- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Senator misrepresents his record

When Republicans like Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon promoted high taxes and more regulations, they damaged the economy and the Republican Party. This is the eastern liberal establishment's mold for governing, i.e. an energetic and powerful federal bureaucracy that referees all activities and competition among individuals.
When Ronald Reagan was elected president, he broke the mold. Mr. Reagan cut taxes across the board; he cut regulations and lifted price controls, and he limited the role of the federal government vis—vis the states and the citizenry. This was Mr. Reagan's domestic governing philosophy. I know this not as a distant observer, but as one who campaigned for Mr. Reagan three times and held senior positions in his administration for eight years.
It is with this background that I take offense at Sen. John McCain's efforts to assume the Reagan mantle when, in fact, he's repudiating most of what Mr. Reagan stood for and accomplished. Perhaps this helps explain the fawning coverage he's receiving from the mainstream media and why Democrats are temporarily switching parties to vote for Mr. McCain in Republican primaries.
Mr. McCain argues that the only way to eliminate, for instance, what he considers special tax benefits for corporate and other interests is to adopt so-called campaign-finance reform. Mr. McCain's own bill creates a Rube Goldberg-like maze of regulations through which contributors of virtually every kind, making donations of virtually any amount, would have to navigate under threat of criminal and civil penalties. Mr. McCain has received much applause from the mainstream media for his efforts, despite the Constitution's explicit prohibition against any legislative designs on free speech. Of course, the media a special, special interest would benefit most from Mr. McCain's plan because it would chill and obstruct independent sources of information about candidates and political issues. Mr. McCain insists illogically that by empowering the bureaucracy in this way, he is giving the government back to the people.
No one who campaigned for or worked for Mr. Reagan could ever imagine his endorsing, let alone sponsoring, such a constitutionally repugnant proposal, which would wrench power from the people and transfer it to the federal government. In fact, Mr. Reagan's approach was demonstrably different from Mr. McCain's. He didn't need to change the Constitution to successfully stand up to the so-called special interests and tame the bureaucracy. Mr. Reagan's 1982 and 1986 tax bills were opposed ferociously by a myriad of political and economic constituencies who were benefiting from the existing tax code. Lobbyists of every stripe, representing businesses, unions, the federal bureaucracy and the self-anointed public interest groups, went to war against Mr. Reagan's plans, with the full support of a hostile media.
But Mr. Reagan was not of the eastern liberal establishment. He was not deterred. Mr. Reagan persuaded the public, his party and Congress that his vision was in the best interest of all the American people. He didn't create scapegoats or manufacture excuses. Mr. Reagan was a principled, outstanding leader who accomplished great things.
Mr. McCain has also rejected entirely Mr. Reagan's tax-cutting philosophy and adopted Bill Clinton's class warfare rhetoric by characterizing George W. Bush's proposal for across-the-board tax rate reductions as benefiting the wealthy. Mr. Reagan would have been the first to remind Mr. McCain that the government took the money from the taxpayers; that the taxpayers all taxpayers have a right to receive a portion of their money back from the government and that the private sector, not the government, creates jobs, wealth and opportunity.
Conversely, Mr. McCain's anemic tax cut proposal, which is similar to Mr. Clinton's, would leave trillions of tax dollars in the hands of the federal bureaucracy.
Mr. McCain believes the federal bureaucracy should play a much larger role in managing and regulating America's health care system, a position Mr. Reagan opposed throughout his presidency. Mr. Reagan was right. The British and Canadian national health services are disasters. Mr. McCain supported the imposition of massive new taxes on the tobacco industry. Mr. Reagan would have seen this as just another way to rip-off the consumer and expand the reach of government.
When confronted with his liberal positions, Mr. McCain points to his 17-year voting record in Congress as proof of his conservative credentials. In truth, during much of his Washington career Mr. McCain was a conservative. In recent years, however, while preparing to run for president, Mr. McCain obviously made the political calculation that in order to win the Republican nomination he would have to remake himself as the chief Republican spokesman for the eastern liberal establishment.
Mr. McCain has not assumed the mantle of Ronald Reagan. He is, instead, carrying the banner of Nelson Rockefeller.

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