“McCain offers tax policies he once opposed”

That’s a headline on the front page of today’s Washington Post. The story, which was written by Jonathan Weisman but could just as easily have been penned by the DNC, begins this way:

On May 26, 2001, after then-Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) cast his vote against President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut, he trudged back to his office, convinced, he recalled, that he had been the lone Republican to oppose the largest tax cut in two decades.

But Chafee’s staff told him that one other Republican, who had largely avoided the grueling efforts at compromise, had joined him in dissent. That senator, John McCain, was marching to his own beat, Chafee said, impervious to pressure from either side.

Now that he is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, however, McCain is marching straight down the party line. The economic package he has laid out embraces many of the tax policies he once decried: extending Bush’s tax cuts he voted against, offering investment tax breaks he once believed would have little economic benefit and granting the long-held wishes of tax lobbyists he has often mocked.

The report continues in this propagandistic mode for a few more paragraphs.

John McCain may not be a whiz on economics (neither is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton) but he’s intelligent enough to understand that the following two decisions — (1) whether to support legislation that will lower tax rates in 2001 and (2) whether to support legislation that will raise tax rates in 2008 — are independent ones. In other words, raising tax rates is not the same thing as lowering them, and the economic environment in 2008 is not the same as the economic environment in 2001.

Some politicians favor virtually every tax cut; others always oppose cuts, at least for people who are economically well off. McCain, as is typical, falls in neither camp. Throughout his time in public life, he has supported some tax cuts and opposed others. Even Weisman acknowledges as much, though you need to read a long way to see it. And the minute one recognizes these simple matters of fact, logic, and economics, the Post’s claim that “McCain offers tax policies he once opposed” becomes vacuous, and Weisman’s anti-McCain hit piece loses its force.

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