The tragedy of John McCain

It is on taxes -- not on foreign policy -- that the Arizona senator hoists the white flag.

Published May 16, 2007 1:56AM (EDT)

As someone who covered McCain in 2000, the saddest transformation of the self-defrocked maverick is his turnabout on taxes. In tonight's South Carolina debate, McCain claimed, as he often has recently, that "tax cuts have dramatically increased revenues." He also insisted that he voted against the 2001 Bush tax bill "because we didn't rein in spending."

But that was not how McCain was talking during his presidential race against George W. Bush. The Sunday after he lost the 2000 South Carolina primary, McCain appeared on "Meet the Press" to explain why he wanted to limit any future tax cuts in the name of fiscal prudence. As he told Tim Russert, "I think it's so important to put this [projected] surplus, 62 percent of it, into the Social Security trust fund as opposed to putting it all into tax cuts as Governor Bush wants to do. I think it's mature and grown up to put this money into Social Security, put some into Medicare and start paying down the debt."

Now McCain is seven years older at 70, but he seems to have forgotten the Social Security demands of the baby boomers -- and what that will do to the already swollen deficit. And, sadly, his new position is not "mature and grown up" at all.

By Walter Shapiro

Walter Shapiro, a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is an award-winning political columnist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has worked as Salon's Washington bureau chief, as well as for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Esquire, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo News. He is also a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

MORE FROM Walter Shapiro

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room