John McCain voted against the Martin Luther King holiday in 1983. Asked about today, he made a startling revelation:

McCain: I voted in my first year in congress against it. Then I began to learn. And I studied. And people talked to me. And I not only supported it, but I fought very hard in my own state of Arizona for recognition against a governor who was of my own party.  ...

Reporter: On Martin Luthor King, what do you mean you say you learned?

McCain: Well, I learned that this individual was a transcendent figure in American history. He deserved to be honored. And I thought it was appropriate to do so. In my home state of Arizona, I was not proud that we were one of the last states to recognize Dr. King's birthday as a holiday. And I was pleased to be part of the fight for that recognition.

Reporter: What didn't you know when you voted initially against it that you later knew when you changed your mind?

McCain: I had not really been involved in the issue. I just had not had a lot of experience with the issue. That's all.

Reporter: [couldn't hear question]

McCain: In Arizona, I came from the military where we are the greatest equal opportunity employer in the nation and still are. And I had just not been involved in the issue. There were issues that I had not been involved in when I was in the military, and then I went relatively quickly to being a member of Congress.

Reporter: You just didn't realize the large role in American history?

McCain: I think I just explained it about best I could.

Reporter: It's not really an issue to be involved in, to be aware of his impact on this country, it's more of a knowledge of history.

McCain: I think you're entitled to your opinion on it and I respect your opinion on that, but I had not been involved in the issue. I had come from being in the military to running for Congress in a state that did not have a large African American population.

McCain was 32 when King died. He was 47 when he voted against the holiday. He claims he didn't know about MLK that entire time? That it was merely "an issue"? The reporter is right, this wasn't an issue, it was basic knowledge of American history.

Yet even at 47, McCain still had a lot of "learning" to do before he'd change his mind on MLK, as Steve Benen notes:

If McCain "began to learn" and "studied" after his opposition to the King holiday in ‘83, he was a very slow learner. Four years later, he didn’t fight against a governor or his own party; he endorsed the governor’s move to eliminate a King holiday.

Six years after his House vote he began supporting a state holiday, but still opposed a federal King holiday. Eleven years after his vote, he tried to strip federal funding from the MLK Federal Holiday Commission. Seventeen years after his vote, McCain publicly endorsed South Carolina’s right to fly the confederate flag over its statehouse.

Now, in the interest of fairness, it’s worth noting that McCain ended up, years after the fact, in the right place, and reversed himself on practically all of his previous positions. Better late than never, I suppose.

Now McCain claims he fought his own governor, Benen (who I trust more), says he didn't. So does ABC News' Jake Tapper:

In Arizona, a bill to recognize a holiday honoring MLK failed in the legislature, so then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, declared one through executive order.

In January 1987, the first act of Arizona's new governor, Republican Evan Mecham, was to rescind the executive order by his predecessor to create an MLK holiday. Arizona's stance became a national controversy.

McCain backed the decision at the time.

So he's a liar. And worse than that, it speaks volumes that he considers MLK not a giant of American (and world) history, but "an issue". I'm sure McCain, Trent Lott, and George Allen would all agree on that.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 11:10 AM PDT.

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