McCain won’t play Bush’s game

With the Bushies going all-out to portray John Kerry as a wimp on national security, I suspect they’re grinding their collective teeth over this news:

Senator John McCain added a rare bit of restraint to the escalating tone of the presidential campaign today, rejecting assertions by other Republicans that his colleague, Senator John Kerry, would endanger national security if elected.

”I don’t think that,” Mr. McCain said on CBS this morning. ”I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has served his country. I think he has different points of view on different issues and he will have to explain his voting record. But this kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice.”

Mr. McCain also defended Mr. Kerry in an appearance on NBC’s “Today,” saying in response to a question that he did not believe Mr. Kerry was “weak on defense.”

McCain, who spent six years in a North Vietnamese prison after his plane was shot down during the war there, is obviously someone the White House would like to enlist in Kerry-bashing. His defense of the Democratic candidate may reflect his friendship with his fellow Vietnam veteran. I suspect McCain and Kerry are much closer personally than McCain and Bush– especially since their bitter battle for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.

The Bushies are trying to nail Kerry for his remark, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion [for Iraq and Afghanistan], before I voted against it.”

Not very elegantly phrased, but he explained that he voted for it when the funding was tied to a partial repeal of Bush’s enormous tax cut for the wealthy. When that was defeated, he voted no. I think it was a principled thing to do.

When Bush first requested the $87 billion last September, he said the war and the reconstruction “will take time and require sacrifice.” To which E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post responded: “Well, yes. But at no point in the speech did the president explain who would do the sacrificing except, of course, our troops on the ground.”

Dionne wrote:

If Bush wants us to believe that this war is as important as he says it is, he needs to ask something from himself and something from Americans who can most afford it. That means rescinding some of his tax cuts for the most well-off even if his campaign contributors squawk. If Bush and his friends aren’t willing to sacrifice anything for this cause, they abandon the right to ask sacrifices from of the rest of us.

They weren’t willing to sacrifice and Congress– with a few exceptions like Kerry– caved in. He has nothing to apologize for.