Posted by | December 28, 2010 13:26 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

For the better part of his career in the Senate, John McCain prided himself on being a conservative, but also on taking positions on principle (campaign finance reform being the classic example).  He supported immigration reform in 2007 when the rest of his party (and the rest of its presidential candidates) was racing to see who could be the most anti-immigrant.  Therefore his opposition to the DREAM Act was a surprise.  McCain’s friend, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, has the explanation:

Woods said “it hurts” McCain to vote against legislation like the Dream Act after years of working on reform but said the senator felt betrayed when Latinos overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. “When you carry that fight at great sacrifice year after year and then you are abandoned during the biggest fight of your life, it has to have some sort of effect on you,” he said.

Having lost his presidential race, McCain clearly cares more about settling scores now than standing on principle.  It’s a shame, because while I rarely agreed with him, I did respect him.  Now I have more respect for those who oppose legislation I support for principled reasons, than for the new unprincipled John McCain.

UPDATE: Grant Woods has responded to this post with the following clarification of his position:

I explained to the reporter that McCain has taken the position that because of the multitude of serious problems at our uncontrolled Southern Arizona border, he is not supporting any reforms until that is under control. In other words, he was for the Dream Act before the situation deteriorated at the border and will probably be for it again once things stabilize. But not until then.

While I personally would have voted for the Dream Act, I do believe his is a principled stand. The point about the abandonment of McCain by Latinos in 2008 after he had risked so much for their issues (and Obama had severely hurt the most recent effort at reform in the Senate) was mine. I think it hurt him personally and it wasn’t right. But that’s the way it goes in politics—so many people are stuck in particular alignments that it is difficult to move forward.

I don’t believe the 2008 vote had anything to do with his recent vote, whether I agree with that vote or not.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.