Contextual Content

Who is the real John McCain?

Huffington claims that McCain is no longer the independent candidate that he was in 2000. She says he has changed his politics to fit more in line with what she calls the "lunatic fringe." Huffington also predicts a general election with plenty of swiftboating and mudslinging.

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Story Transcript

MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: Welcome back to part 2 of our interview with Arianna Huffington. So, Arianna, I want to get into this issue of John McCain. Who is the real John McCain? And you broke a story that recently made a big uproar about McCain saying he didn’t vote for Bush the first time around. And you were a supporter of McCain. You thought he was a good candidate in 2000, but that he’s a different candidate today. Why? What’s changed?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, first of all, I was not a supporter in that I was planning to vote for him, but I was an admirer of McCain. I considered him a real leader. So even though I disagreed with him on many issues, I saw in him somebody who genuinely wanted to bring about reform and somebody with a real independence streak. So it was really sad for me to see him be willing to sell his soul to become president of the United States. And the fact that he had told me at a dinner in 2000 in the presence of other people, who have corroborated, it seems, that he did not vote for George Bush, is really a perfect indication of who John McCain was in 2000 and why so many people, including so many in the media, fell in love with him. This was a man who was so independent and so abhorred George Bush, whom he described as dangerous, as idiotic, that he could not even bring himself to vote for him. So imagine how far he has fallen. And it’s a real Shakespearean fall. It’s not just like flip-flopping. It’s like a man who has real greatness in him, was a war hero, being willing to sort of sacrifice all his principles on issue after issue. And in the last chapter of the book, I go through all of the sacrifices he made.

PALEVSKY: You also mention that on the Middle East he’s flip-flopped, in that he was against torture, and then he voted against the bill that was going to ban torture. But he’s also come out and said he’s for multilateral talks in Iran, he would like to get out of Iraq within five years. Is there a big difference here between his kind of Middle East foreign policy and Obama’s?

HUFFINGTON: Oh, there’s a huge difference between Obama and McCain on foreign policy. First of all, McCain really doesn’t want to leave Iraq until we win, whatever he may say. He has actually said that if the public—he said it’s central to his campaign, how the public feels we’re doing in Iraq, and he says if the public doesn’t believe we can win or we are winning, then, he says, "I lose." So that’s how central he has made that completely faulty perception to his campaign. Also, as we know, even though he’s seen as a major kind of national security expert and a real force to be reckoned with when it comes to foreign policy, he couldn’t really describe the role of Sunnis and Shias and the connection with Iran. I mean, that’s not a gaffe; that’s like a major lack of understanding of what’s happening in the region.

PALEVSKY: You also talk about how he’s, you know, pandering to the right, the right is wrong, and he’s been pandering to these far-right pastors, and Pastor Hagee is only one of many. But this idea of the Rovian Republican base needed to win the White House has kind of stuck. But we’ve seen this change, especially with evangelicals, bringing to light this new green movement and Republicans shifting on some of the issues. Does he need to follow this Rovian path? And is this kind of creating this myth of a powerful right that might not be there this year?

HUFFINGTON: I completely agree with you. I think that even though the right has been so discredited on issue after issue and so marginalized, it still continues to dominate our policy and our debate. And you are right: John McCain has surrendered to them on issue after issue. On tax cuts, he voted against them twice, and he actually said, "I cannot in good conscience vote for them." And now he wants to make them permanent. On immigration, he has now said he would not be voting for his own immigration bill. And on torture, as you said, he voted against a bill that would have prevented the CIA from practicing torture.

PALEVSKY: Could we see a new right this election? I mean, is this old Rovian right—you know, he used gay marriage as the wedge issue in the last issue. Is that kind of politics so outmoded that we might see a different election this year? That we don’t have to blow up the power of that part of the Republican Party?

HUFFINGTON: I don’t think we’re going to see a different election this year. I think we’re going to see a lot of swiftboating. I think we’re going to see a lot of fear mongering on behalf of John McCain and the Republican Party because they have nothing else to run on. What would they run on? The economy is in tatters. Iraq is an unqualified disaster, unless you are completely delusional. And our intelligence agencies are telling us that al-Qaeda has reconstituted itself in western Pakistan. So what will they run except fear, McCain’s bio, and swiftboating Obama?

PALEVSKY: Join us tomorrow for part 3 of this interview, where we discuss who’s the real Obama.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.