May 25, 2005


The McCain Way (The New Yorker, 2005-05-30)

This week in the magazine, in “McCain’s Party,” Connie Bruck writes about John McCain, the senator from Arizona, and about the possibility of his running for President in 2008. Here, she discusses McCain's career, past and future, with Ben Greenman

What about his relationship with the Bushes? How can he be close to the Bush camp after their vicious character- assassination attempts in South Carolina in 2000?

Because of all the fireworks of his personality, people tend to overlook how pragmatic McCain is. Some of his aides did taunt him about his role in the campaign—“Where do they put you, in the back of the bus?” one asked, and was cursed roundly by McCain. But I think that, once he made up his mind, it was not that difficult. And I actually believe that in addition to his political calculations about 2008 he really did prefer Bush to Kerry—that it was a Hobson's choice, as one friend of McCain’s told me, but in the end he felt more comfortable with Bush. He is much closer to Bush than Kerry in his extremely hawkish views on the war in Iraq, and much closer in foreign policy, generally. As one McCain aide told me, if McCain had run with Kerry, they could have debated foreign policy with each other.

Is he now too careful about what he says? In recent weeks he has spoken out on the Downing Street memo, for instance, but without the fervor and critical passion that some people have come to expect. Is this a defanged McCain?

I will be very surprised if we see him doing anything that strikes a blow at the Bush White House. Polite differences are one thing, but attacks that can do real damage are another. I think he has done too much to build his political capital with the Party and the Republican primary voters who love Bush to throw it away. But he definitely has a fine line to walk. He can’t afford to seem like just another calculating, hypocritical politician—or he loses everything.

How unpleasant is his dilemma: to be a team player when he might, deep down, desperately want to be an iconoclast?

I think that it will be hard, because McCain loves being an iconoclast, or a rebel, or a contrarian—it’s just so much a part of who he is, and it brings him the attention that he loves. He will be oh so boring as a team player, so he will never restrict himself to that completely.

If elected, what kind of President would McCain be?

That, of course, is the $64,000 question. Even some who like him a great deal wonder whether he is steady and thoughtful enough—or, on the contrary, too volatile, intemperate, and itching to fight.

He's likely too thin-skinned and lacking in a coherent philosophy to be a great president, but he's a good enough legislator and popular enough across the political spectrum that he could finish up the much needed post-Cold War/New Deal reforms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2005 5:28 PM

He certainly could--but would he? If the answer's yes, I'm all for it.

Posted by: Timothy at May 25, 2005 5:32 PM

He won't.

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 25, 2005 6:13 PM

Via Polipundit:

Hugh Hewitt points out a telling quote from the New Yorker magazine, by John McCain:

When people are in close races, I am the first Republican who is asked to come and appear for that person. I am the most sought-after of all Republicans. In this last campaign, I was the one asked by the President to travel and campaign with him. When you look at the rank and file of ordinary Republicans, Im extremely popularits some of the party apparatchiks who still harbor bad feelings toward me. But it is a little hard for them to do that now, because of my strong support for Bush.Particularly since the 2004 campaign, there has been a great softening of dislike for me.

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 25, 2005 6:21 PM

Mr. Judd;

You mean the same way former President Bush (41) finished up the Reagan Revolution?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 25, 2005 6:30 PM

He could also no doubt finish his trashing of the First Amendment.

Posted by: Axel Kassel at May 25, 2005 6:37 PM

McCain's a Nixon. He doesn't strike me as interested in domestic policy (except campaign finance reform). Foreign policy is his thing. Just as Nixon basically funded Johnson's domestic programs, it wouldn't surprise me that McCain would implement Bush's. McCain has neither the interest nor the vision to do otherwise.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at May 25, 2005 6:44 PM

Apparently, Senator Boxer is telling people that Specter had announced that he would vote for the nuclear option, meaning that the Republicans would have had enough announced votes to push it over, if it hadn't been for the compromise. That's why the Dems compromised.

Why did the Republicans? Beats me.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 25, 2005 7:05 PM

McCain is a loon. He will be 72 in 2008. He is not a conservative. yes he is the MSM's favorite Republican, but so what. He is not the Republican's favorite Republican. JEB in 08.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 25, 2005 7:05 PM

McCain is a loon. He will be 72 in 2008. He is not a conservative. yes he is the MSM's favorite Republican, but so what. He is not the Republican's favorite Republican. JEB in 08.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 25, 2005 7:06 PM

Democrats will turn out in droves, as they did in 2000, to vote for him in the GOP primaries. The MSM will give him 100% postive coverage.

