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28.11.04

McCain's Strategy

No McCain, No Gain

Patrick Michaels, an environmental fellow at the right-leaning Cato Institute who teaches environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, griped that McCain's climate-change initiative is nothing more than a political gambit to position himself for a presidential campaign. "He is doing all this strictly for political gain," Michaels told Muckraker. "He needs something to separate him from the Republican competition for 2008. He wants to be the GOP authority on this issue, and my sense is that he's going to do everything he can in the next four years to make his mark on this issue."

McCain has been tenacious enough in pressing for action on global warming that it's hard to believe it's all a political ploy. But some folks deeply concerned about the climate wish he had been more tenacious still and supported the presidential candidate who actually would have done something about this looming problem.


I think the author's desire to defend her allies has given her view of McCain a bit of a rosy hue. Certainly I support what McCain has and will do to get the US to take climate change seriously. But I don't think his tenacity on the issue weighs against the hypothesis that he's doing it as a political ploy. Certainly it's not the kind of plotical ploy we're most used to, the kind beautifully illustrated by both John Kerry and George Bush: the flip-flop. Flip-flops happen when a politician is reacting to the public and to the conventional wisdom, trying to get on the "right" side of an issue so that people will like him. McCain has rarely been one for that kind of maneuver. Rather, he plans for the long term. Tenacity can be itself a ploy, as McCain has a lot invested in his image as a straight-shooting maverick. Climate change works well for him, as it makes him distinctive and gives him opportunities to reach across the aisle. This wins him the adoration of liberals who forget the conservatism of his voting record on issues that are not his signature ones. And it makes the party work for his loyalty, out of fear of defection and desire for the PR of having him stand up in the end and endorse the GOP.

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