McCain to tout dif­fer­ences with Bush; cli­mate, taxes key to strat­egy

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

Sen. John McCain’s cam­paign says his po­si­tions on global warm­ing, spend­ing cuts and the es­tate tax are its keys to con­vinc­ing vot­ers that his pres­i­dency would not be a con­tin­u­a­tion of Pres­i­dent Bush’s two terms in the White House.

“McCain can’t be ‘Bush Three,’ ” McCain cam­paign se­nior ad­viser Char­lie Black said.

“Three big dif­fer­ences McCain has with Bush are spend­ing, cli­mate change and the death tax — we have to work on them and run on them,” he said.

The strat­egy in­volves stak­ing out a mid­dle-ground po­si­tion be­tween Mr. Bush and his two po­ten­tial Demo­cratic op­po­nents on the tax paid by the es­tates of the wealthy af­ter they die.

Al­though Mr. McCain once said he fa­vored com­plete elim­i­na­tion of the tax, he now calls for a per­ma­nent 15 per­cent tax rate on es­tates worth more than $10 mil­lion.

Un­der Mr. Bush’s tax-cut pack­ages, the size of ex­empt es­tates rises and the rate drops un­til it hits zero in 2010. But the next year, the tax re­verts to the 2002 rate of 50 per­cent and the thresh­old drops.

Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. McCain’s likely Demo­cratic op­po­nent in Novem­ber, has called the es­tate­tax re­peal a “tril­lion-dol­lar give- away,” and he and other Democrats say it would take money away from ed­u­ca­tional and other ser­vices.

Mr. Black said Democrats’ op­po­si­tion leaves a mid­dle ground for Mr. McCain.

“In the face of a uni­fied de­sire by Democrats for a puni­tive tax, get­ting a 15 per­cent rate and a large ex­emp­tion would be a huge im­prove­ment,” Mr. Black said.

He said Mr. McCain also will prom­ise to in­dex the $10 mil­lion ex­emp­tion for in­fla­tion.

“The is the first time I’ve heard any­thing as de­fin­i­tive as this from John McCain on the in­her­i­tance tax,” said Club for Growth Pres­i­dent Pat Toomey.

The Repub­li­can plat­form calls for its to­tal re­peal, but Mr. Black said there would be no ef­fort by the McCain forces to change the plat- form on that score when the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion’s Plat­form Com­mit­tee meets the week be­fore the party’s Sept. 1-4 na­tional con­ven­tion in St. Paul, Minn.

On global warm­ing, Mr. McCain has used his sup­port for manda­tory curbs on green­house-gas emis­sions as the chief ex­am­ple of how he dif­fers from Mr. Bush.

On the cam­paign trail, the sena- tor has pro­posed a “cap-and-trade” sys­tem that lets com­pa­nies buy or trade emis­sions cred­its. He said this would let the free-mar­ket forces re­ward an in­di­vid­ual or com­pany “that seeks to in­vent, im­prove or ac- quire al­ter­na­tives to car­bon-based en­ergy.”

Some crit­ics on the right and left don’t like the idea, but Mr. Black said it is some­thing Mr. McCain be­lieves in and has the added ad­van­tage of be­ing a free-mar­ket approach that ap­peals to the cen­ter and that was used dur­ing the Rea­gan era to at­tack the acid-rain prob­lem.

Mr. McCain was an early cham­pion of manda­tory caps on green­house-gas emis­sions, in­clud­ing spon­sor­ing the first ma­jor piece of leg­is­la­tion to re­ceive a floor vote.

On spend­ing, Mr. McCain has long been known as one of the most out­spo­ken op­po­nents of con­gres­sional ear­marks — widely de­rided as pork — and has won plau­dits for do­ing so from many con­ser­va­tive in­ter­est groups and vot­ers. Com­plic­ity with over­spend­ing by Democrats and Repub­li­cans in Congress has been a key point of crit­i­cism against Mr. Bush.

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