Until the day, and let us hope that day never comes, he wins the Republican nomination.

Then his best friends will turn on him with a vengence.

As usual, the GOP base and Republican activists are consistent. He won't get our support now and he won't get it in 2008.

Posted by: David at May 25, 2005 7:21 PM

As shown in Sandy's quote McCain is McCain's favorite Republican but thats about it. If he couldn't win the nomination in 2000 he certainly cant win it in 2008. Not with eight extra years of ego-baggage, age, infighting, turning his back on his base... not to mention that certain very influential conservative media personalities hate him and will never give him even an implicit endorsement - make no mistake those endorsements are very important. OJ only likes him because he thinks he sees a fellow old crusty curmudgeon whos beliefs are born not of principal but of spite.

Posted by: Shelton at May 25, 2005 7:26 PM

AOG's comment is very telling.

Lots will change between now and the fall of 2007. Iran, NK, and the possibility of real economic collapse in Europe. Chavez. Taiwan. If the primary drivers are foreign policy issues, that helps McCain more than any other candidate (just as it hurts ANY of the potential Democrats).

McCain has time to earn some chits in the mid-terms. But if he announces he will just serve one term, people will wonder if he is sick.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 25, 2005 7:36 PM


He'll get over half the base in the primaries and all in the general.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 8:17 PM


The Reagan Revolution was spent, but Bush and Clinton kept its gains intact until the '94 Revolution started Phase II.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 8:20 PM

"He'll get over half the base in the primaries" just like he did in 2000. let me guess, "things are different now".

Posted by: cjm at May 25, 2005 8:58 PM

The profile in the dead tree version of the New Yorker, which came today, is interesting. He clearly is running, which I was not 100% convinced of, nad he clearly thinks he can get the GOP nomination-- so no third party or fusion ticket. Right now, the only one in sight with equal stature is Rudy.

But, it is a long time to 2008, and he has to figure out a way to win the base in the many (most?) states that do not allow Dems and Independents to vote in primaries.

Posted by: Dan at May 25, 2005 9:03 PM


No, W had well over half the base, enough to offset Independents and crossover Democrats.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 9:14 PM

John McCain exhibits too much Stockholm Syndrome to be taken seriously regarding foreign policy. He has no chance of getting the Republican nomination.

However, the democrat nomination is open.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at May 25, 2005 11:38 PM

McCain is far too dangerous to even be considered by the seemingly reasonable people here.

Nothing is more dangerous than a man who believes his own PR.

This man won't "build" on any revolution. He can only destroy it.

If there is anything positive about the keening of the right re: filibusters, it is that he's alienated many primary voters for good.

McCain Feingold alone is enough to apply the same rhetoric toward him as Delay, Robertson, et. al. have applied toward judges. The man who's name is associated with the death of the 1st Amendment deserves no less.

Posted by: BB at May 26, 2005 2:28 AM

Bush signed CFR.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 7:18 AM

McCain is no longer the front-runner - George Allen is.

At Tradesports, chance to win Republican nomination, Allen is trading at 20.5%, McCain 17.0%, Frist 15.4%, Giuliani 10.4%, Jeb Bush 8.0% followed by Romney, Condi, and Hagel. Allen jumped to the lead this month.

Posted by: pj at May 26, 2005 10:34 AM


That's emotion. McCain will beat Allen by forty+ points in NH and Allen likely hasn't done anything to organize IA yet.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 11:11 AM

mc cain will only win primaries where non-republicans are allowed to vote.

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 11:49 AM


Which only gives him the nomination.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2005 1:15 PM

i guess if a democratic president is unavoidable, mc cain will do :)

Posted by: cjm at May 26, 2005 2:17 PM

George Allen, he's a football coach, right.

Frist will only be President of some university someday, never President of the US.

Assuming no Jeb or Condi, only Rudy or McCain have a realistic chance. Funny, Rudy will be the choice of conservatives even though he is far to McCain's left.

Posted by: Bob at May 26, 2005 5:17 PM

Not this conservative. Given a Rudy/McCain choice, I'll take McCain, thank you.

Posted by: Timothy at May 26, 2005 6:41 PM