MCCAIN REMAINS CRANKY
Sen. John McCain continued his cranky war with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice this week.
As you may recall, McCain was all up in Rice's grill because she didn't say anything about terrorist connections when she discussed the September bombing of a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, while appearing on the Sunday talk shows a few days after the attack.
Rice has maintained that she was delivering the talking points that had been approved by the intelligence community, but McCain was insisting that the White House scrubbed the references to terrorism for some sort of political benefit.
Last week, however, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that it had called for the removal of the references to terrorism—leading McCain to issue a statement expressing that he was "somewhat surprised and frustrated" about the revelation.
We'd guess that frustration came from the fact that the DNI statement made McCain look even more foolish than he did two weeks ago, when he blew up at a CNN reporter who asked him why he was holding a press conference complaining about the lack of information about the Benghazi attack instead of attending a classified briefing on the matter.
On Sunday, Nov. 25, McCain was on Fox News Sunday, where he said he wanted to hear Rice's side of the story: "I'd give everyone the benefit of explaining their positions and the actions that they took."
McCain got his meeting with Rice earlier this week, but it didn't go so well, especially after Rice released a statement saying she never intended to deceive the American public and had relied on an "incorrect" initial assessment.
By Tuesday afternoon, McCain was back on Fox News, saying that he still had plenty of doubts about Rice's ability to serve as secretary of state.
McCain is rolling the dice by escalating this one; he may not have the votes to actually block Rice's nomination, in which case the Republicans are starting their new outreach to women and minorities on flimsy grounds—by attacking an African-American woman on overblown charges.
McCain does seem concerned about the GOP's image. During Sunday's Fox News segment, he said the Republican Party needed a "bigger tent," starting with immigration reform, so the party stops alienating the rapidly growing Hispanic demographic. He also said that when it comes to abortion, the party should "leave the issue alone," although when host Chris Wallace asked a follow-up question, McCain reiterated that he was pro-life.
"But if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views," said McCain. His remarks don't really help anyone understand what he thinks about policy vis-à-vis funding for Planned Parenthood, access to abortion or any of the other thorny questions related to the issue.
McCain also joined those Republicans who appear to be testing the water regarding the anti-tax pledge that's been extracted from them by Grover Norquist, the dark lord of deficit spending. McCain said he didn't support higher tax rates, but he did support removing or limiting deductions in order to bring in more revenue.
That led to one of the most interesting exchanges between Wallace and McCain, as Wallace pointed out that McCain had fought against the Bush tax cuts that he now considers sacrosanct.
McCain told Wallace that "every economist that I respect says if you raise tax rates at this time, in fact, the president even said that a couple of years ago, it harms the economy. We are trying to help the economy. And, so, unless I can be convinced that raising tax rates will be beneficial, then obviously, I think there's reason and ground for my position."
But as The Washington Post reported during McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, McCain had the opposite opinion when the Bush tax cuts were debated in 2003.
Back when he was fighting against the tax cuts, McCain told CNBC: "Most of the economists view this as primarily benefiting wealthier Americans. There's a theory, I think, that's prevalent—it was true in the 2001 tax cuts—that if you give it to the wealthy people, then they will then, you know, create jobs, etcetera. The interesting thing to me is that most economists will tell you that it's the middle-income Americans that have been keeping the economy afloat."
Given that McCain's fears about the Bush tax cuts seem to have been justified—the deficit has exploded; the promised jobs have not appeared; and most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest Americans—it strikes us as odd that he now considers himself to have been wrong back then. But who knows what he'll consider himself to have been wrong about six months from now?
BALANCE OF POWER
The Democrats managed to pick up four seats in the Arizona Senate, which means that Republicans will hold 17, and Democrats will have 13. And the Dems managed to pick up four seats in the Arizona House of Representatives, so they'll be outnumbered 36-24.
That has Democrats singing an optimistic tune going into the new legislative session, which begins in January. Dems hope they'll have a more moderate Legislature and get a few of their bills passed.
It's hard to see how the Legislature could grow more conservative, so perhaps they're right. But with Republican Andy Biggs ousting Steve Pierce as Senate president, and Andy Tobin remaining speaker of the House, we have a feeling that it ain't gonna be all about spending on schools and social programs.
BY THE NUMBERS
With all the votes finally counted, we can examine voter turnout in Election 2012.
Statewide turnout was about 74 percent, while in Pima County, turnout was 78 percent. That's a drop from the nearly 80 percent of Pima County voters who cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election, and the 82 percent who cast ballots in 2004.
There were too many problems with voting. Some of that came from buggy lists; some of it came from the confusion that follows redistricting; and some of it came from voters who walked in their vote-by-mail ballots on Election Day.
Despite the bitching about the loss of the tradition of going to a polling place, most voters are more interested in filling out a ballot at home. And when you look at lines of people waiting for hours to vote in other states, who can blame them? Nobody wants to wait like that unless there's a 55-inch big-screen for less than $200 involved.
In Pima County, more than two-thirds of the 385,725 ballots cast came from people who got them in the mail. But close to 44,000 of those vote-by-mail ballots were dropped off on Election Day, which throws a lot of sand in the vote-counting gears. The signatures on each of the envelopes need to be checked to ensure that the ballot was filled out by an actual voter.
We expect the Legislature will try some kind of reform to deal with this problem—but the solution won't be easy or cheap.