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In the final weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin have accused Senator Barack Obama of being a socialist bent on taking money from hard-working folks to finance hand-outs to others. At the last presidential debate, McCain declared, "the whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfarelet's spread the wealth around." This line of attack has been the centerpiece of McCain's closing blast against Obama: because Obama wants to tax the well-to-do to pay for middle-class tax relief, he's an untrustworthy, divisive, redistributionist who cares more about controlling wealth than creating it. He's an enemy of the American dream.
But eight years ago, in January and February 2000, McCain was on the receiving end of similar criticism, as conservatives and Republicans accused him of engaging in class warfare by opposing tax breaks for the rich while advocating tax cuts for middle- and low-income Americans. That is, McCain was denounced in much the same way as he is now denouncing Obama.
Back then, McCain was locked in a fierce fight with George W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. Bush had proposed a massive tax-cuts package. At the time, McCain said, "Sixty percent of the benefits from [Bush's] tax cuts go to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans--and that's not the kind of tax relief that Americans need .I don't believe the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans should get 60 percent of the tax breaks. I think the lowest 10 percent should get the breaks .I'm not giving tax cuts for the rich." On Meet the Press, he maintained, "There's a growing gap between rich and poor in America .I think that the people who need [tax cuts] most and need the relief most are working middle-income Americans." At a campaign rally in February 2000, he declared, "I don't think Bill Gates needs a tax cut. I think your parents do." The New York Times described McCain's tax plan as "apportioning the spoils of the nation's current prosperity."
For taking this stance, McCain was walloped by Republicans.
* On Hardball, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp said, "John McCain is waging class warfare, and he should stop it."
* On Meet the Press, Representative David Dreier, a California Republican supporting Bush, said of McCain's stance, "The idea of engaging in class warfare is not a pro-California thing."
* On CNN's Crossfire, co-host Mary Matalin huffed, "John McCain has been running on class warfare."
* Texas Republican party head Susan Weddington excoriated McCain for engaging in a "shameless kind of class warfare."