Thursday, September 18, 2008

John McCain: Motor City Madam

It’s strange what a visit to a swing state can do to a politician’s willingness to stand on rock solid principle.

It seems only weeks ago that Sen. John McCain, the anti-Washington, anti-Big Oil, fiscally-responsible reformer, was vowing to oppose “corporate welfare” wherever it reared its ugly head. The panhandlers in pinstripes would hold no sway in a McCain administration. Beltway bandits beware: There's a new sheriff coming to town.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the auto factory.

Speaking Wednesday at a General Motors plant in the swing state of Michigan, McCain said this:

"I'm here to send a message to Washington and Wall Street: We are not going to leave the workers here in Michigan hung out to dry while we give billions in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street. It is time to get our auto industry back on its feet. It's time for a new generation of cars and for loans to build the facilities that will make them."

Loans from whom, one might ask? Loans from Uncle Sam, of course. The corporate welfare-fighter supports giving $25 billion in federal loans to domestic automakers, ostensibly for development of "advanced vehicle technology" which constitutes a bat-turn, since McCain formerly opposed such a bailout. And who will eat the $25 billion if the companies go belly-up, or can't repay? We assembly-line taxpayers, that's who.

The companies are seeking $50 billion in loans, so, according to Washington math, and Washington "logic," McCain the fiscal conservative might argue that he supports a 50 percent “cut” in the all but inevitable bailout package. He might also argue that it’s a loan, not a grant, so doesn't technically count as welfare.

But this sort of inside-the-beltway "reasoning" (or is it rationalizing?) will quickly undermine McCain's already tenuous claim to being a Washington outsider. Such obfuscations are one sure way to derail the "Straight Talk Express.” And such pandering, while it may help McCain carry Michigan, makes one wonder how much backbone he would have as president. It all makes McCain look like just another assembly-line politico.

For what does it profit a man to gain Michigan and lose his soul?

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