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  • Expert on Record-Bin Laden Confession a Fake
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  • McCain's Credibility Goes Up in Smoke

    By Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report
    Posted on August 11, 2008, Printed on August 12, 2008

    John McCain's efforts in opposition to the tobacco industry have come up quite a bit lately. A McCain campaign ad unveiled last week noted that he "has taken on big tobacco." A few days later, the campaign released another ad, featuring Democratic praise for McCain's work against Big Tobacco. McCain even boasted of his efforts at Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Summit two weeks ago.

    The media has bought this line completely. The AP praised McCain's work against the tobacco industry as evidence of his independence, and the WaPo's Jonathan Weisman offered the tobacco issue as the best example of McCain being "an independent maverick."

    McCain's claims and the media's praise hasn't made sense for quite some time. McCain fought for years in support of legislation -- that he co-sponsored -- that would regulate the tobacco industry and impose a $1.10-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund programs to cut underage smoking. Earlier this year, McCain quietly began moving away from the bill he'd championed.

    Now the McCain campaign doesn't want to talk about the senator's bill at all.

    The campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is declining to embrace McCain's own 1998 tobacco bill, legislation that would have raised taxes to the tune of $516 billion over 25 years.


    The bill would have forced tobacco companies to pay for a host of anti-smoking initiatives and fork over huge sums to the states in return for settling a lawsuit by the states. Cigarette makers would have been required to raise prices by about $1.10 per pack to come up with the money, according to a Congressional Research Service report from the time.

    Asked repeatedly last week whether McCain still backs the bill and if he thought it was a good idea, senior adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin declined to answer directly ... McCain today does not support raising taxes on cigarettes, his adviser said.

    And given that the tax increase on cigarettes is a key feature of McCain's legislation, it means McCain now opposes his own bill.

    When McCain first began championing this legislation, he vowed to "never" give up on the issue. Like most of McCain's promises, the vow had a shelf life.

    A few months ago, I started coming up with a list of bill that McCain personally co-sponsored, but now opposes.

    * He said in February that he'd vote against his own immigration bill.

    * McCain used to champion the Law of the Sea convention, even volunteering to testify on the treaty's behalf before a Senate committee. Now, if the treaty comes to the Senate floor, he's vowed to vote against it.

    * McCain was a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants' kids who graduate from high school. In 2007, to make the far-right base happy, he announced his opposition to the bill he had taken the lead on.

    * In 2006, McCain sponsored legislation to require grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. In 2007, after receiving "feedback" on the proposal, McCain told far-right activist groups that he now opposes the measure he'd helped write.

    Flip-flops are one thing, but these aren't just random bills that McCain voted on -- these are bills that he personally championed -- recently.

    And even that wouldn't be entirely beyond the pale, except one of McCain's principal selling points is his alleged consistency and willingness to take politically unpopular decisions.

    We're talking about a senator taking firm stands against his own bills. "Maverick," indeed.

    AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.

    Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.
    © 2008 The Carpetbagger Report All rights reserved.
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