Before writing and promoting my new book, “None of the Above,” I hadn’t realized how willingly Republican-leaning voters would accept John McCain’s election-year reinvention of himself.

Despite his unabashed and relentless efforts to tick off the baseline Republican constituency for at least the last eight years, John McCain gets mostly grace from them because he is running against someone they fear – an inexperienced, would-be socialist demagogue.

It’s hard to look bad in comparison to Barack Obama.

Yet, I strongly suspect most Republicans preparing to drink the McCain Kool-Aid really don’t know the record of their candidate. They hear he is pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax – and they accept it, without examining his life in public service and voting record.

Here is one of the political principles of “None of the Above: Why 2008 Is the Year to Cast the Ultimate Protest Vote.” Never believe what a politician says about what he believes in an election year. Always judge the politician by his record.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that Barack Obama is going to come take our guns if he is elected president. The assumption, of course, is McCain will not be trying to take our guns. I see no reason to believe that is the case based on the record of John McCain’s attacks on the Second Amendment.

The best Second Amendment defense organization in the country is Gun Owners of America. It is not establishment. It is not a group that carefully crafts its image with celebrity endorsements. It just does the glamour-less hard work of alerting the citizenry to the latest gun grabs.

Here’s what Gun Owners of America found in its analysis of McCain’s voting record in the 106th Congress: Out of 15 votes relating to the right to keep and bear arms, McCain voted right just four times. That amounts to a 27 percent rating. Few Republicans find themselves in such low standing.

McCain has been at war with gun owners for a long time. In 2004, the year he considered switching to the Democratic Party and teaming up with John Kerry as vice presidential candidate, he sponsored an amendment to S. 1805 that would have outlawed the private sale of firearms at gun shows. The GOA pointed out the measure amounted to a nationwide ban on gun shows, because every member of an organization sponsoring one could be imprisoned if the group failed to notify each and every “person who attends the special firearms event of the requirements [under the Brady Law].”

In addition, Larry Pratt’s great organization warns that McCain supported legislation that would have forced federal agents to be more aggressive in arresting and convicting honest gun owners who inadvertently violate one of many arcane federal gun laws in acts that are, in and of themselves, just part of the innocent practice of gun stewardship. For instance, if McCain had his way, his legislation could send to prison a gun owner who travels with a gun through a school zone or who uses one of the family’s handguns to go target shooting with a minor child. Someone who uses a gun for self-defense could be sent to prison for a mandatory minimum of five years because of technicalities in McCain’s own legislation, according to Gun Owners of America.

And I believe Gun Owners of America. I believe Larry Pratt. He has never lied to me. I believe the man who founded the organization, my dear old friend Sen. H.L. Richardson of California. He has never told me one thing, done another and then changed his mind. John McCain has done those things – often. And he does it on all the important issues of the day – from immigration to tax cuts to abortion.

I’ll be examining the specifics of all of these issues and John McCain’s largely unknown record on them in the days ahead. Stay tuned. The time to choose is near. Again, I urge you to choose “None of the Above.”

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