So, if you're anything like me and pretty much everyone else at NARAL Pro-Choice America, the first week of Olympic coverage has left you a little sleep-deprived as you shuffle into the office each morning. By late afternoon, I've got that glazed-over look and seriously need another triple shot espresso to pay attention to the smallest of details.
Hence the reason for the classic cartoon double-take Wednesday afternoon when I read that John McCain has now changed his mind about considering a pro-choice running mate.
Don't get me wrong, I know the guy was well on his way to making flip-flopping the ultimate political sport: off shore drilling; Bush's failed tax cuts for the rich; campaign finance reform; timeline vs. time horizon. .. but his latest flip-flop on potentially choosing a pro-choice running mate should earn him the gold medal for ultimate flip-flops.
You might remember that just a couple of months ago, McCain told Chris Matthews that "it would be difficult" to have a pro-choice running mate. When pushed about Tom Ridge (who may claim he's pro-choice, but is in the shallow end of the pro-choice pool at best), McCain said about Ridge's purported pro-choice philosophy, "I don't know if it would stop him, but it would be difficult."
But yesterday, McCain jumped into the pool, did a 180 degree spin, and showed that he's the Michael Phelps of the freestyle flip-flop. Now when asked about a pro-choice running mate, McCain said, "Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out." Okay, I'll say it again: What the????
The "Straight Talk Express" has not just lost a wheel, but it seems the entire steering column has been ripped out and thrown by the wayside. So, why the latest McCain flip-flop on a pro-choice running mate?
Look no further than McCain's diminishing support among a key voting bloc that will likely determine the outcome of the race: Independent women. Recent polling conducted by Lifetime Networks showed that Obama leads McCain among these women by a 12-point margin. NARAL Pro-Choice America's own polling in 12 battleground states earlier this summer showed Obama and McCain virtually tied among all Independent women. But, when given information about the candidates' positions on a woman's right to choose, Obama gains 14 points over McCain. And among pro-choice Independent women, the lead climbs to 40 points. In fact, among all groups of women voters -- pro-choice Republicans, non-college educated women, older women and suburban women -- Obama gains votes and McCain loses them based solely on the issue of a woman's right to choose.
So, what's an anti-choice/anti-birth control guy with a 25-year record that's so out of the mainstream supposed to do? Well, he flip-flops and starts to hint that maybe, just maybe, he'll choose a running mate who's not as crazy extreme as he is. He uses language that sounds eerily like another anti-choice politician who has spent the last eight years dismantling a woman's right to choose.
When he was running for president in 2000, here's what George W. Bush said about a woman's right to choose: "I'm going to talk about the culture of life. I've set the goal that every child born and unborn ought to be protected. But I recognize [that many] people don't necessarily agree with the goal. People appreciate somebody who sets a tone, a tone that values life, but recognizes that people disagree." [George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 6/5/2000]
Yesterday, John McCain told Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, "I think it's a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a -- albeit strong -- but just it's a disagreement."
Make no mistake about it: A McCain presidency would be like the Bush presidency on steroids when it comes to a woman's right to choose. McCain has specifically called for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. George W. Bush did not. McCain has said he would appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush wouldn't admit that abortion was a litmus test for his nominees. McCain has a 25-year voting record that is anti-family planning, anti-sex education for our teens, anti-choice, and anti-birth control. In fact, McCain has bragged about his consistent zero-rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Bush, on the other hand, didn't have an extensive legislative record and could therefore speak out of both sides of his mouth (not eloquently, mind you, but he could speak) and sound like a moderate, even though he was anything but.
It comes down to this: John McCain needs Independent voters, specifically women voters, to win in November. His voting record and craven pandering to the extreme right wing of his party is hurting him with women voters. So he has to do something to appeal to them that doesn't piss off the anti-choice zealots that make up his base, but makes him appear moderate to the mainstream voters he needs to win. And that, Olympic and political fans, is why McCain started talking about pro-choice running mates and why he wins the gold for the freestyle political flip-flop of the season.