Does McCain Speak For McCain On Affirmative Action?

In an interview on ABC News’s This Week yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced his support for a ballot initiative in Arizona that seeks to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action. “I support it, yes,” said McCain when asked by host George Stephanopoulos. Watch it:

But, as critics quickly pointed out, McCain’s embrace of the initiative is a reversal of the stance he took in 1998 when Arizona considered a similar referendum. At the time, McCain spoke out against the effort to limit equal opportunity, calling it “divisive.”

Caught off-guard by McCain’s comments, his spokesman, Tucker Bounds, struggled to explain his contradictory positions, saying that he did not “have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain’s remark in 1998” to “pushback” on claims of flip-flopping. Later, McCain’s campaign “refused to say” it stood by McCain’s policy declaration:

But McCain’s own campaign refused to say whether it stands by the candidate’s announcement that he supports the ballot initiative.

This isn’t the first time that McCain campaign has indicated that the senator’s public statements about policy may not be his actual policy. After the Tax Policy Center released a report showing a $2.8 trillion gap between Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) public economic proposals and his advisers’ private assurances, top econ adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Slate that just because McCain says something publicly about a policy, “that doesn’t mean it’s official.”

Ironically, while trying to distance McCain from his “econ brain” Phil Gramm’s “nation of whiners” comment, Holtz-Eakin declared that on policy issues, “Senator McCain speaks for Senator McCain.”