McCain on Obama: "He's Centrist"
After two weeks in which his campaign has tried to brand Barack Obama a "socialist" and worse, John McCain took one small step back from the specter of the red menace. Appearing on the Larry King show Wednesday, McCain admitted that his Democratic opponent is no socialist. But as Election Day nears, don't expect John McCain to repeat his 2005 assessment of Obama, "he's centrist."
The Republican smearing of Obama has included comical charges that the man backed by Warren Buffett and Colin Powell is "anti-American" (Rep. Michele Bachman), a "socialist" (Sarah Palin), a "communist" (Senator Mel Martinez) and a "marxist" (Tom Delay). Last night, McCain dropped the "red" label while still regurgitating discredited right-wing talking points:
KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist do you?
MCCAIN: No, but I do believe that he has been in the far left of American politics and stated time after time that he believes in spreading the wealth around. He has talked about courts that redistribute the wealth. He has a record of voting against tax cuts. And for tax increases.
Of course, John McCain knows better. And in December 2005, McCain said as much.
As the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported, Mr. Straight Talk put Barack Obama squarely in what it deemed the "sensible center":
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and a frequent maverick within the GOP, said: "He's very impressive, he's thoughtful, he's centrist."
In that same article ("Obama shuns limelight, builds record"), conservative Republican Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Mel Martinez sang Obama's similarly praised Obama. Senator Obama had worked with the arch social conservative Coburn on oversight of FEMA reconstruction in the Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast. Obama also reached across the aisle to work with Martinez and Dick Lugar (R-IN) to secure nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union. Their feedback echoed McCain's plaudits:
Obama's approach has mostly earned him rave reviews - from Republicans and Democrats alike - who say he is an open-minded, deliberative lawmaker.
Coburn called him a "phenomenal young man who will go to great heights," while Martinez said he hasn't seemed "dogmatic" or "ideologically driven" on any issue.
"Where I come from, where I was born, they tried that wealth redistribution business. It didn't work so good down there. That's socialism, that's communism, that's not what Americanism is about."
McCain's seeming retreat on Larry King came just one day after he refused to repudiate Martinez' communist smear during an interview with a Miami CBS affiliate:
Q: Florida Senator Mel Martinez talked about Barack Obama's "spread the wealth" policies and he described them as "communism." Is that fair?
MCCAIN: Hmmm, I don't know what label you put on it but clearly it's not the way to economic prosperity.
As it turns out, bastions of capitalism like The Economist and the Financial Times - each of which endorsed Barack Obama for President - have concluded otherwise. Of course, back in 2005, before he was looking up at Obama in the polls, John McCain understood why.