July 28th, 2008
06:23 AM ET
10 years ago

Did McCain 'flip' on affirmative action measure?

John McCain's comments on affirmative action led Obama to charge that he 'flipped' his position.

John McCain's comments on affirmative action led Obama to charge that he 'flipped' his position.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Sen. John McCain said Sunday he supports an Arizona ballot initiative aimed at ending race- and gender-based preference programs - an announcement his rival cast as a reversal from his previous stance.

Sen. Barack Obama - speaking to an auditorium full of minority journalists at the Unity conference - accused McCain of having "flipped."

But McCain's own campaign refused to say whether it stands by the candidate's announcement that he supports the ballot initiative.

In an interview broadcast on ABC's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos asked McCain if he supports a referendum on the ballot in his home state "that would do away with affirmative action."

"Yes, I do," he responded. "I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of these proposals. But I've always opposed quotas."

Stephanopoulos asked, "But the one here in Arizona you support?"

"I support it, yes," replied McCain.

McCain did not indicate that he had a standing opposition to such initiatives, or that he was changing his stance by supporting the initiative in Arizona.

Contacted by CNN, McCain's campaign sent a statement from spokesman Tucker Bounds.

"John McCain has always been opposed to government- mandated hiring quotas, because he believes that regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, the law should be equally applied. He has long stood for the protection of civil rights and equal opportunity for all Americans," the statement said.

But pressed about whether McCain indeed supports the Arizona initiative, the campaign would not answer. In 1998, McCain called a similar ballot measure "divisive."

Obama told attendees to the Unity conference that he was "disappointed... that John McCain flipped and changed his position. I think in the past he had been opposed to these kinds of... initiatives as divisive. And I think he's right."

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, a prominent Obama supporter, issued a statement accusing McCain of having made "a stunning reversal on his respectable record on affirmative action."

soundoff (663 Responses)
  1. DON

    Blessed are they that go around in circles. They shall be called the big wheels.

    July 27, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  2. The T

    Kelly what planet do you live on...Have you ever heard your guy talk about any issues other than Sen. Obama. That why he can't seen to at any question right...All he talks about is war and Sen (soon to be President) Obama.

    July 27, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  3. BWM

    Maybe too much attention is on Obama to see if he makes mistakes and McCain knows noone is paying attention to him. How can McCain get away with all the things he has said? Maybe people are sympathetic to his age.

    July 27, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  4. John Air Force Vet

    Too chicken to be questioned at the Unity Event of 6000 journalists, Mc Cain? Maybe you just had to sleep all Sunday. Obama was there answering all kinds of tough questions-and alert ,too.

    July 27, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  5. Fairfax Patriot

    McSame needs Cheney or Rove to remind him what position he's supposed to support this hour.

    The hotest ammo McSame has is that when the miltary advises Obama that visiting the war wounded in base hospitals in Germany might be taken as a political camera opportunity, Obama respectfully accepts the counsel...then is blasted by the McSmear camp for shunning the wounded...thank you Rove!!! Hope McSame is paying you well.

    July 27, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  6. Don't hate him for being black

    I had the pleasure of being in the UK when Obama was on his tour. It's of no surprise to anyone democrat or republican that the US media will report issues in a way that supports one candidate or another. However, it was interesting listening to world news as presented by non-us media. The general feeling of people in other countries is pretty positive towards Obama. I read one woman's editorial in a Scottish newspaper on how well Obama has been received in the countries that he's visited and how amazed that she was that we wasn't as well received here in the US. She attributed that to racism here in the US and a perception of being inexperienced. The general feeling that I've seen on McCain is that he's just an extension of George Bush, too old and riding his war injuries to office. It's very clear to me that one area that we as a country need to fix from the GW Bush years is foreign policy and clearly Obama has shown that he can do that. I find it also interesting that he was criticized for not traveling the world during his campaign and when he does, he gets criticized for..well..traveling the world. See it how you will, but Obama will be the next US president. If some of you could see past the whole race thing and see him for the qualities that he has, you just may see the great potential in him that the rest of us see whether you decide to vote for him or not.

    July 27, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  7. Kris

    This latest issue with McCain isn't a hard-core flip-flop, but it's in the same ballpark.
    Somebody else here put it best. ALL politicians pander and flip flop, and McCain and Obama do it too. One's as bad as the other. The only difference here in my view is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell himself as a new kind of politician for a new era, and I'd love to see some new high-level influential politicians in Washington. The problem is that in the last month particularly we've seen that Mr. Obama is absolutely an ordinary politician, complete with pandering and flip-flopping. With Mr. McCain, you just never know what to expect because he doesn't follow the party line. I like the fact that Mr. McCain doesn't always do what the party wants, but it makes for some unpredictable situations.
    Pick your poison, America. Experienced but unpredictable, or inexperienced and a smooth talker. This is about as bad as the 2004 election in terms of candidates.

