McCain Hearts FDR. What's the (New) Deal?

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 3:48 PM EDT

How the times are changing. At a General Motors assembly plant in Lake Orion, Michigan yesterday, Sen. John McCain gave a shout-out to none other than Franklin Roosevelt, the original big-government guy:

One of our great presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, expressed this optimism even at the height of the Great Depression. He said, and I quote, "Plenty is at our doorstep but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply." . . .My friends, that's true again today."

Indeed it is, but, of course, McCain pointing that out is like Milli Vanilli singing "Girl You Know It's True"--the love just isn't real. Take the Social Security Act, passed under FDR in 1935. McCain (before he reversed himself recently) wanted to replace it with "private savings accounts," which would have caused millions of retirees to lose their shirts this week. As recently as July, he even said that "paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America" is "an absolute disgrace"

A "great president" whose legacy is an "absolute disgrace?" I thought that was supposed to be Bush. Here's what FDR's grandson has to say:

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The other irony upon the irony to all of this is the creepy parallel between the McCain/Palin campaign and the 1936 Republican presidential campaign against FDR. That year, the Republican vice presidential nominee was a pit bull named Frank Knox. The Democratic Party under FDR "has been seized by alien and un-American elements," Knox said. "Next November, you will choose the American way." Yikes. Sounds familiar. The Washington Post said Knox meant ". . .that the New Deal represented an ideology outside the pale of American thinking,

and that the New Deal coalition, which represented record numbers of foreign-born, non-Protestant Americans, was therefore un-American.

Even as the first half of the argument has lost traction--McCain is scrambling to present himself, against all evidence, as a pro-regulation guy--the second half remains truer than ever. And it shows where their priorities lie. If McCain and Palin really wanted to revive America's optimism like FDR did, they'd stop questioning Obama's patriotism and start questioning their party.