Straight Talk? Not so much. More like a nervously, poorly and insincerely read hacky speech (transcript here). It also contains a lie. In his April 4 speech in Memphis, McCain said:

I remember first learning what had happened here on the 4th of April, 1968, feeling just as everyone else did back home, only perhaps even more uncertain and alarmed for my country in the darkness that was then enclosed around me and my fellow captives. In our circumstances at the time, good news from America was hard to come by.

Wow — he must have been powerfully moved by the death of MLK while in Vietnam right? No, in 1987, he said of his POW guards (emphasis mine):

They never gave us any meaningful news,” McCain said. “They told us the day that Martin Luther King was shot, they told us the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot, but they never bothered to tell us about the moon shot. So it was certainly selected news.”

In fact, sounds like he actually felt differently from most Americans then. His moral compass pointed in the wrong direction, just as it still does on so many issues like civil rights, Iraq and the economy.

For reasons that are unclear, the media is not pushing very hard on John McCain for his former hard, repeated opposition to the Martin Luther Luther King holiday. Markos lists his weak excuses and explanations for his opposition and turnaround here and here. The fact that he would even be allowed to mention MLK’s name in public feels somehow insulting to me. McCain would have us believe that he made a single mistake and then got educated. Instead, there’s a disturbing pattern and for some reason, a Free Ride for McCain.

Color of Change sent out an email today to its members (including me) that breaks it down with a link to more facts (emphasis mine):

In August 1983 he fought the holiday, voting to block a piece of bipartisan legislation honoring him that was supported by even conservative Republicans–including Dick Cheney–and signed into law by President Reagan.

McCain went on to resist recognizing a King holiday in his home state of Arizona.
When Arizona’s state legislature failed to pass a bill recognizing a holiday honoring Dr. King, the governor at the time,
Bruce Babbit, created the holiday by executive order. Babbit’s
successor, Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded the order as his first act in
office, doing away with the holiday. John McCain’s response? He defended the governor, not Dr. King. (After undoing the holiday, the same governor went on to publicly support referring to Black people as “pickaninnies”).

In 1990, seven years after his initial vote, McCain went along with
establishing a King holiday. On the campaign trail in 2000, facing
questions about his history on this issue, McCain declared he had

Looking at the rest of McCain’s public record, even recently, it’s
hard to see much evidence of an “evolution”. In fact, McCain has
consistently opposed a civil rights agenda:

  • He voted an amazing FOUR times against the Civil Rights Act of 1990–a bill designed to make it easier for employees to prove job discrimination and imposing harsher penalties on bosses who discriminated.
  • In 2004 he opposed affirmative action in college admissions–a key component of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is among King’s key legislative victories.
  • He has voted at least 8 times against raising the minimum wage.
  • And as recently as last month, he argued against federal
    intervention to help Americans, disproportionately Black Americans, who have faced foreclosure during the housing crisis.

Evolved? I don’t think so. It says a lot that no one in his campaign thought it might look um, inappropriate and servile to have a black man holding McCain’s umbrella as he spouted a whole lot of words with no feeling in them.

What I think is that he waved the white flag of surrender to public opinion on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. His symbolic gestures of opposition were popular with a shrinking group of people. He got booed at his own event when he admitted to voting against the King holiday (video here at ThinkProgress). Now he’s reduced to shufflin’ mumblin’ and dissemblin’ on his record. Let’s keep on the heat. Wow — it must really gall ol’ Archie Bunker McCain that he’s likely to have to run against Barack Obama.

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