What’s the Difference

Henrik Temp

One of Senator Obama’s main tactics in this election thus far has been to do everything he can to tie John McCain to George W. Bush in voters’ minds. The sitting President has abysmal approval ratings, hovering around the 30 percent mark, and a majority of Americans report they feel the country is “heading in the wrong direction.” Whatever your feelings are about the success or failure of his administration, the fact that he is incredibly unpopular is incontrovertible, and if there is anything an aspiring politician wants to avoid, it’s being associated with a failed one.

McCain has tried to backpedal from just such an association by playing up his status as a maverick within the Republican Party and selecting a Washington outsider as his VP choice. But Obama isn’t letting him get away with it, constantly reminding voters that, “It’s not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 90 percent of the time.” He repeats this statistic everywhere, from town halls to his acceptance speech in Denver, usually followed by the line, “We can’t afford a 10 percent chance for change.” But is it really accurate? How different, if at all, is John McCain from George Bush?

The reality is that the 90 percent statistic is misleading. That number applies only to the year of 2007, during which McCain did vote along party line 90 percent of the time.

McCain’s stats differ drastically in other years. For example, in 2005 he voted with the President only 77 percent of the time, and in 2001 he voted along the party line only 67 percent of the time. If these numbers seem high to you, consider that Barack Obama voted with Bush 40 percent of the time in 2007, and even Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, voted with Bush 39 percent of the time. In 2006, Obama voted with Bush 49 percent of the time, and in 2005 he voted with him 33 percent.

So if we take the average of those three years (2005-2007), Obama has voted with Bush 41 percent of the time. I guess he’ll have to start talking about a 59 percent chance of change with an Obama-Biden ticket. This is, of course, much greater than a 10 percent chance but there is more to politics than voting records. After all, Harry Reid is the definition of the anti-Bush, yet even he voted with the President almost 40 percent of the time last year.

Let’s take a look at McCain’s claim to be a ‘maverick.’ The fact is that he has often bucked the Republican Party establishment. In 2004, he briefly entertained the idea of becoming John Kerry’s VP pick (although he rejected it fairly quickly). In 2001 he was one of two Republicans to vote against Bush’s tax cuts — the famous “tax cuts for the rich” we heard so much about. In 2005 and 2006, he criticized the Administration’s handling of the Iraq War and served as a main proponent of the troops surge, which was implemented by Bush in 2007.

Indeed, I would submit that one of the reasons McCain voted with Bush so often that year is that Bush moved towards McCain’s policies, not the other way around. It is my opinion that Bush performed remarkably better in 2007 and 2008 than he has at any other point in his presidency (note that I’m not saying he performed well, merely that he performed better).

For example, he implemented the surge, which thus far seems to be working quite well. He has begun talks with Iran — limited in scope, true, but compared to his previous policy of complete isolation, it’s a start. He helped design the tax-rebate plan that put money into the pockets of Americans during the housing market crisis. My point here is not to show that George Bush is a good president overall, merely that, his performance over the last two years has remarkably improved. Therefore, McCain’s support of his positions in the Senate have not been an example of McCain’s loyalty to Bush, but rather of a politician loyal to his country. Bush in 2000-2006 was a man McCain supported, but only halfheartedly. Bush in 2007-2008 is a man that is doing things that are good for his country and therefore McCain is supporting him wholeheartedly.

And one last comment on voting records: Obama voted with the Democratic Party 97 percent of the time. So the change that we’re supposed to believe in isn’t that of a complete overhaul of Washington, merely a switch from Republican domination to Democratic domination. Have no doubt that if Obama is elected, we will merely replace a partisan Republican with a partisan Democrat. If McCain is chosen, we will have a man who isn’t afraid to buck the party line once in a while, even if he doesn’t do it as much as we might like.