Whenever he found the chance, he would stress that Barack Obama has a far-left ideology, and whenever he needed a different argument -- such as when Brokaw confronted him with his own statements in favor of making the rich pay more taxes -- he would resort to the argument that different times require different solutions. How can you use these two rhetorical strategies alternately? It's incoherent. I'll write more about that when I have the transcript to work with.
What did you think?
UPDATE: Now, we've got the transcript. (Video here.) Let me show you what I mean about incoherence:
MR. BROKAW: Well, let me ask you about that business about spreading the wealth around ... which has been a favorite phrase now of the McCain campaign. And also your vice presidential candidate has used the word "socialist" and "socialism." ... Do you honestly think that Barack Obama would have as his advisers--Warren Buffet; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve under Ronald Reagan, who is widely credited with saving the economy at that time; Bob Rubin, former Treasury secretary; and even Chris Buckley, the son of the godfather of the modern conservative movement--both endorsing his economic policies and help shaping them if they thought he was a socialist of some kind?Note the "my friend" that slips out as McCain tries to switch to the "different times" rhetoric that, as I said in the post, is incoherent with the argument that the 2 candidates represent starkly different ideology.
SEN. McCAIN: All I know is that Senator Obama's record is very clear. It's his record, not Volcker's record, not anybody else's. He started out in the lefthand lane of American politics and has remained there. He has been judged the most liberal United States senator. Biden's number three. "Joe the Biden" is number three. Bernie Sanders is number two. And, and I respect that. But let's not, let's not call it anything but it is.
MR. BROKAW: Well, he...
SEN. McCAIN: He's voted for tax increases, against tax cuts, has advocated raising capital gains tax. Another, another anchor, Charlie Gibson, said, "Why would you want to raise capital gains taxes and--when you know that that could decrease revenue?" He said, "It's a matter of fairness." He said to "Joe the Plumber," it's "spreading the wealth around." I, I--his political philosophy is very, very different about what he believes is future of America's concerned.
MR. BROKAW: Well, can we, can we...
SEN. McCAIN: I believe the worst thing you can do is raise taxes.
MR. BROKAW: Can we share with the audience, then, a couple of...
SEN. McCAIN: Sure. Sure.
MR. BROKAW: ...your comments about taxing wealthy Americans?
SEN. McCAIN: Sure.
MR. BROKAW: This is from April 11th, 2004. It's MEET THE PRESS...
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: ...and this is what you had to say about wealthy Americans and taxes at that time.
SEN. McCAIN: I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans.
MR. BROKAW: And then this is what you had to say on "Hardball" back in 2000 to Chris Matthews.
(Videotape, October 12, 2000)
SEN. McCAIN: Here's what I, I, I really believe, that when you are--reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.
SEN. McCAIN: That's what--listen, even the flat tax people somewhat pay more. Even--you put into different, different categories of wealthier people paying, paying higher taxes into different brackets. I mean, and the, and these are different times, my friend. These are times of the biggest financial crisis we've faced in America.
Brokaw pushes him on the use of the term "socialism," pointing out the inconvenient fact that "the $700 billion bailout ... has the United States government buying shares in American banks, in effect nationalizing those banks to a degree" and needling him about "your own mortgage plan of spending $300 billion to buy bad mortgages from banks, having taxpayers who have done the responsible thing, in effect, subsidize people who've done the dumb or wrong thing."
McCain again resorts to the "different times" gambit:
Because we are in a financial crisis of monumental proportions. The role of government is to intervene when a nation is in crisis. A homeowner's loan corporation was instituted in the Great Depression. They went out and they bought people's mortgages, and, over time, people were able, then, to pay back those mortgages. And the Treasury actually made some money.The question wasn't whether it was a good idea. It was how can you call Obama "socialist" when you support things like this? You should have to say something along lines of: Well, it's socialism all right, but sometimes that's just what we need and it works out pretty well, so it's fine.
Or you could say: We're just blowing off steam when we call it "socialism," Tom. You know that. It's like when I called Cindy a ... whatever, Tom, I know Cindy's a human being, and Obama's not a socialist. It's a figure of speech.
MR. BROKAW: Let me ask you quickly about your $300 billion bailout of, of mortgages. Some people have said, look, if there's a homeowner out there who's done the irresponsible thing and a bank is looking at that foreclosure and saying, "Hey, I don't have to work this out. I can just get the government to pick it up," why should a taxpayer in Waterloo, Iowa, or in Akron, Ohio, have to subsidize somebody who has done the dumb, wrong thing?So, McCain has nothing on the ideological point about socialism. He's gone completely over to the pragmatic side of wanting to do whatever works. And yet, he's not persuasive that this idea would work. It's a big, outrageously expensive program that spares people from the consequences of their poor decisions. But let's just do it, because the times are difficult.
SEN. McCAIN: Well, in simplest terms, if their neighbor next door throws the keys in the living room floor and leaves, then the value of their home is going to dramatically decrease as well. And again, this has been done before. As I said, during the Great Depression and...
MR. BROKAW: And that's when Republicans called it socialism under FDR.
SEN. McCAIN: Well, look, in the Great Depression, there were some things that worked and some things that didn't work. But for the government to do nothing in the face of a massive crisis of proportions that we have not seen, I mean, it's hard for us to imagine how, in, in retrospect, how serious the Great Depression was, but the fact is that Senator Obama, by the way, opposes that, that; and I want to use some of the $750 billion to go and buy those mortgages and that, I think, will stabilize the market. It's not the only thing that needs to be done, but I think it's a vital first step so Americans can realize the American dream.