POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Can't Keep Stories Straight On Iraq, Torture

In Saturday's Washington Post the paper examines, in two separate articles, instances in which John McCain seems to be either changing his position, contradicting himself, or distorting the truth on topics such as Iraq and his opposition to torture.

On torture:

Republican presidential front-runner John McCain bluntly called waterboarding "torture and illegal" Wednesday morning, again challenging the Bush administration's defense of a harsh interrogation tactic that makes prisoners think they are drowning.

But later the same day, McCain cast a vote against Democratic-sponsored legislation supported by anti-torture advocates that sought to ban waterboarding and other coercive tactics by the CIA.

The Senate vote put McCain (R-Ariz.) on the same side as President Bush, who plans to veto the waterboarding ban. It also was consistent, his spokesman said, with statements McCain has made on the subject since 2005.

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On Iraq and Rumsfeld:

As he gets closer to the Republican nomination, Sen. John McCain has been trying to balance his unqualified support for the Iraq war by reminding audiences that he was also a tough critic of how it was managed until President Bush finally changed strategies a year ago. In recent weeks, McCain has gone so far as to tell audiences that he was "the only one" who called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary.

The trick is that he never did, at least not publicly. The senator from Arizona was a tough critic of Rumsfeld and more than once said that he had no confidence in the Pentagon chief in the two years before Bush finally dumped Rumsfeld in November 2006. But even as he was criticizing Rumsfeld, McCain typically stopped short of calling for the Pentagon chief to step down.

While campaigning in Fort Myers, Fla., on Jan. 26, he told a crowd: "In the conflict that we're in, I'm the only one that said we have to abandon the Rumsfeld strategy -- and Rumsfeld -- and adopt a new strategy." Four days later during a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., aired on CNN, McCain said, "I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go."

A McCain spokesman acknowledged this week that that was not correct. "He did not call for his resignation," said the campaign's Brian Rogers. "He always said that's the president's prerogative." Asked specifically about the senator's statements in Florida and California, Rogers said, "I think he's really just pointing out that he's the only one who really called out the Rumsfeld strategy, and that is certainly true again and again."

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