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The Man Who Made McCain?

In the current issue of Newsweek, a story titled "The Man Who Made McCain," details how the iconic liberal Arizona congressman and promoter of environmental stewardship, Mo Udall, served as a sort of mentor to Sen. John McCain when Mccain first came to Congress in 1983. As the article notes, Udall was known as "the liberal conscience of Congress, " but also for reaching across the aisle, often to the freshman representative, which made a lasting impression:

McCain has been an ardent proponent of the Iraq War, of course, and he has sided with the GOP in its opposition to abortion rights. But he has also crossed party lines on issues like campaign-finance reform—which Udall also championed—and global warming. In 2005, McCain was a key member of the Gang of 14, a group of Democrats and Republicans who worked together to prevent a shutdown of the Senate because of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. To this day, some Republicans question his party loyalty for that.

However, while McCain may have learned a lesson in bipartisanship from Udall, what exactly did he take away from Udall about the elder congressman’s signature issue, the environment? McCain has certainly been talking a good game on climate change, calling for mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, but his actual record is a mixed bag. The League of Conservation Voters recently awarded the Arizona senator a score of zero percent (out of a possible 100) on his environmental record for 2007, because McCain missed every major vote on environmental issues last year. The group gives the senator a lifetime rating of 24 percent.

With the debate in the Senate on the ambitious Lieberman-Warner climate change bill continuing throughout the week, McCain has a chance to continue talking up his position on global warming. The New York Times notes that all three major presidential candidates have pledged to participate. From The Times:

The measure would reduce American production of climate-altering gases by nearly 70 percent from current levels by 2050. It would provide billions of dollars in subsidies for energy conservation and environmentally clean technologies, creating millions of jobs, proponents say.

The sale of the permits would raise more than $5 trillion for the government in the coming decades, money that the bill proposes to distribute to affected industries, consumers and local governments in one of the biggest programs of redistribution of American wealth in history. The bill’s proponents say the money would help pay for a technological leap that would create millions of new jobs while cleaning the atmosphere.

McCain teamed up with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in 2005 to introduce a similar, but weaker, bill. Still, it remains unlikely that any action on the Lieberman-Warner bill will be taken this year, if at all, due to strong opposition among some conservatives — making it a safe bill for McCain to support.

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