McCain: At a crossroads with Indian country
* McCain is opposed to raising taxes and in favor of balancing the budget. "That will only happen on the backs of Indian people."
* He has spoken highly of Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Neither has distinguished himself as an opponent of Indian country, exactly; but the next president will likely make several appointments to the aging court, and the great weight of opinion in Indian country is that a strong majority, cast in the McCain-favored mold of Roberts and Alito, would represent a clear and present danger to tribal rights.
* During his second stint as chairman of the SCIA, 2005 to 2007, with his Republican Party in the majority, his high-profile initiatives were to join GOP hard-liners in a failed rally against off-reservation gaming and to stiffen the requirements for the federal recognition of tribes. Meanwhile, issues that were all but invisible to non-Indians, such as law enforcement, health care, education and the rural drug crisis, got nothing like the attention they should have, in the view of numerous tribal and Indian-issue advocates.
* The candidate made a televised spectacle of himself on sex equity not long ago, misremembering quite how he had voted on a bill that would have given women the same insured access to birth control pills that men have to Viagra (he opposed the bill twice). Just as damning is that McCain declined comment on an evolving effort of President Bush's administration to regulate taking birth control pills as self-administered abortion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
* On the environment, McCain is still remembered for bringing a telescope to Mount Graham in Arizona, to the disruption of Apache culture and red squirrel habitat. And he is viewed with concern in some quarters for a commitment to offshore oil drilling and exploration, an agenda that could expand to include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in view of McCain's refusal to disavow oil extraction there.
One leader of the senior generation was more than willing to go on record against McCain. Elmer M. Savilla, Quechan, has a long memory of McCain, going back to the late 1980s, when he believes the SCIA injudiciously pursued Navajo leader Peter MacDonald. He is also convinced that McCain could have gone beyond the "one good shot" he gave to settling the litigation over the Individual Indian Money trust, in the case of Cobell v. Kempthorne.
"John McCain at one time claimed that he was a friend of Indians," Savilla said. "He hasn't done anything substantial except hold an occasional hearing and talk like a friend.
"I'm telling everybody out there that he's not the guy. He's not the man for Indian country."