THE PLANK AUGUST 15, 2008
He was for a pro-choice running mate before he was against it before he was for it.
That would be John McCain, who on a Wednesday morning campaign flight, told The Weekly Standard he'd consider a pro-choice running mate to share his ticket this fall. Which is odd, because just four months ago, he told Chris Matthews that it would be "difficult" to choose someone who is pro-choice. Which itself is odd because the last time he ran, McCain made clear that if nominated, he would indeed consider a pro-choice candidate. Which in turn is odd because for twenty years before that, McCain held a nearly perfect anti-choice voting record and firmly held anti-choice views.
What's even odder is that the pro-choice candidate McCain praised in Wednesday's Standard interview was Tom Ridge: "he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out." That would be the same Pennsylvania governor whose pro-choice views Matthews asked McCain about in April. Would the governor's views preclude him from sharing the ticket? "I don't know if it would stop him, but it would be difficult," McCain said then. "[T]he respect and cherishing of the right of the unborn is one of the fundamental principles of my party. And it's a--a deeply held, deeply held belief of mine." Just the kind of straight talk that could make a person dizzy.
What's going on is nothing more than McCain trying to have his cake and eat it too. After cozying up to the far right this election cycle--calling Roe a "flawed decision that must be overturned," and promising judges in the mold of Alito and Roberts--McCain is now minding the middle. In the interview with the Standard, he renewed his pro-life commitment, but also tried to reassure pro-choice Republicans that the party's pro-life stance "does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a--albeit strong--but just it's a disagreement."
McCain should know by now that this kind of fancy footwork really doesn't work. For one thing, eight years ago, he said just about the same thing, suggesting that the party revert to it's 1980 platform, that included a pro-life measure but also tolerance language on the issue of abortion. "I believe we are an inclusive party and we can be so without changing our principles," he said then. Of course, the highly sensitive hard right creamed him for his centrist comments, just as it could again if he keeps this up. (Update: Already pro-life activists have responded to his Standard interview, saying that picking a pro-choice candidate could "doom" him and that it would be the "kiss of death.") For another, it's just not believable coming from a candidate who has voted in favor of every possible abortion restriction, in favor of every possible any-choice judge, and against every possible form of federal support for family planning, low-income women's health services, contraceptive access, comprehensive sex education. Evidence says McCain is intent on overturning Roe--whether or not Ridge is at his side.
Related: Life Sentence