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Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2000 /4 Adar I, 5760

Don Feder

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McCain is the un-Republican candidate -- John McCain is a big-government Republican. Almost his entire agenda consists of augmenting Washington's authority or attempting to block transfers of power to back to the people.

Take his tax-cut proposal. Yes, he has one, only because it's expected of Republican candidates.

For the tax collector, the '90s were fat city. Adjusted for inflation, the per capita federal tax burden grew from $5,438 to $7,026 during the Clinton years.

Federal revenue rose $430 billion, also in constant dollars. The non-Social Security federal surplus is estimated at $1 trillion to $2 trillion over the next decade.

And John McCain is proposing to give back a miserable $237 billion over 5 years (half the size of Gov. George Bush's tax cut) to the hard-working Americans from whom these fabulous sums were extracted.

Actually, not even that. The $237 billion is offset by $150 billion in new revenue, which the senator designates "closing corporate loopholes."

In attacking Bush, McCain employs the class-warfare rhetoric dear to Democrats. Thus, McCain charges, the governor is targeting tax cuts to the "wealthiest Americans." Since the 10 percent of Americans with the highest earnings pay 63 percent of individual income taxes, opposing a break for them is a naked appeal to envy.

The Arizonan would devote 62 percent of the budget surplus to saving Social Security, funds he would deposit in a fictitious "lockbox." Congressmen are experts at picking locks. The only way to assure the surplus isn't spent is to return it to its rightful owners.

The rest of McCain's Social Security plan has merit and may be the one exception to his Clintonesque platform. He would allow taxpayers to invest 2.5 percentage points, out of 12.4 percent paid in Social Security taxes, into private accounts.

Still, all of McCain's signature proposals are big-brother friendly -- new taxes on tobacco products (very regressive) and rationing First Amendment rights under the guise of campaign-finance reform.

Yes, but look at McCain's conservative record as a senator, his supporters plead.

As a legislator, McCain's conservatism has been both pro forma and pragmatic. Had his voting record been appreciably more liberal, he would not have represented conservative Arizona in Congress for 18 years.

Movement activists all say McCain has never been out front on our issues. The senator's fervor is reserved for causes that excite The New York Times' editorial writers.

Like most of his conservative positions, McCain's support for the right-to- life cause is dubious at best.

On his campaign bus (which should be called the "Loose Talk Express") last month, a reporter asked the candidate what he'd do if his 15-year-old daughter announced she was pregnant.

We'd have a family conference and I'd urge her to have the baby and put it up for adoption, McCain said, but ultimately the decision would be hers.

Later, after aides slowly explained to McCain that he had enunciated the classic pro-choice position and could be accused of hypocrisy for wanting to take that choice away from other 15-year-olds, the senator claimed he had "misspoke." Of course, whether or not to dispose of his unborn grandchild would be a "family decision," McCain assured us.

Apparently, he also misspoke last August, when he told The San Francisco Chronicle that in the short term, or even the long term, he didn't favor the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. When it was noted that he had supported the rescission of Roe (in writing) a year earlier, he reversed course again.

The reason McCain regularly misspeaks on abortion is that his misstatements represent his real views, while his corrections are posturing. For all of the outsider hoopla, John McCain is very much an inside-the-Beltway politician.

He's also the candidate most likely to shed American blood for the New World Order. I interviewed him during the war on Yugoslavia. Though he couldn't articulate a case for U.S. military involvement in the Balkans, the man who would launch Tomahawks first and ask questions later was absolutely convinced we should send in ground forces.

I can see why the same myopic independents who gave us eight years of Clinton are infatuated with McCain, their overwhelming choice in New Hampshire. What I can't fathom is his GOP support. Not since Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller has there been an un-Republican candidate like John McCain.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate