November 25, 2005


The Real McCain (ARI BERMAN, December 12, 2005, The Nation)

[T]he senator they saw projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy.

The d├ętente with conservatives that began with his vigorous embrace of Bush during the 2004 campaign has become a full-on charm offensive. "If he decides to run for President, the friendship has to be re-established," says McCain political consultant Max Fose. "There haven't always been town halls. There hasn't always been a dialogue." McCain isn't just reaching out on the home front. His office holds regular meetings with conservative leaders in South Carolina, where his approval rating sits at 65 percent. He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary. After the antitax Club for Growth began running ads against McCain in New Hampshire, a state he won in 2000, he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities. McCain's likely to be the most requested Republican campaigner in 2006 races. "He's the closest thing to a rock star in the Republican Party today," says Michigan Republican Party chair Saul Anuzis.

Unfortunately, most campaigns are a battle between who a politician is and who he needs to be to win. There have always been two sides to McCain: the conservative loyalist and the unpredictable maverick so often featured in the media. In preparation for 2008, McCain has largely chosen to unveil and market the conservative side. Many conservatives are warming to his routine; some are even beginning to like and trust him. It's fair to assume, though, that the more orthodox conservatives agree with McCain, the more he risks alienating moderates and forfeiting the independence that makes him unique and suggests he could become a great President. It's an uncomfortable predicament for a pragmatic problem solver with sky-high approval ratings and crossover appeal. "He'll have to decide whether he wants to be CBS's favorite senator or the Republican nominee," says Norquist.

Senator McCain learned an invaluable lesson from competing with and working with George W. Bush: no matter how much of your soul you sell to the media they can't make you president and no matter how conservative you go to get the nomination, Republicans can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2005 3:24 PM

I'll maybe start to believe his conservative conversion when he repudiates CFR.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 25, 2005 4:57 PM

And CFR stands for?

Posted by: Denecis at November 25, 2005 8:18 PM

Campaign Finance Reform

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 25, 2005 9:34 PM

Thank you JD.

Posted by: Genecis at November 25, 2005 9:51 PM

I have not foriven him for CFR, nor for the anti-pow-"degeredation" proposal that he has been embarassing the administration with. Remember the keating Five.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 25, 2005 10:17 PM

With McCain, it is always best to remember that he finished almost at the bottom of his class at Annapolis, that his father was an admiral, and that his entire political career has been an attempt to be the BMOC. While I laud the fact that he has never overtly traded on his POW status, it certainly hasn't hurt him.

He is a RINO, to be sure, but he isn't going to go crybaby like Voinovich and he isn't going to be the crazy aunt like Olympia Snowe. And his statement on the floor of the Senate on 9/12 ("may God have mercy on them, because we won't") should have been as noted as the President's words at the WTC site a couple of days later, but for some reason, it slipped through the cracks.

All McCain has to do to be President is to start making Democrats fear him. Being the BMOC means more than getting away with pranks and grabbing some perks along the way. If he knows this, he will be OK. If he doesn't, then he might win anyway, but he will not be a good President. And he will hurt the party, perhaps as badly as Nixon did.

Posted by: ratbert at November 25, 2005 11:38 PM

You know McCain will never be president. One, he won't get the nomination, and two, should some unimaginable and unforeseen series of events occur so that he does get nominated, the media outpouring of venom on his head will send him reeling.

Real and imagined, personal and professional, the media have quite a dossier on McCain, and oh, he would be a disaster as president should hell freeze over and he be elected.

The Republican party better get busy identifying some real candidates and then get behind them. Giuliani should run for governor of New York first and then move on to the national level.

I love the idea of Condi, but with zero experience campaigning and running things, I think it's premature for her too. I have no suggestions, but some people better start making noises and getting some national attention or we'll have a repeat of the Dole disaster.

Posted by: erp at November 26, 2005 8:16 AM

So W won because the media loved him?

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2005 8:34 AM

Even better to recall that he's a creation of Ronald Reagan's.

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2005 8:40 AM

Bush won because nothing the media used to smear him stuck.

The charges of alcoholism, drug taking, favoritism in the national guard, Laura Bush's culpability in the auto accident/fatality, the twins out-of-control drinking, irregularities with his baseball club, lack of intellect, in bed with Enron and whatever else, were false and thus improvable.

Even the witty riposte, he was selected, not elected proved false as count after recount proved that Bush won the state of Florida fair and square.

Posted by: erp at November 26, 2005 9:32 AM



Posted by: oj at November 26, 2005 10:00 AM

Is reverse capitalization a signal for the Resistance to rise up as the invasion begins?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 26, 2005 1:23 PM