McCain leaves everything on the table in Sparks.
In an odd exchange following John McCain’s town hall meeting in Sparks this week, the candidate deflected a question from the Reasonable Reporter by suggesting that she might be a conservative. There would be no justification for telling the story, and it would remain untold, except that Anjeanette Damon alluded to the moment both in her Reno Gazette Journal report, and in her blog. Damon’s account was picked up by another blogger who shortened it. The effect of his edit was to leave the impression that McCain’s words were directed at her.
OK, it’s not exactly accurate to say McCain deflected the question. He didn’t allow the question. He cut it off cold after a few words, and talked over the ensuing attempt to follow up.
McCain was moving away from an uncomfortable subject – that core conservatives still find him unsettling as the Republican nominee for the White House. He’d brought this particular episode on himself, by articulating two days earlier sentiments identical to Barack Obama’s on what it would take to save social security. >
It’s now been well chewed over in the media that McCain made conservatives nervous about the possibility of a payroll tax hike by telling George Stephanopoulos “everything should be on the table” with regard to social security, and by invoking the 1983 Tip O’Neill-Ronald Reagan bipartisan solution for same.
In Sparks, it was RGJ reporter Damon who opened the social security door when the candidate told local reporters that a recession is a bad time to raise taxes, and he won’t do it.
“Even payroll taxes for social security?” Damon asked.
When Damon tried to pin him down, McCain asserted several times that he would not raise taxes, and also repeated several times that for the purpose of negotiating a social security solution, “everything should be on the table. “
The Reasonable Reporter said to McCain that he sounded as though he was addressing two separate things. Meaning, as if it needs to be spelled out, that leaving everything on the table during a social security discussion raises the possibility of a tax increase, and it is, in effect, all one subject. The subject is taxes. Damon got it, McCain didn’t.
McCain repeated. No new taxes, and everything on the table.
The Reasonable Reporter then suggested – or began to suggest – that McCain’s persistence in promoting an “everything on the table” approach while simultaneously promising “no new taxes” is an example of what makes conservatives skeptical of him.
The presumptive nominee might have been more tolerant in a one-on-one interview, having been alerted that the reporter represents a medium with a largely conservative audience. He might have treated the topic as respectfully during the interview as he did during the town hall, when a Douglas County man took the microphone and said that he’s unenthusiastic about McCain, and needs reassurance that the candidate will carry out the conservative values of Douglas County voters.
In a one-on-one conversation, McCain might have started with the same answer he gave to Douglas County. (Burning up 5 minutes and 34 seconds of the ten minutes that would surely have been our time limit.) Or the Reasonable Reporter might have respectfully interrupted after a minute or so, to ponder with the senator a matter that may be keeping Nevada’s down-ballot Republicans awake at night.
Can Republicans running for state and local office count on McCain to deliver conservative voters to the polls? In their fight to retain a one-seat majority in the state senate, and a teetering hedge against a two-thirds Democratic assembly, what can McCain do to help Nevada candidates? In an environment where the sitting Republican governor’s coattails have been clipped, can state and local Republican candidates look to McCain’s coattails? Or are his coattails also too short to ride?
In the Reed High School gym, McCain had declared himself to be the underdog. He told the audience he needs them to bring it home for him.
In the press room, he was unwilling to indulge this discussion. McCain rolled over the Reasonable Reporter like a freight train. He’s never voted for a tax increase he said; he’s always supported tax cuts. He’s never had any conservative express fear to him that he will raise taxes; he is unaware of any conservative who doubts him on taxes.
Unless you, McCain said to the Reasonable Reporter, might be “one of that conservative group. “
Leaving the Reasonable Reporter to wonder aloud as she and her colleagues packed up to leave, why, from McCain’s perspective, that was such an effective put-down.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized