the question: Why on earth is he almost universally lauded as a man of courage and conviction? If Bill Clinton was a deemed a waffler, then why is ole Johnny getting a free pass?
Some might be tempted to point out that, unlike Slick Willy, at least McCain isn't afraid to admit his faults. Regarding the Confederate flag controversy, for instance, he eventually came around and apologized for leading South Carolina conservatives to believe that he supported flying the flag. "I feared that if I answered honestly," he later admitted, "I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles."
But, wonderful as it is that McCain sometimes admits his wrongdoing, this doesn't excuse him for continuing to do wrong! Even loving, forgiving Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more.