In 2000, Senator John McCain asked me to campaign on his behalf for president. I was honored to do so. I remember traveling to South Carolina to act as a one-man truth squad and doing countless television interviews for John. It was a tremendous experience and, as we all know, John came up short. But as always, he fought hard for what he thought was right.
But the John McCain I supported for president in 2000 is not the same John McCain I’ve watched frustrate conservatives time and again as our senator. He still fights hard, all right, but too often for the wrong causes.
It is said that all good humor has a grain of truth in it. So when John McCain jokingly referred to the media as “my base,” we all laughed because we knew how true it was. But the media doesn’t need another senator – Arizona does. And Arizonans want a senator who will listen to them all the time, not just when there’s an election. So I will soon formally announce that I will challenge John McCain in the Republican primary for senator.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for what John McCain has given to our country over the years. And this election will be about serious policy differences, not personalities. Let me begin by detailing where I think John McCain has gone wrong. For starters, John:
- Voted against the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 (which I helped write), echoing liberal Democratic arguments that they were tax cuts for the rich;
- Voted for an $850 billion bailout for banks and car companies, which was loaded with special interest earmarks totaling $150 billion;
- Proposed spending $300 billion to buy up every bad mortgage in America, which National Review called a “full bailout for lenders” (McCain said he got the idea from Hillary Clinton!);
- Supports a cap and trade scheme that the Wall Street Journal called “an expensive, invasive government bureaucracy” – indeed, McCain once proclaimed, “I don’t know how any conservative cannot support cap and trade;”
- Wrote the campaign finance law just struck down by the Supreme Court that denied free speech rights to groups like the National Rifle Association while carving out an exception for media corporations like the New York Times;
- Opposes drilling in ANWR;
- Opposes the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques that we know prevented at least 4 major terrorist attacks; and
- Helped write an amnesty plan that would let illegal aliens qualify for Social Security and Medicare, and which the Heritage Foundation estimates would cost taxpayers “at least $2.6 trillion.”
This is not the record of a true conservative, much less a fiscal conservative.
Yet John is trying to make the case that somehow I am not a real conservative, especially when it comes to spending. It is absurd. Aside from my 98% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union (McCain’s rating: 81%), I have a lifetime rating from Citizens Against Government Waste of 89%. John McCain’s? 88%.
Of course, John has a reputation for independence. A healthy dose of independence is a good thing and I’ve never been afraid to buck my party’s leadership when they were wrong – my strong opposition to the Bush/McCain amnesty plan being a prime example. John McCain’s problem is that he has grown independent from those he’s supposed to represent and the conservative values he now claims to champion.
We have serious issues to address over the next six years – taxes, cap and trade, energy, illegal immigration, and spending. For the last six years, John McCain has too often been on the wrong side of them. What makes anyone think the next six years would be different?
As for me, I’m well aware of my personal shortcomings. Hard to believe, but some folks think I talk too much! Well, as a radio talk show host, it was my job to talk. But as the next senator from Arizona, it will be my job to listen.
John McCain is a national treasure – but he has become too enamored of the Washington way of doing things.
Scores of Arizona conservatives have urged me to mount this challenge to bring back reliable conservative representation in the United States Senate, as a Senator for Arizona…not simply from Arizona. That call will be answered; the challenge will be mounted; and Arizona Republicans will have a clear choice in the August 24 primary.