Reporter on Hardball: The 'Hard Right' is McCain's 'Biggest Problem'

In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”

Freeland isn't always out there on the left. She once scolded Eleanor Clift for channeling hard left hate speech. My July 17, 2006 NewsBusters item, “Clift Raises Ire of Canadian Journalist When She Calls Bush 'Dictator Who's Ineffective,'” reported:
When, on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift charged that President Bush is “a dictator who's ineffective,” an incensed Chrystia Freeland, a Canadian native who is the Managing Editor in the U.S. of London's Financial Times, scolded Clift for using the dictator label “so loosely” and inaccurately.

Clift opined that of those attending the G-8 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin is “the only one of those leaders who goes in there with a commanding popularity among his own people, because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who's ineffective." Freeland, shouting over panelists who were trying to move on to other points, retorted: "But he's not a dictator! I mean we can't use, no we can't use these terms so loosely." Clift backtracked a bit: “Well we have an authoritarian President who is ineffective." But Freeland stood her ground, pointing out: "You guys can elect your Presidents and there can be a free choice. That's not the case in Russia."
From near the end of the Tuesday, July 29 Hardball on MSNBC, picking up after a clip of McCain on ABC's This Week declaring of a payroll tax hike that “nothing is off the table.”
MIKE BARNICLE: Chrystia, Pat Toomey, the President for the Club for Growth wrote an open letter to McCain after that statement, reading: “This statement was particularly shocking, because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances. Your comments yesterday send American taxpayers and businesses a mixed message about where you stand on this issue. We hope you will clarify where you stand on this important issue and reaffirm your commitment to eschew all tax increases.”

Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Well, I think it would be extremely imprudent and I would add to your point about war and energy, the fact that the American government is in the red. This is a dire economic situation the United States is facing right now. And we see more bills coming in every day. We've had Fannie and Freddie. We don't know how many regional banks the government is going to end up bailing out. Remember the savings and loan crisis.

So I think that John McCain, you know, perhaps made the mistake of political candor in saying he can't take anything off the table. That is absolutely true and we should also remember that the first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center