WALLACE: What a lot of people see in John McCain these days is a move to the right, a more aggressive posture towards President Obama, that they attribute to the fact that you face a tough challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth in the GOP primary. Of course, you’re running for reelection in Arizona.
And they point to a comment that you made to Newsweek recently. And let’s put it up on the screen. “I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself someone who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his ability.” Senator, I don’t have to tell you we found dozens of examples from the 2008 campaign in which you talked about being a maverick.
Let’s put them up:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: He’s the original maverick. One is ready to lead, McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: If you want real reform and if you want change, send a team of mavericks. And what maverick really means, what this team of maverick really means, is we understand who we work for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: How can you say I never considered myself a maverick?
MCCAIN: Well, look, when I was fighting against my own president, whether we needed more troops in Iraq, or whether we — spending was completely out of control, then I was a maverick.
Now that I’m fighting against this spending administration and this out-of-control and reckless health care plan, then I’m a partisan.
I’ve been called a lot of things, and I’ll be glad to be called anything. But I’m a fighter, and that’s what I am. And I fought against my own administration when I wanted to, when I thought it was necessary to do so, and I will fight against this administration when I think it’s necessary to do so.
WALLACE: But if I may press you…
MCCAIN: Yeah, sure.
WALLACE: … it isn’t what other people are saying about you, it’s what you’re saying about yourself.
MCCAIN: Sure. Yeah.
WALLACE: You said, “I never considered myself a maverick.”
MCCAIN: Well, all I — what I was saying was that I have considered myself a person who’s a fighter. I wouldn’t be around today if I wasn’t a fighter. I fight for the things that I believe in, and sometimes that’s called a maverick. Sometimes that’s called a partisan. And people can draw their own conclusions. I prefer “great American” myself, but…
WALLACE: So are you running away from the maverick title…
MCCAIN: No, of course not.
WALLACE: … because somehow it indicates that maybe you’re not a true blue conservative?
MCCAIN: No, my title is that I fight for the things I believe in. I fight for people of Arizona who are hurting very badly right now. Half the homes in Arizona are under water. We have real unemployment of some 17 percent. And I’m continuing to fight for them as I have ever since I was fortunate enough to serve the people of Arizona.
The day that Newsweek story came out (or even beforehand), McCain should have said he’d put his foot in his mouth and meant that he never considered himself ONLY a maverick. When he goes against his party, it’s because he fights for what he believes in. When he goes against the Democrats, it’s because he fights for what he believes in. That would be a pretty good assessment of his record.