A truth squad descended on John McCain’s campaign headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., Feb. 3, holding signs that read, “Thanks for the Iraq recession” and “McCainonomics: More war, less jobs.”

Several hundred people turned out for the protest organized by Connecticut Opposes the War (COW) as McCain, the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, arrived in Connecticut.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to spend Super Bowl Sunday than blitzing Bush’s biggest cheerleader on the Iraq war,” said Phil Sherwood, a COW activist who is also legislative director of Connecticut Citizen Action.

He scorned McCain’s attempt to pose as both a Reagan ultra-conservative and a moderate depending on the audience he is addressing. “McCain has been terribly consistent in his support of the Iraq war. He has been ‘stay the course’ from Day One,” Sherwood told the World by phone.

In 2002, McCain predicted the Iraq war would be “easy,” an “overwhelming victory in a very short period of time,” according to therealmccain.com.

Later, as the death toll soared, McCain said on CNN, “The American people were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach which many of us, uh, fully understood from the beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking.”

Now McCain goes even further. He told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire that it would be fine with him if U.S. troops stay in Iraq for “100 years.” When a reporter later pursued the question, McCain said it could be “a thousand years” or “a million years.” Last year, in response to a question about his views on Iran, McCain “jokingly” sang “Bomb, bomb, Iran” to the tune of a Beach Boys song, and backed President Bush’s saber-rattling policy.

The Connecticut picket line also targeted Sen. Joe Lieberman, the war hawk former Democrat who is campaigning for McCain, and Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, who is facing a tough re-election fight.

“McCain, Lieberman and Shays have been collectively beating the war drums louder than anyone else,” Sherwood charged.

They are boasting of a “decline in violence” in Iraq, but “the only thing in decline is the economy,” Sherwood said. “There is a direct correlation between the decline in the economy and the money we are spending in Iraq. We are about to find out what happens when our elected officials invest in war rather than health care for our kids. I’m referring to SCHIP, the children’s health insurance program.” Congress voted Jan. 23 to sustain Bush’s second veto of SCHIP.

Campaigning in Florida, McCain told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “The issue of economics is something I’ve never really understood as well as I should … As long as Alan Greenspan is around, I would certainly use him for advice and counsel.” He also vowed to seek advice from widely discredited “experts” including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas).

McCain’s plan for dealing with a looming recession appears to amount to an assault on essential government programs that help people. “The first thing we need to do is stop the out-of-control spending,” McCain said during the Jan. 10 South Carolina debate. At the YouTube debate in Florida last November, he said he’d “take the old veto pen Ronald Reagan gave me” and veto every single “pork barrel.”

He indicated his idea of “pork barrel” in 2005, when he voted “yes” on Bush’s “deficit reduction” bill, which slashed $40 billion from funding for Medicaid, Medicare, agriculture, employee pensions, conservation and student loans.

Speaking to the AFL-CIO Building Trades Department in 2006, McCain called on Congress to enact a “guest worker” or bracero program as advocated by Bush. Someone in the crowd shouted, “Pay them a decent wage.” The labor movement charges that such programs are a green light for exploitation of immigrant workers, undermine unions and worker rights, and drive down wages and benefits for all workers.

Afterward, a delegate noted McCain’s ability to “tap dance without music.”

McCain is likely to try to position himself as a moderate for the general election this fall. Political analysts expect he’ll be doing quite a bit of tap-dancing to conceal his right-wing positions.