Another bad week for John McCain

He's sputtering about birth control and the economy and shape-shifting on immigration. Can this candidacy be saved? Share your best ideas.

Published July 12, 2008 10:49AM (EDT)

I recorded this week's Current video, about John McCain's rough week, before I'd actually watched footage of the worst McCain moment of all: the GOP nominee struggling to answer a question about whether he believes insurance companies should have to cover contraception (for the record, he voted against a bill that would have compelled them to). On CNN Thursday night, Republican Ed Rollins said it might be the most painful political spectacle he'd seen in his 40 years in politics. It really is that awful.

That terrible McCain moment came courtesy of campaign co-chair Carly Fiorina, who had complained about insurance companies covering Viagra when they don't cover birth control. Fiorina's in charge of McCain's outreach to women, and she made a good point, but she should have checked her guy's voting record to see if he agreed. In my Current video I talked about another run-amok McCain supporter, economics advisor Phil Gramm, who ranted to the Washington Times about Americans being a "nation of whiners" who were suffering from a "mental recession." (Text continues below.)

To be fair, McCain repudiated Gramm and his remarks, but the damage was done. The problem is nobody knows what McCain thinks. In his remarks about Gramm Thursday, he said he knows the economy is in trouble; on other occasions, he's said it's just fine. At his League of United Latin American Citizens speech this week he sounded like the old, courageous immigration reformer; but he repudiated his own bill during the GOP primary (and Republicans ganged up on him for his friendly remarks to LULAC). He's made sure the flip-flop charge against Barack Obama can't stick, because he's got his own flop for every real or alleged Obama flip -- on immigration, on taxes, on offshore oil drilling, and more. He released a very moving immigration ad Friday, but who can really believe it?

I'm not a Republican, but it seems to me the only advantage McCain has in his underdog race against Obama is that he's a very well-known quantity, a war hero with a long Congressional record that, despite its reliable conservatism, has been occasionally marked by principled stands as well as efforts at bipartisanship. Running against a first-term senator who is not yet well known by most Americans, and who has also disappointed supporters in the last few weeks by changing positions, John McCain, Known Quantity could well be a reassuring choice in November.

But McCain is no longer a known quantity. His crazy ranting about preventing Iran from causing "another Holocaust" made him sound like Dick Cheney; his shapeshifting on immigration and the economy makes him look lost. Is there anything he can do to get his campaign back on track? Tell us your ideas in my comments section, or submit a video reply at, and I'll share the best ideas in my video next week.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections John Mccain