2005-03-16 / Opinion

Michigan Politics

John McCain Hasn
By George Weeks

Arizona Senator John McCain, winner of Michigan's 2000 Republican presidential primary, said in 2002, "I doubt I shall have reason or opportunity to try again." Doubts may be fading.

"I certainly haven't ruled it out," McCain said in a phone chat in advance of his return to Michigan Monday for Republican fund-raisers in Grand Rapids for the Kent County GOP; in Hudsonville for U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Holland; and in Pontiac for Attorney General Mike Cox.

Tickets for Hoekstra's gig: $25; $l,000 for Cox's.

Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob, who was to travel with McCain, said, "I'm going to urge him to run." Yob cited national polling last month that gave McCain double-digit leads over Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards in prospective 2008 match ups. Hoekstra, who puts McCain "in the top tier" of prospective 2008 candidates, says, "it's too early for anybody to even think about it."

"My time may be passing," McCain wrote in the last paragraph of his 2002 memoir, Worth The Fighting For, published by Random House. When I asked him last week whether he still had doubts about running again, McCain, 68, said:

"What I was trying to say, George, is that I want to wait two years to make a decision on that. I'd like to concentrate on trying to be a good senator for a couple of years before I would have to wrestle with that decision. I see no point in not just trying to be a good senator and then decide sometime after the '06 elections."

Well said.

It's a good bet that McCain will come to Michigan in 2006 to campaign for the Republican challenger of Sen. Debbie Stabenow. She's not among the Democratic senators with whom McCain has good and close relations, including Massachusetts' Kerry, Michigan's Carl Levin and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

While McCain campaigned in Michigan in 2000, he told me if he ever became president-elect, one of the first people he would turn to for advice would be Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee where McCain also serves.

"I don't know Senator Stabenow very well," McCain said.

Emissions Curbs

McCain and Lieberman are allies in a commendable fight to reduce air pollution. They recently reintroduced their bill to require industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 2000 levels by the year 2010.

The bill failed on a 55-43 vote in 2003, but the Wall Street Journal reports that Republican opposition to "greenhouse gas" curbs is slowly easing, as concerns mount over damage from climate change.

Alaska's two GOP senators, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, told the Journal they're now willing to discuss ways to reduce man-made emissions, including switching to favor the bill, if the emissions can be shown to be contributing to the damage.

Climate change has had dramatic negative impact in Alaska. A Government Accounting Office report says melting sea and glacier ice has resulted in severe erosion flooding problems in 86 percent of Alaska's native villages, most on waterfronts.

Hoekstra stopped short of saying he would vote for the McCain-Lieberman bill. He said his vote on the bill, if it gets to the House, will depend on whether it helps or penalizes West Michigan, which is subjected to air pollution that drifts in across Lake Michigan from other states.

McCain, in my chat, stopped short of predicting the latest bill will win support of the Senate, the decidedly anti-regulation House or President Bush.

But it's worth the fighting for.

George Weeks is the political columnist for The Detroit News and is syndicated by Superior Features.

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