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The single-issue voter: A birder’s look at John McCain – R

September 6, 2007

It’s that time again. As civic-minded individuals do, I’m oft interested in how the platforms of those running for president affect my life, that’s as a birder naturally. With so many candidates and elections still more than a year off I decided to do the work so you, dear reader(s), don’t have to. So here’s what I hope will be a regular look as those who would be birder-in-chief. Starting with the long-shots and working my way up so that you all will be prepared when the time comes to cast your ballot. The eighth part of The Drinking Bird’s however-many-part series.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I was prepared to write up Mike Huckabee today but he’ll go out next week as recent polls have placed him ahead of Arizona Senator John McCain, who used to be on the presidential short-list but now finds himself polling at a mere 10%. He’s still the first of our double digit guys though, and certainly the first that was actually in the conversation, even if that time is long past. So don’t look so angry Senator, your precipitous drop won’t prevent me from looking at your bird qualifications. You may even get the celebrated Drinking Bird bump! I hope so actually, because I was pleasantly surprised by McCain’s environmental bona fides, and for a Republican, McCain actually has some pretty good ideas.

You won’t find those ideas on his campaign website though, McCain’s stated stance on the environment is simple. He claims his hero is Teddy Roosevelt and, well, you could do worse. Roosevelt started the National Park system and believed that the government should be a steward of our natural resources, but he also shot anything that moved so his reasons for preservation could be called into question. Nonetheless, McCain states that it is our sacred duty to protect the country’s clean air and water, use the land sustainably, and set aside greenspace. If that’s just to shoot a few of God’s creatures, well I don’t really see the problem with that. Habitat saved for hunting is habitat saved for birding in my book and you can’t shoot everything, except the Passenger Pigeon, oh, and the Eskimo Curlew. Hmm, maybe you can shoot everything. Anyway…

In the Senate, McCain has opposed his Republican colleagues on the issue of drilling for oil in ANWR and has recognized the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming and supported legislation to fight it immediately. He has a track record of initiatives to protect the Grand Canyon from noise pollution, expand the Saguaro National Monument (I’ve actually birded there, it’s very nice), and create the Arizona Desert Wilderness, all positive moves for an ecosystem under serious threat from development. McCain pulls the party line on several issues, but his reputation as a maverick certainly holds true on his environmental platform. In a New York Times editorial in 1996, McCain asked whether Republicans have abandoned their roots, and stated that government’s most important task, after national security, is to leave posterity the land in better condition than they found it.

The question remains however, whether McCain will cave on his independence on this issue, as he has on torture, if captains of industry come up to him with buckets of money to revive his fading campaign. I’d like to think no, but politics is a fickle game. All in all, McCain appears to take some bird issues seriously, which is better than nothing given the side he runs on.

Next: How many dems are left?

UPDATE: McCain is now the Republican nominee for President

  1. Mary Helen permalink
    September 6, 2007 9:50 pm

    I enjoy your look at the candidates. On John McCain, though, I’d have to say that I can’t place any faith in a war-monger, even if the war-monger is a better environmentalist than his cohorts.

  2. John permalink
    September 6, 2007 9:59 pm

    Over the past four Congresses, the LCV has rated McCain anywhere from 6% to 56%. It seems that his record is mixed at best, though perhaps better than the average Republican.

    I think that what has really done in McCain is how closely he tied himself to Bush and the war in the last few years. Both are becoming unpopular even among Republicans, and there is not much desire for more of the same. Plus a lot of Republican power groups – both the corporatists and the religious right – view him as untrustworthy because of earlier maverick votes.

  3. September 7, 2007 6:23 am

    I agree, his stance on the war is disappointing, and his maverick status seemed to leave him then. I would never tie my vote simply to birdy issues anyway, and never a republican either to be honest.

    But McCain has come around on the environment a good deal more than most of his republican colleagues and that’s a good thing considering how many people are willing to sell out our birthright for a some oil, natural gas, or logs.

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