    July 27, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  8. Wake up

    As a typical Chicago politician, Obama has no stance to criticize anyone for changing positions especially he is the one changed his position so many times and got away just because his skin color. If America elects Obama, then it deserves the result of its own stupidity.

    July 27, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. mike

    how can someone be the senator of a state and claim not to know whats on the ballot this guy is a freaking joke and anyone thats in their right state of mind would not vote foor this clown he claimed not to know what martin luther king jr did so thats why he would not vote for the holiday LIE! now not affimative action vote for him and we are doomed.

    July 27, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    I've never understood how institutionalising racism with quotas and the like achieves to goal of ending it. There's a lot about McCain I don't like, but he's right about this one.

    July 27, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  11. A

    While Obama has changed positions on an issue or two, occasionally, as more information becomes available, that's the right thing to do. McCain, on the other hand, has been renouncing his former opinions in a desperate attempt to get more in line with general Republican voters.

    July 27, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  12. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    If you are in favor of socialism, vote for obama.

    July 27, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  13. PA in NH

    Brian: "...alienating the European-American vote..."

    Is this a new minority group?

    July 27, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. Darrell Burks

    McCain has no credit with me. He was against affirmitive action and the MLK holiday. As a Black man – I do not trust him.

    July 27, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. rladdi

    First you say you do, then you don't, gee, this age thing is real. 72 in August.

    July 27, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  16. Paul Stewart

    I agree with most posters here that McCain is either flip flopping (he is doing it big time lately), or I think there is a chance he did not know what was on the ballot and did not want to ask – he just said he supported it thinking it was the right answer without really knowing. Either way, it is a sad statement about him. Not a surprising one to me though. There are several other posters here who are trying to say Obama is in the same category as McCain on this type of thing and/or that all politicians are like that cause they are not honest. I think you need to take a closer look at Obama. His changes are based on new information and a change in judgment. This is smart. If you think there is a cliff 100 feet ahead, but it is not visible and you suddenly get new information that it is right in front of you, it makes no sense to hold your original opinion because otherwise you are a flip flopper now does it? I mean, Bush is a good example of someone who does not know how and when to change. He had no basis for his original idea and has no basis to change either. Just a gut feel kind of thing. Of course, he's taken America over the cliff...... McCain wants to take up the reins and fall further.....

    July 27, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  17. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Re Kelly's comment ...this election is going to be a joke. We don't win either way.

    You sure got that right. And I suspect your comment as been equally true of every election since about 1812.

    July 27, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  18. RB

    Yet another disappointment from McBush. Poor old guy. Does he know who he is anymore? This is only the an inkling of the stress a commander in chief must withstand. If McCain folds this easily, is he really the guy for the job? I don't think so. He's about ready for a nursing home.

    July 27, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  19. Big AL

    I just won $100.00 because I bet my buddy that McCrazie would flip flop on an issue in the first part of this week. I didn't know that It would come so fast. I think if this clown do it one more time I think I can fill my gas tank up and by some food, all do to McSenile.....

    July 27, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  20. Like a fish on a dock ...


    July 27, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  21. Robert

    This senile old man does not know what he believes until one of his political advisors tells him. This geezer is too old and too out of touch to be President.

    July 27, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  22. yall already know the deal

    CNN, you guys are really closing out the comment sections very very quickly today.. What's wrong? Scared too many folks are gonna tell the truth? ...I thought so...

    July 27, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  23. Sweettea

    Why is CNN choosing not to report the story of John Edwards being caught an LA Hotel visiting another women in the early morning hours?

    July 27, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  24. EA

    Kelly, who did you vote for in the primary? Majority of the mouthpieces out there, probably didnt get off their lazy butts to have a say in the process. Hopefully you did vote, but I take it if you did, your candidate lost.

    July 27, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  25. Whiney Mac Politicizes The Troops & Uses Them as Props and Pawns

    Maybe the reason McCain couldn't show up for the Unity Conference in front of thousands of media, reporters and journalists was because he's afraid, once again, to have his perpetual flip-flopping aired and documented on tape for replay. He complains he gets no coverage then dodges the best opportunity to confront the problem. Whiney, old, out-of -touch coward is all he proves to be time and time again.

    July 27, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
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