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Kentucky Steelworker Leader Says McCain is no Moderate on Labor Issues
Kentucky Steelworker leader say McCain is no moderate on labor issues

By BERRY CRAIG

PADUCAH, Ky. – The media's fondness for fawning over “moderate” Arizona Sen. John McCain is making news in Great Britain .

He is commonly cast as “the Republican liberals can live with,” Johann Hari wrote in the Independent of London . “He is ‘a bipartisan progressive,’ ‘a principled hard liberal’, ‘a decent man’ – in the words of liberal newspapers.”

Even so, McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, is about as far right as Republicans go, he added. “If we don’t start warning that the Real McCain is not the Real McCoy, we might sleepwalk into four more years of Republicanism,” Hari warned.

On most issues -- including almost every important labor issue – McCain croons in the GOP’s conservative choir.

Ella Fitzgerald was a crooner, too. “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it,” she sang in 1939.

McCain does it anti-labor and conservative. He makes it look moderate, thanks to a big boost from a mirating media.

But is McCain is making any headway with union voters? That's hard to say.

No doubt union members appreciate him as a genuine Vietnam War hero. On the campaign trail, he seems soft-spoken and a nice fellow.

Yet on labor issues, he’s as mean as a junkyard dog. He voted against the Employee Free Choice Act and for a national right-to-work law, according to the AFL-CIO.

“He is not on our side – no way,” said Jeff Wiggins, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO. “He’s as anti-union as Bush.”

Numbers back up Wiggins, a member of Steelworkers Local 9447-5. McCain has voted “right” on labor legislation only 16 percent of the time, according to the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education.

McCain's COPE number ranks him as one of the most anti-labor lawmakers in Washington. By comparison, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the top two contenders for the Democratic nomination, are among the strongest union supporters on Capitol Hill. Obama's COPE rating is 98 percent; Clinton's is 94.

Wiggins’ union endorsed John Edwards. A former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, he dropped out of this year’s presidential contest.

“We [the Steelworkers] aren't picking sides,” said Wiggins, who is also on the Kentucky State AFL-CIO Executive Board. “We’re not saying vote for Obama or Clinton. But we want to define McCain for what he really is before he starts defining himself as a friend to labor, which he is not.”

To that end, Wiggins and other Kentucky labor leaders are circulating via email “General Talking Points on John McCain.” He said the email is based on a flyer that Wisconsin unions put out in the Dairy State ’s presidential primary.

“…. John McCain’s record on working family issues is close to identical to the record of George Bush,” the “core message” says. “He’s voted with the President 88% of the time. John McCain has consistently voted on the side of corporations, often at working people’s expense…across the country.”

The email asks, “Why is John McCain bad for working people?” It answers with bullet points:

“-- John McCain came out…singing the same tune as years of Republican leadership: that good jobs were leaving the country and there was nothing he could do about it. We’ve heard his excuses before – that workers are ‘competing in a global market.’ We know it just means more of the same – the loss of family supporting jobs while leaders shrug their shoulders.

“-- Repeatedly, John McCain supported free trade agreements and has said agreements like NAFTA are good for Americans. In fact, he’s called himself the most free-trade member of the US Senate. He isn’t listening to the voices of working families on the impact free trade has had on our once strong and stable communities.

“-- Meanwhile, workers are being forced to work longer hours just to get by. Workers are forced to spend more time at work instead of with their families. But John McCain turned his back by voting against protecting overtime pay.

“-- John McCain continues to support the privatization of Social Security. Never mind that privatization would leave seniors vulnerable to ending up with no retirement security at all.

“-- As the country is coming around to the idea that the health care crisis is not going to change unless we make change happen, John McCain does not support a health care system that would ensure health care for all. Instead, he’s chosen a different path – privatization.

“-- John McCain cast his vote to give the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and has said the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be made permanent – all the while voting against a raise for minimum wage workers.

“-- Sen. John McCain’s record on the economy tells us that as a President, he would be disastrous for working people. We deserve better. We deserve real change. It’s time to turn around America .”

America will keep turning right if McCain gets elected, Hari wrote. American journalist Peter Dreier agrees that you wouldn't know that from the American media.

“…With some exceptions, the mainstream media have given McCain a free pass, allowing his right-wing opponents [like Rush Limbaugh and religious conservatives] to define him as a moderate, without scrutinizing his record,” he wrote on the Huffington Post Internet website. “Perhaps because McCain is a somewhat avuncular, charming, grandfatherly guy with a sense of humor who occasionally shows up on 'The Daily Show,' he doesn't come off as an angry right-wing curmudgeon.”

Dreier's post is headlined, "If McCain's A Moderate, I'm The Easter Bunny." The author added, “Perhaps because he cosponsored a handful of bills with Democrats, and occasionally broke ranks with GOP litmus tests, reporters think he's a real maverick. Or maybe reporters' love affair with McCain stems from the fact that he battled and beat cancer, or that he was a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam war.”

Dreir concluded that journalists would have to be on a different planet to not see that McCain's positions on health care reform, global warming and the Iraq war put him firmly in the camp of the conservatives. “Yes, there are some Republican senators who have even higher conservative scores, showing how far right the party has moved in the past decade,” he wrote. “But to call McCain a ‘centrist’ or a ‘moderate’ is to remove any meaning from those terms. In terms of what McCain would be like as President, think William McKinley, Herbert Hoover, and George W. Bush. His agenda would please the Chamber of Commerce and the social conservatives.”

Dreier called the media to task for helping McCain make himself look like a moderate. The media,” he argued, “…have a responsibility to report objectively about McCain's views, the corporate interests he has served, and his voting record, rather than simply echoing the spin of his own campaign or of the ultra-right. In that context, McCain remains today, as he's been his entire political career, far outside the American mainstream.”

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