Over the past few days there has been a concerted McCain campaign effort to paint Barack Obama's tax policies as socialistic in nature. On Friday a surrogate for the Arizona Republican took the argument to the next overheated level, declaring as fact that Obama a socialist himself.
During a speaking arrangement in southeast Ohio, Sen. George Voinovich was quoted as saying of Obama: "He is left of Teddy Kennedy...With all due respect, the man is a socialist."
The charge - unfounded and essentially hypocritical - represents the logical extension of the McCain campaign's newest gambit. Following Wednesday night's presidential debate both the Republican nominee and his running mate have taken to deriding Obama's proposal for refundable tax credits as something akin to "welfare" or a "government giveaway." But they have never gone so far as to label the candidate himself "socialist."
McCain, in a radio address on Saturday, declared: "Barack Obama's tax plan would convert the (Internal Revenue Service) into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington... "At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama."
Sarah Palin, a day earlier, accused the Democratic nominee of having an economic agenda that resembled socialism. "Sen. Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best to redistribute it according to his priorities," she said. "Joe [the Plumber, the new McCain working man surrogate] suggested that sounded a little bit like socialism."
There is, however, a kicker. The refundable tax credits that the McCain-Palin ticket is deriding are a major part of McCain's own health care plan. In fact, in his speech on Saturday, the Arizona Republican touted the fact that he would outfit "every single American family with a $5000 refundable tax credit" to help with insurance costs.
"Presidential campaigns are full of hypocrisy, of course," wrote the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn. "But I can't remember the last time a candidate was this brazen about it. It makes you wonder what McCain thinks about the public's power of perception."