No weapon in the Republican race-bating aresenal is more powerful than attacks on quotas.
The old John McCain, aka McCain the Maverick, wouldn’t go there. Today’s McCain, aka McCain Who’ll Say Anything to Get Elected, seems to have no such compunction.
The late Jesse Helms might have winked and nodded in approval. Helms, after all, showed the raw appeal of attacks on quotas in his now infamous “Hands” commercial, which was used during a North Carolina senate campaign against African American Democrat Harvey Gantt:
The message of the ad is clear: quotas make whites the victim of an unfair government that takes things away from them and gives things to undeserving blacks.
The old John McCain took a more moderate view on these matters, saying he was opposed to quotas, but in favor of affirmative action. In 1998, for example, he stated his concerns about a ballot initiative being sponsored by members of the Arizona legislature that would have ended affirmative active in the state. In a talk before a group of Hispanic leaders, McCain said at the time that “rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide for every child in America to fulfill their expectations.”
This past April, in a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio, McCain said
If you’re talking about assuring equal and fair opportunity for all Americans and making sure that the practices of the US military are emulated, the greatest equal opportunity employer in America, then I am all for it…
If you are talking about quotas, I am not for it. So all of us are for affirmative action to try to give assistance to those who need it, whether it be African-American or other groups of Americans that need it.”
That was then. This is now: McCain does a total flip-flop regarding affirmative action ballot initiatives in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. McCain was asked if he supports a current anti-affirmative referendum in his home state:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Opponents of affirmative action are trying to get a referendum on the ballot here that would do away with affirmative action. Do you support that?
MCCAIN: Yes, I do. I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of these proposals. But I’ve always opposed quotas.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the one here in Arizona you support.
MCCAIN: I support it, yes.
USAToday reported that McCain’s statements were “the latest example of McCain changing positions that had once put him at odds with conservative Republicans, including his new proposals to extend President Bush’s tax cuts and expand offshore oil drilling.”