IN JANUARY the United States Senate began its 2001 session evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Although Vice-President Dick Cheney had the tie-breaking vote, each Senator held the power to broker any deal if his or her vote would make the difference.
Thus we had the obscene spectacle of Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords trying to blackmail the Bush White House over the New England dairy compact, and Arizona Senator John McCain doing the same over campaign finance reform. Thankfully their tactics didn’t work with President Bush, so while McCain was busy lobbying for his bill with the media, Jeffords went back to the Senate and made a deal with the Democrats: became an "Independent" on May 24, voted for Senator Daschle as Majority Leader, and became Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
The timing was unfortunate for McCain, who had planned a Memorial Day recess at his Arizona ranch with a number of Democrat leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Although the liberal media gave the meeting a lot of coverage at that time, speculating about McCain’s possible defection, Jeffords’ defection left the Democrats not willing to pay for McCain’s switch.
Most rank and file Republicans know that McCain is a Republican in name only. The bills he is supporting with his Senate Democrat co-sponsors – campaign finance reform with Russ Feingold, gun control with Joe Lieberman, and patient’s bill of rights with Ted Kennedy – give credibility to the notion of his being a Democrat in Republican clothes.
Angry gun owners in Arizona started a recall petition after Memorial Day, but stopped after September 11. Those angry Arizona gun owners won’t support him in 2002. Gun owners are known for long memories and they won’t forget McCain’s face appearing on all those movie ads for "closing the gun show loophole" paid for by the billionaire owner of Monster.com, Andrew McKelvey and his Americans for Gun Safety (AGS).
It didn’t take long for McCain to use the attack on America of September 11 to push for passage of S. 860, his gun control legislation. Two weeks after the tragedy he went on Larry King Live and asserted that closing the gun show loophole would prevent terrorists from getting guns at gun shows. But the terrorists didn’t use firearms on September 11; box-cutters and Boeing 767s turned into flying missiles were the weapons of choice.
Although McCain talked tough about getting rid of terrorists, his positions on the Senate floor left much to be desired. It was rumored that he opposed the provision to arm pilots, favoring a stun gun amendment. The October 11 headline on a Washington Times article read "McCain stalls anti-terror package." Additionally McCain supported Missouri Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan’s amendment on airline workers’ aid. Time and time again McCain supports Democrat amendments and opposes Bush’s agenda.
After three weeks of US bombing in Afghanistan McCain began second-guessing the Defense Department. According to the Washington Times McCain appeared on a Sunday talk show with Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) saying, "the Pentagon is not using air power to its best effect." McCain also suggested a large military buildup in Afghanistan and Dodd agreed with McCain. McCain and the Democratic naysayers appear to be wrong again.
Now he is reviving the "gun show loophole" issue with a terrorist twist. According to USA Today McCain and Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) will be trying to attach S.860 to the first "appropriate" bill that comes to the Senate floor in 2002. The announcement was made in a "Dear Colleague Letter" sent to all Senate offices this past week. In their letter they quote examples – supplied by McCain’s favorite anti-gun group, AGS – of terrorists purchasing firearms at gun shows.
One of the AGS examples is taken from the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. In the case of Ali Boumelhem, a convicted felon and member of Hezbollah, AGS states that "an FBI informant previously had seen Boumelhem in Beirut unloading shipments of weapons and explosives," leaving the impression the weapons came from gun shows. Yet according to the Middle East Bulletin he was unloading "shipments of automatic weapons, explosives, grenades and rocket launchers," none of which can be purchased legally in the United States. There is no truth when it comes to promoting an extremist gun control agenda.
Although many Democrats are learning that gun control is not a winning issue, unfortunately some pseudo-Republicans like John McCain can’t seem to make the right decision on where to stand. The Republicans should not alienate gun owners, and voters should hold their Republican leaders accountable if they do.