John McCain is getting a lot of attention these days for his aggressive efforts in support of campaign finance reform, and to a lesser extent in favor of Patients' Bill of Rights legislation. My hunch, though, is that he's going to play a key role in the upcoming debate over the mammoth Bush tax cut - though this possibility has not yet garnered much attention.
During the Republican primaries McCain campaigned against the Bush tax cut on grounds quite similar to those Democrats are now using to oppose it - objections to its size, the effect on the country's ability to pay off the national debt, and it's skew toward the wealthiest Americans.
Sources close to McCain say he's now revisiting the whole issue of the tax cut in the light of the rapidly decelerating economy. But from all the available evidence it seems to me that McCain will likely again oppose Bush's bill (possibly in a slightly updated fashion), and perhaps make the case against it even more effectively than Democrats.
McCain has good reason to oppose the Bush bill on substantive policy grounds. He's a debt hawk; he's troubled that the Bush plan might prevent increases in military spending; and his positions on health care issues are not that different from those of many Senate Democrats. But don't discount the intensity of animosity between McCain and his supporters and Bush and his. It's a mix of ideological and personal enmities that runs very deep.
And now for something totally different (or at least kinda different).
Senator McCain is often associated with a Conservative splinter-movement called National Greatness Conservatism.
Even National Greatness types admit that the movement (if you can call it that) is quite amorphous. But broadly speaking, National Greatness types see themselves in the tradition of strong-state Progressive Nationalism often associated with Teddy Roosevelt. (They're way into Teddy Roosevent.) Like McCain, one of their signature issues is campaign finance reform and they don't think the world revolves around cuts in marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy. They are genuinely reformist and unlike almost every other kind of Conservative there are a number of things that I agree with them about.
Or, to put it in more familiar Talking Points-style language, they're unlike most other Conservatives in that they're not completely full of crap.
In any case, Marshall Wittman, one of the made-men of the National Greatness crew, has just opened up a political commentary site.
(Between you and me, it looks suspiciously like Talking Points. But, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Or maybe he just copied it from Kausfiles, where I got the idea?)
In any case, if you're the typical Talking Points reader you'll probably find a lot of stuff on Wittman's site you'll disagree with. (The hokey picture of Ronald Reagan was almost enough to do it for me. But I held my hand over my left eye and tried to focus on the picture of Teddy Roosevelt -- you'll understand when you see the site.) But this sort of McCainite conservatism is the most interesting and dynamic stuff going on in the Republican party today. So I'd say it's worth taking a look. Hell, I'll even give it the official Talking Points Seal of Approval.
P.S. If you go to Wittman's site and then feel guilty about it afterwards, just tell people, "Hey, look ... I was young. I was experimenting." Works every time.
P.P.S. I think on a number of issues McCain is actually moving further left, or further toward the Dems, than his National Greatness admirers. But we'll leave that for another post.