Sure, He Likes McCain Now…

The state Democrats are attacking “hypocritical” John Sweeney for campaigning with John McCain, a man he trashed on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000.

It will be interesting to watch how often this theme resurfaces as other New York Republicans who supported Bush six years ago cozy up to McCain ahead of the 2008 election.

But I’m not sure the hypocrite charge amounts to more than an annoyance. The Bush versus McCain stuff has a time-capsule quality to it at this point – at least for those of us who remember the genuine intra-party rancor around here in 2000 leading up to and following the GOP presidential primary.

And there’s been no shortage of Bush loyalists going over to McCain. Exhibit A has his base of operations right under our noses here in New York.

Anyway, here’s the release.

New York State
Phone: (212) 725-8825 • Fax: (212) 725-8867 • Web:

May 18, 2006 (917) 519-8316


In 2000, Rep. John Sweeney assailed Senator McCain as “the head of the anti-New York caucus” and “anti-Northeast”

But now in political battle of his life, Sweeney is recruiting “Mr. Anti-New York” McCain to headline a fundraiser for him Saturday

Dems: Voters are the losers in Sweeney’s cynical game of politics

Six years after attacking John McCain repeatedly as “anti- New York” and “anti-Northeast” during the 2000 presidential campaign, embattled Rep. John Sweeney has apparently overlooked his concerns about McCain’s record, enlisting the senator to headline a fundraiser for him. In response, Democrats today pressed Sweeney to explain why he’s campaigning with a man who – according to Sweeney’s own claims — has hurt Sweeney’s constituents.

“Why would John Sweeney campaign with someone he called “anti-New York”? Democratic spokesman Blake Zeff said today. “Either because he didn’t believe it then or because he doesn’t care now. Either way voters are the losers in John Sweeney’s cynical game of politics.”

In 2000, John Sweeney was a delegate to then-candidate George W. Bush. In this role, Sweeney repeatedly attacked McCain as “anti-New York” and “anti-Northeast.” Specifically:

• Sweeney Called McCain the Head of the Anti-New York Caucus
“In Washington, Republican New York Reps. Vito Fossella and John Sweeney pointed to McCain’s votes in the U.S. Senate against ice storm relief for the Northeast, against the Northeast Dairy Compact and against mass transit money.

‘If there was such a thing as an anti-New York caucus, he would be the head of it,’ Sweeney said.” (Daily News, 3/2/00)

• Sweeney Called McCain Anti-Northeast
“Well, you know, it’s interesting. I listen to Peter King and I believe he supported the very bill that Senator McCain opposed. I think it’s legitimate for us in the Bush campaign to finally get to the issues and look at the McCain voting record, because we believe very strongly it’s an anti-New York and, in fact, an anti-Northeast voting record. Senator McCain has consistently voted in a parochial manner” – Rep. John Sweeney (“Decision 2000,” MSNBC, 3/2).

• Sweeney Said McCain Had a Consistent Pattern of Voting Against the Interests of New York
“But the Bush campaign had a plan, as Mr. Bush likes to say. On March 1, at a press conference in Albany, Mr. Pataki began attacking Mr. McCain’s voting record. Looking confident and relaxed, the Governor said: ‘There’s an absolutely consistent pattern of voting against the interests of New York, whether it’s specific things like voting against aid for the ice storm recovery or the dairy compact, or generic things like the whole transit thing where he voted to cut us.’

At almost the same time, Representative John Sweeney, an upstate member of the state party’s brain trust, was staging his own press conference and reciting many of the same attacks. And the Bush campaign was releasing a radio ad, taped by Long Island breast cancer activist Geri Barish (who also happens to owe her job to the Nassau County Republican Party) attacking Senator McCain for voting against a funding bill that including breast cancer research projects at North Shore and New York University hospitals. Two days later, Mr. Bush himself showed up on Long Island, sporting an anti-breast-cancer pink ribbon, defending the ad. (NY Observer, 3/13/00)

Sweeney’s desperate about-face on McCain comes as the non-partisan National Journal upgraded his reelection this week to the 24th most competitive race in the nation, jumping 13 spots from 37th just last month. Sure, He Likes McCain Now…