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John McCain and the Abortion-Litmus Test?

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By Elizabeth Shipp, political director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

As the Politico's Jonathan Martin notes, during last night's Hardball with Chris Matthews, McCain said "it would be difficult" to have a pro-choice running mate. In Pennsylvania, Matthews pushed him on why Tom Ridge wouldn't be an acceptable candidate. Watch it here (segment begins at 1:27 minutes in):

Let me reiterate: McCain said, "I don't know if it would stop him, but it would be difficult."

Uh, ok. But wait, it gets worse. When Matthews asked him, "Why that one issue? Why is it that one litmus test issue?" McCain replied:

I'm not saying that would be necessarily, but I am saying it's basically the respect and cherishing of the right of the unborn is one of the fundamental principles of my party. And it's a--and it's a deeply held belief of mine... And I want to say that the rights of the unborn is one of my most important values...

Since when is a man who has conservative credentials to spare (former governor of Pennsylvania, former congressman, Vietnam veteran, former secretary of the department of Homeland Security, and the list goes on) a "difficult" running-mate choice simply because of a presumed pro-choice position? (Oh, and just for the record: I worked against Tom Ridge in the 1994 race for governor. And, I worked for a real pro-choice candidate, Mark Singel. So, I know a little bit about Tom Ridge and whether or not he's really pro-choice. Let's just say that occasionally voting pro-choice didn't give Ridge any "street cred" on our issue. I don't expect to see him at a march or waving a pro-choice banner any day soon. Just like Condi Rice, he's "mildly" pro-choice at best.)

This all reminds me an article I read in the January 21, 2008 edition of The Weekly Standard. (I always feel like I have to know what the opposition is saying, which is the only reason I'd ever pick up a rag like The Standard!) Author Stephen F. Hayes wrote about traveling with McCain after his win in the New Hampshire primary, and described the following exchange:

...He was asked about the possibility of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg entering the race as an independent, and McCain had nice words to say about his potential rival. Someone asked if Bloomberg would make a good vice president, and McCain thought aloud about the potential positives and negatives of such an arrangement. "I don't know how you could nominate a pro-choice VP without a real backlash from the party," he said, specifically raising concerns that a pro-choice vice presidential nominee would run counter to a "fundamental" principle of the Republican party.

Clearly, John McCain is uncomfortable with the notion of a pro-choice Republican as a running mate. No matter the other redeeming qualities a potential running mate would have - if you're a pro-choice Republican, don't bother applying. What really made me do the cartoon double take during Hardball was McCain trying, once again, to have it both ways:

The only thing I can say is that in America we can disagree sometimes on specific issues even if they're of the most important issues. And I want to say that the rights of the unborn is one of my most important values, but we can have disagreement. There is room for debate in our nation and our party. We should have a healthy and respectful discussion and debate on these issues.

Gee, thanks so much John McCain. We can have a debate within the Republican party. We can have a national debate. But if elected president, you won't have a vice president who will debate or disagree with you? You only want an inner circle of advisors who think, act, talk and walk just like you, no matter what the majority of Americans think? Wow, that sounds familiar - where have I heard that one before? Oh, yeah... George W. Bush. How's that been working out for the country?

Here's a free bit of advice for McCain that I hope he'll accept in the civil and respectful manner I'm giving it: Perhaps Dick Cheney can be your wingman, Senator McCain. Now, don't dismiss it right away; hear me out. Cheney could be the "Goose" to your "Maverick" a la Top Gun. Why, you might ask? Because just as Top Gun is a work of fiction, so is your claim to be a "moderate maverick." I hate to break it to you Senator, but you are NOT a maverick, you're certainly not a moderate, and you're becoming more like Bush every day in every way.

As McCain continues to travel the country, it becomes even more important that we continue to challenge the media - blogs and traditional outlets alike - to investigate and expose McCain's real beliefs on choice-related issues. We cannot, and will not, let stand the misperception that anti-choice presidential candidate Sen. John McCain represents the moderate wing of his party. Share this blogpost with friends and family today, so they can Meet The Real McCain.

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