McCain’s Straight Talk spins wheels

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John McCain’s record of working across the aisle and putting his country first over partisanship is demonstrated - Barack Obama can say no such thing,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds. “Voters know that John McCain has an independent record, and that Barack Obama’s record is a combination of his imagination and ambition.”

On Thursday, the campaign released a 7-minute Web video documenting “a timeline of Barack Obama’s political positioning on the most critical national security issue America faces today.”

The video was timed to coincide with Mr. Obama’s upcoming trip to Iraq and other foreign countries. The McCain campaign said the video exposed Mr. Obama’s evolution from opposing the military surge strategy in Iraq to embracing it.

“Rather than admit his mistake, Barack Obama is now trying to pretend that he was for the surge all along,” said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

Mr. Obama’s campaign responds that Mr. McCain frequently commits gaffes and has been caught using different rhetoric for different audiences.

Last month, a Republican Hispanic activist who attended a closed-door meeting said Mr. McCain was giving Hispanics a different message than the security-first rhetoric he was using on the campaign trail.

This week, Mr. Obama’s campaign said Mr. McCain was telling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that he would increase funding for federal education programs, even though he has told other audiences that he would freeze most domestic spending.

In recent days, he has referred to Czechoslovakia, even though that nation split into the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993. Gay rights groups bashed his comments to the New York Times, reported Sunday, about his stance on adoption.

The campaign then clarified that Mr. McCain would leave the issue to states. Only Florida bans same-sex couples from adopting.

“He’s not a detail person,” said Donald J. Devine, a former Reagan administration official who is editor of Conservative Battleline. “He’s not a liar. I think he just can’t believe that he would ever do anything wrong. He would think that would be some kind of moral failing, and he just figures there’s got to be something that isn’t right with what the other person said.”

Ray Dearin, a professor of English at Iowa State University who has studied political rhetoric, said it’s unlikely the gaffes push Mr. McCain off message.

Mr. Dearin, who was elected an alternate delegate to the Republican nominating convention, said the mandatory caps issue is “somewhat esoteric to most voters” and using “Czechoslovakia” isn’t a serious error: “Ninety percent of Americans still call it that.”

He said Mr. McCain might be vulnerable on his history of votes on tax cuts.

“The failure to vote for the Bush tax cuts will still linger in the minds of some GOP voters. His position against repealing them will help with the base, though he probably is vulnerable on the ‘straight talk’ issue,” Mr. Dearin said.

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