Just one day after the McCain campaign proclaimed its man the "Original Maverick," Barack Obama blasted that assertion both on the stump and in a new ad of his own. "You can't be a maverick when politically it's working for you," Obama said, "and not a maverick when it doesn't work for you." Which may explain why the McCain campaign has apparently tried to purge any traces of its "True Conservative" ad, a February 2008 spot designed to win over hard right GOP primary voters.
As it turns out, McCain's latest ads ("Broken" and "Praising McCain") tout the Arizona Senator as the populist "Original Maverick." But that resurrection of McCain's tattered maverick image is contradicted by the "True Conservative" TV spot he used during the Republican primaries. In February, McCain to be sure wasn't the maverick battling special interests in his own party:
Announcer: As a prisoner of war, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan.
Mr. McCain: I enlisted as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.
Announcer: Guided by strong conservative principles, he'll cut wasteful spending and keep taxes low. A proud social conservative who will never waver. The leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working.
John McCain: The true conservative. Ready to be commander-in-chief on Day One.
As it turns out, McCain's claim to be a "true conservative" didn't just disappear once he sewed up the Republican nomination. For the most part, so did the ad itself.
The mystery began when I looked back at some of my earlier pieces from May and June about the ad - and McCain's mad dash back to the center. As I noted previously, back on February 1, the release of McCain's "True Conservative" ad was widely covered by the American media. The New York Times, the Politico, the Boston Herald, Slate and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (among others) reported on the spot as part of McCain's strategy to "shift right" and stress his credibility among the GOP's conservative base. But the YouTube link used by all of the sites above no longer works; clicking on the embedded video they display simply produces an error message:
"We're sorry, this video is no longer available."
That same day (February 1), the McCain campaign also issued a press release titled, "John McCain 2008 Launches New Television Ad: 'True Conservative.'" But that release, too, is no longer available on the McCain web site in either its standard web format or print layout versions. (The former links to an error page, the latter to a blank page.) However, not only did other web sites run the text, but Google cached versions of the McCain site from July 1 and July 11 show the original content as well.
And it makes for interesting reading. The press release tells readers to visit one of two locations on YouTube and the McCain web site to view the "True Conservative" 30-second spot:
The ad is no longer available at either location.
Even more fun, though, is the background information on McCain's conservative street cred contained in the now-purged February 1 press release. For example, former Senator and McCain adviser Phil Gramm, later disgraced by his "whiners" remarks, praises McCain as a deficit hawk. And Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), both ardent foes of women's reproductive rights, laud McCain's pro-life bona fides in a section of the press release subtitled:
John McCain "Is Far And Away The Most Consistently Anti-Abortion Of All The Top Contenders"
Which isn't to say the "True Conservative" ad has been completely purged from the McCain web site. While it is apparently no longer accessible from the campaign's TV Ads page, Multimedia page or its Multimedia archive, a search of the site shows the February ad is still available in a post oddly dated April 17, 2008. An earlier January 22nd spot titled "Proud Conservative" can also be accessed through a site search. The "True Conservative" ad can also be viewed elsewhere on YouTube (as displayed above).
While tracking down McCain's "True Conservative" ad was a bit of puzzle, there's no mystery as to why his campaign wanted to sweep it under the rug. Almost as soon as McCain locked up the GOP nomination, his campaign rapidly reversed the hard right turn it has executed during the primaries. In early May, McCain senior adviser Charlie Black declared that John McCain was now magically "slightly right of center." And McCain's own dismal "green screen" speech of June 3rd was delivered in the hopes of running away from the moribund Republican Party and its wildly unpopular president.
As John McCain's endless flip-flops show, he's no maverick. And as Barack Obama suggested yesterday, John McCain is a true conservative, or at least was until he won the Republican presidential nomination. Apparently, that's a secret the McCain campaign just doesn't want Americans to know.
(This piece was cross-posted from Perrspectives.)