mccain-rhino.jpgWhen will the media stop calling McCain a straight-talker and realize he is a pathological doubletalker?

I realize the “L” word is frowned upon in politics, so instead of using that word, which, in any case, doesn’t do justice to the full range of doubletalk in the political arena — let’s just imagine there is an agreed-upon objective scale from 1 to 10 of veracity (with 5 being half-true) that goes something like this:

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(10) Fred Thompson, December 2007: “I’m not particularly interested in running for president.”

(9) Bush, May 2000: “I think we agree, the past is over.”

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(8) Bush, January 2000: “When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.”

(5) Bush, June 1999: “I am a compassionate conservative.”

(3) Bush, September 2002: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

(2) Nixon, November 1973: “I’m not a crook.”

(1) McCain, January 2008 (in reply to Tim Russert’s statement, “Senator McCain, you are in favor of mandatory caps” [which would be a 10 on this scale]): “No, I’m in favor of cap-and-trade.”

Maybe just maybe you gave McCain the benefit of the doubt in this absurd answer because it was late, he’s been in a grueling campaign with little sleep, and he was under the pressure of a tough questioner. Perhaps he misunderstood what Russert said. Perhaps he just blurted out a standard line from one of his speeches. Perhaps the old guy is hard of hearing. Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet.

McCain clarified his “position” in an interview with Greenwire ($ub. req’d, but the audio alone is worth the price of an annual subscription). They wondered whether global warming would still be an issue in the fall campaign, given that Obama and Clinton also support “mandatory caps.” McCain’s reply:

It’s not quote mandatory caps. It’s cap-and-trade, OK. It’s not mandatory caps to start with. It’s cap-and-trade. That’s very different. OK, because that’s a gradual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. So please portray it as cap-and-trade. That’s the way I call it.

Where does this extended whopper fit on the veracity scale? It’s a “0.” Heck, Nixon may not have been a “crook,” depending on how you define the word, but McCain’s cap-and-trade system is mandatory everywhere but Bizarro world. I won’t even insult your intelligence by explaining why — for those who are climate newbies, just Google “mandatory cap-and-trade” (in quotes). I get 15,700 hits.

McCain’s answer is an insult to the intelligence of every American who cares about future generations. His answer is a stab in the back to everyone who is actually trying to talk straight with the public, so they have some realistic understanding of what they will be called upon to do to avoid catastrophic global warming. McCain may be a war hero, but refusing to tell conservatives — and all Americans — that a major mandate (perhaps the biggest one in U.S. history) is required to solve this problem, is the opposite of brave.

I am truly baffled how a man who has survived torture and has no problem telling the public he might keep us in Iraq for 100 years can be afraid of a simple word like “mandatory” — even after he has sewn up the GOP nomination and knows that his opponent in the fall has already embraced the same exact “mandatory” approach. Sounds like a character flaw to me.

So if it wasn’t crystal clear before, John McCain isn’t the candidate to stop global warming.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.