It has been observed that one of Sen. John McCain's most foreboding obstacles in seeking the White House will likely be the lengthy paper trail that comes with a 25-year congressional career.
And so it is, perhaps, with the macro-theme of the general election: whether or not McCain is an extension of the George Bush presidency. The Senator has worked hard to dispel such a perception, pointing to various policy disagreements with the White House and lashing out against those who claim he would be Bush's third term.
But McCain's case is complicated by his own words from just three years ago. In a June 2005 appearance on Meet The Press, the Senator told moderator Tim Russert that, far from being at odds with the White House, he had "been totally in agreement and support of President Bush" on "the transcendent issues."
RUSSERT: The fact is you are different than George Bush.
SEN. McCAIN: No. No. I-the fact is that I'm different but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.
McCain went on to insist that, on domestic policies, he and the president had butted heads - which is true on issues like combating climate change and campaign finance.
"But," he quickly added, "I will argue my conservative record voting with anyone's, and I will also submit that my support for President Bush has been active and very impassioned on issues that are important to the American people. And I'm particularly talking about the war on terror, the war in Iraq, national security, national defense, support of men and women in the military, fiscal discipline, a number of other issues. So I strongly disagree with any assertion that I've been more at odds with the president of the United States than I have been in agreement with him."
At the time of the interview, McCain was dismissing speculation that he harbored hopes of a White House run. But it was nearly accepted fact in Washington that he would eventually put his hat in the ring. An appeal to Republican voters, whom McCain had alienated with his streaks of independence following the 2000 election, was required for this to happen.
Now, however, that proximity to Bush could prove a detriment to McCain's electoral hopes. And rare is the day that he publicly touts the similarities of his policies and those of the White House.
"You will hear from my opponent's campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I'm running for President Bush's third term," McCain said recently in a speech in New Orleans. "You will hear every policy of the president described as the Bush-McCain policy. Why does Senator Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false."
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