Today, two major mainstream pundit-types called out John McCain in ways I can't recall seeing for quite some time. Possibly ever. And neither of them are flaming liberal types, either. First, Tom Friedman:
"It was only five days earlier, on July 30, that the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.
Both the wind and solar industries depend on these credits — which expire in December — to scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike offshore drilling, these credits could have an immediate impact on America’s energy profile.
Senator McCain did not show up for the crucial vote on July 30, and the renewable energy bill was defeated for the eighth time. In fact, John McCain has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year — which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote.
“McCain did not show up on any votes,” said Scott Sklar, president of The Stella Group, which tracks clean-technology legislation. Despite that, McCain’s campaign commercial running during the Olympics shows a bunch of spinning wind turbines — the very wind turbines that he would not cast a vote to subsidize, even though he supports big subsidies for nuclear power. (...)
That [ed.: clean renewable energy] is what this election should be focusing on. Everything else is just bogus rhetoric designed by cynical candidates who think Americans are so stupid — so bloody stupid — that if you just show them wind turbines in your Olympics ad they’ll actually think you showed up and voted for such renewable power — when you didn’t."
Second, Joe Klein, writing about Jerome Corsi's new book:
"Back in the day, John McCain was the sort of politician who would stand first in line to call out this sort of swill. (As, I'm sure Barack Obama or John Kerry would do, if some hate-crazed, money-grubbing left-winger published a book claiming that McCain had been successfully brainwashed in Vietnam--as Kerry did indeed do when a group of spurious Bush-backing Vietnam vets tried to claim exactly that about McCain during the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina.)
But we're not seeing those sorts of claims being made about McCain this year...because Democrats tend not to do that sort of thing. They are the sorts of claims that Republicans--Bush Republicans--make. They range from the blatantly extra-curricular, like Corsi's book, to the official McCain-sanctioned introduction made by Joe Lieberman--of all people--yesterday: that Obama doesn't "put America first."
I know that people like me are supposed to try to be fair...and balanced. (...) But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the "putting America first" front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government action...you name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce."
I never planned to cover this campaign the way I have. As far as I knew as of, say, March, McCain was a conservative, though at times unpredictable, Senator with a record of personal heroism, who had recently, and I imagined reluctantly, had to swear fealty to his party's right wing. Because he was, as far as I knew, more or less honorable, I imagined that this campaign would be, mostly, about issues.
We face enormously serious problems as a nation. We cannot afford to decide who will be President on the basis of vague accusations of un-Americanism, or who has most in common with Britney Spears, let alone flat-out lies about raising taxes and solving our energy problems armed with nothing but a tire gauge. It is worth stepping back from this campaign every now and again and thinking: it didn't have to be this way. And if McCain were serious about putting country first, it wouldn't be.