At the presidential debate in Nashville last Tuesday, Senator John McCain made his case for fiscally conservative, smaller government, calling for an “across the board” spending freeze and denouncing what he described as Senator Barack Obama’s “government will do this and government will do that” approach to health care.
But Mr. McCain’s big proposal that night was to spend $300 billion in taxpayer money to buy bad mortgages from banks and refinance them, a plan conservatives quickly criticized as an expensive effort to nationalize the mortgage industry.
The juxtaposition of a hands-off approach to governing with an embrace of intervention — albeit intervention at a moment of national crisis — was hardly unusual for Mr. McCain. Throughout his run for the presidency, he has often proposed policies that appear to be incompatible with one another, if not contradictory.
His foreign policy, for example, calls for ostracizing Russia for its undemocratic ways by expelling it from the Group of Eight industrialized powers, a hard-line position that he took long before Russia’s war with Georgia this summer. But Mr. McCain also calls for fostering closer ties with Russia to cooperate with it on a new nuclear disarmament agreement.
Mr. McCain’s economic policy centers on extending President Bush’s deficit-swelling tax cuts and on cutting even more corporate taxes. But at the same time, Mr. McCain has vowed to balance the federal budget by the end of his term, a pledge he has reiterated even with the fiscal crisis threatening to throw the budget even deeper into the red.
His energy policy is built in part on curbing the use of fossil fuels to reduce global warming, and he was an early Republican supporter of the cap-and-trade approach. But as gas prices shot up he made a series of proposals aimed at making gasoline cheaper and more available, from his call for a gas-tax holiday last summer to his new support for drilling for oil offshore (but still not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).