Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke to a “friendly audience” of business leaders about immigration policy, a topic he has been quiet on ever since the right wing erupted in rage over his support for the Senate’s immigration reform bill. After the business leaders complained about the difficulty in obtaining temporary visas for certain immigrants, McCain said reform needs to be a “top agenda item“:
Senator Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through the Congress of the United States. … It is a federal responsibility. … I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.
As RawStory noted, the anti-immigration right wing pounced. AllahPundit called it a “sunny little pander,” after McCain repeatedly said he would “secure the borders” first. “John McCain is a liar,” said John Hawkins. McCain is “back to his full, open-borders shamnesty push,” said Michelle Malkin.
McCain’s campaign, however, quickly pandered to the right wing. The National Review’s Jim Geraghty reports that the campaign said McCain’s statement on the priority of immigration reform was “poorly worded“:
Team McCain tells me the senator’s comments were poorly worded. There’s been no discussion within the campaign of altering their stance on illegal immigration, and as far as everyone on the campaign is concerned, the policy is still, ‘secure the border first.’
It’s hard to believe McCain’s comments were “poorly worded.” The New York Times reported that McCain “asked others on the panels for suggestions about how to ‘better mobilize American public opinion‘ behind comprehensive immigration reform.” McCain said immigrants “are also God’s children,” urging “human and compassionate” reform, which drew applause.
McCain’s flip flops on immigration are becoming commonplace. During a Jan. 30 GOP presidential debate, McCain said he “would not” vote for his own immigration bill now. But yesterday, he called the rejection of the Senate immigration bill a personal “failure.” It seems McCain’s immigration policies change from day to day, depending on the audience.