ST. PAUL, Minn. — As a senator, John McCain holds a reputation for diverging from many of his Republican colleagues on core party issues. Now, as the party’s presidential candidate, his record and policy views are putting him at odds with the overarching party platform adopted this week.
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On major issues like the environment, immigration, stem cell research and gay rights, the platform, which expresses the party’s philosophy, clashes with Mr. McCain’s longstanding positions or does not go as far as he has proposed in addressing subjects such as climate change.
It is not an uncommon for the Republican platform — which often conforms to the conservative consensus of the assembled delegates — to take a different position than the presidential candidate, who must appeal to independent voters in the general election. But given Mr. McCain’s recent efforts to align himself more closely with party’s conservative orthodoxy, the differences are still striking.
And on at lease one major energy issue, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the policy document conflicts with the views of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, Mr. McCain’s surprise choice as a running mate.
'Impossible' to satisfy all factions
Authors of the platform, written by a cross-section of party leaders with input from thousands of Republicans by way of the Internet, say they tried to strike an ideological balance and that it would be impossible to draft a position paper that would satisfy all factions of the party.
“There is space between this document and every Republican in the country,” said Senator Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who was cochairman of the platform committee. “We didn’t write a document that 100 percent of Republicans would align 100 percent with. We wrote a document that we felt embraced Republican principles.”
Other party officials, in acknowledging differences with Mr. McCain’s positioning, credited his strong views on climate change for winning recognition in the platform that human activity has increased heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
It says “common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment.”
That statement runs counter to the view of many conservatives, including Governor Palin, who question the role of mankind in altering the earth’s temperature.
But the platform warns that empowering Washington with regulatory powers to combat global warming “will only lead to unintended consequences and unimagined economic and environmental pain,” statements that stand in contrast to Mr. McCain’s prominent support of a new regulatory system to lower emissions.
And while Mr. McCain has differed with many in his party by endorsing the notion of giving immigrants a path to citizenship, the Republican platform strongly emphasizes enforcement of immigration laws and border protection as well as expedited deportation.
“It means enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas, rather than letting millions flout the generosity that gave them temporary entry,” the platform says, notging that it also rejects “en masse legalizations.”
Hispanics condemn platform
Not surprisingly, the platform drew immediate condemnation from Hispanic advocacy groups.
“It urges the federal government to continue with failed deportation-only strategies that tear families apart, divide communities, and fail our nation,” the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda said in a statement.
It also appeared to clash with Mr. McCain’s authorship of failed immigration legislation that would have opened the door to potential citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants who could meet certain standards.
The platform also backs a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, an amendment that Mr. McCain has opposed in the Senate, saying marriage laws were more the purview of individual states.
"Senator McCain showed courage by bucking his own party’s leadership and the president — twice voting against the amendment,” said Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights advocacy group, in announcing its endorsement this week of Mr. McCain. “He gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, calling the amendment ‘antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.’ ”
On another social issue of major importance to conservative Republican voters, the platform also opposes expanded embryonic stem cell research, which is also at cross purposes with Mr. McCain’s voting record.
A platform clash with Palin
On national security and foreign policy issues, Mr. McCain and the platform are in sync down the line. Republican officials say the McCain campaign made a deliberate decision to take a soft touch on the platform, avoiding major clashes with conservatives on what is ultimately an advisory document that gets little attention outside of the convention.
And on an issue that has taken on greater significance in the aftermath of his selection of Governor Palin of Alaska as the vice presidential running mate, Mr. McCain prevailed, keeping a call for immediate drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the platform.
Instead, it says that Republicans “oppose any efforts that would permanently block access to the coastal plain” of the refuge. Ms. Palin, on the other hand, has been a strong advocate for drilling there.
“Last week that was probably the case,” said Mr. Burr, referring to the governor’s view before joining Mr. McCain’s ticket. “This week she is probably where John McCain is.”
This story, McCain Policies Differ Sharply From Party Plank, first appeared in The New York Times.
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