Opportunism First: McCain and the GOP Platform
Coming on the heels of his pandering pick of Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican Party platform is another case study in the opportunism of John McCain. On abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research and immigration, the GOP bucked McCain's stated positions each and every time. As it turns out, McCain's acquiescence doesn't merely reflect his weakness (which it surely does) as much as his disinterest. As McCain himself admits, he just doesn't care about details of policy; his campaign is about putting winning, and not country, first.
During a July 30 interview, John McCain admitted he had "not gotten into the platform discussions." And it shows. Unlike Barack Obama, who personally intervened to help create a new abortion plank in the Democratic platform, John McCain left the GOP committee to its own devices in producing a document that is far more radical than even McCain's own draconian anti-abortion stand.
In reaching out to his party's religious right, John McCain famously reversed course on overturning Roe v. Wade. But as the Washington Post noted Monday, McCain in a May interview still claimed to support exemptions for abortions in cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother:
"My position has always been: exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother," the senator said.
When asked if he would encourage the party to include them in the platform, he replied, "Yes," adding: "And by the way, I think that's the view of most people, that rape, incest, the life of the mother are issues that have to be considered."
As it turns out, not so much. As predicted, McCain flip-flopped on his position in 2000 that the Republican platform should allow the abortion exemptions. His hands-off approach resulted in a hard line GOP abortion platform that not only did away with those most minimal of protections for women's health, but called for that total abortion ban to be enshrined in the United States Constitution:
"We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."
While the Republican Party apparently added fetal due process rights during the process of creating the 2008 GOP platform, John McCain played no part in the process at all. An astonished Chuck Todd of MSNBC yesterday described McCain's abdication of the platform-writing to radicals in his own party:
"They made the decision not to fight these delegates here on this issue. Senator McCain, this platform does not represent Senator McCain's conservatism. He did not make it his party's platform. He made it the Republican Party platform, that he happens to be representing. Stark contrast to Barack Obama who went ahead, changed the wording on abortion, put in a line in there that made pro-life Democrats a little more comfortable. That was not done here. If anything this is as stringent of a platform on abortion the Republican Party ever has. And the problem is this. These delegates are more conservative -- I had, I had -- than, than even the ones four years ago. Than even the ones eight years ago."
And McCain's detachment from the platform of his party hardly ends there. John McCain has consistently opposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Going back to 2004, McCain deemed a constitutional amendment "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans." In 2006, he told ABC's George Stephanopolous, "Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states." Yet sure enough, the Republican Party document calls for precisely such a prohibition:
"We call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it."
So, too, on stem cell research. During the recent forum at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, John McCain told the assembled evangelical faithful, "I've come down on the side of stem cell research." Of course, the Republican platform committee never got the message. As the National Review noted, "the 2008 Republican Platform calls for a ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private:"
"We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes."
Immigration reform, once John McCain's signature issue, has been gutted in the Republican platform. In 2003, McCain declared, "I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible." But under siege by conservative GOP primary voters who opposed it, McCain during a January 2008 debate answered, "No, I would not" if asked if still he would vote for his original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor. Despite McCain's desperate pandering to Hispanic voters in asking them to trust him on his immigration U-turns, the GOP platform committee this week made the decision for him:
"We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity."
On each of these issues, McCain's caving to the extremists in his own party only serves to once again demolish the maverick myth. It's not just that John McCain lacked the courage to truly confront his party in hoping to escape the Republican National Convention in one piece. His subservience is much more cynical than that. He just doesn't care.
UPDATE: Even Cindy McCain acknowledges that she and her husband part ways with his running mate Sarah Palin over the no abortion exceptions plank in the Republican platform.