May 3, 2006


A Conservative Republican for the Center (David Ignatius, Washington Post, 5/3/2006, reprinted in Wall Street Journal)

Sen. McCain is spending more of his time in the bog of American politics, and it's no picnic.

When he accepted a speaking invitation from Jerry Falwell, the polarizing prince of the Christian right, liberals saw it as a betrayal of values. When he voted to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, despite his own past warnings about the country's fiscal mess, budget balancers attacked him as a hypocrite.

When I asked Mr. McCain if the criticism bothered him, he answered quietly, "Oh yeah."...

A McCain candidacy ... will be rooted in his image as a man of principle. But it will also be something of a balancing act -- one that the candidate himself is likely to find uncomfortable.

Senator McCain has a flair for the dramatic. A more effective, but less showy, way to reach out to the Christian right would be to work with its most respected figures -- people like Charles Colson and James Dobson -- to address some problem, such as prisoner welfare or the fate of the Sudan. Doing good, and doing it in partnership with the most respected Christian conservative leaders, would have won him respect among the base. Falwell on the other hand is wild in his ideas and spirit, and carries less influence with Christian conservatives, but has a much higher public profile thanks to the opprobrium liberals have heaped on him. I think it is good that McCain is talking to a leading Christian conservative and not allowing himself to be captive to political correctness, but I don't believe this was the most attractive choice of ways to do it. In seeking out Falwell, and not for anything substantive but for a mere speech, McCain seems to choose the flashiest, most controversial, most daring and reckless way over the slow, cooperative, and humble way.

It is a hint that McCain conceives of the world as combative rather than cooperative. He chooses to associate with combative figures like Falwell, and demonstrate his "conservativism" by picking up liberal animosity, rather than associate with cooperative figures and win respect by doing something constructive.

He is, character-wise, the anti-Bush. I wonder if it is a personality that will age well on the national scene. Roguishness that is charming in a junior player may be unsettling in the nation's principal leader.

Posted by pjaminet at May 3, 2006 8:53 AM

from here we get from the Great Senator Keating-McCain:

"The worst thing I can do is sell my soul to the devil."

Which, if the visit to Falwell and comments on Imus' show are any indication, was never off the market.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 3, 2006 11:18 AM

"Roguishness that is charming in a junior player may be unsettling in the nation's principal leader."

Two words, Theodore Roosevelt.

Posted by: Brandon at May 3, 2006 11:41 AM

McCain is going to be a terrible President, but President he will be.

Posted by: b at May 3, 2006 12:02 PM

PJ: great comments, spot-on; his personality is exactly why he would have been a terrible governor -- and he knew it

Posted by: Pamcroft at May 3, 2006 12:19 PM

The "anti-Bush."

Super! The deception worked, is working and will work.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 3, 2006 12:20 PM

Bush never had to bail out of his plane or crashed. McCain was a better pilot but got shot down. The differences in style showed up early.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 3, 2006 12:31 PM

McCain was a terrible pilot. He crashed in training too. If his dad and grandpa were not admirals, he would have been a supply officer, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Posted by: Bob at May 3, 2006 12:56 PM

Sheesh, Bob, let's not go there. It's not like McCain was a Kara Spears Hultgreen or something...

Posted by: b at May 3, 2006 3:00 PM

B, please unfold your comment.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 3, 2006 3:07 PM

Ms. Hultgreen was the femal USAF fighter pilot who died when her jet hit the water while training off San Diego (her sister Daphne was a news anchor on the NBC station here in West Texas about the time it happened, so it received major play in this neck of the desert...)

Posted by: John at May 3, 2006 4:59 PM

Thank you.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 3, 2006 5:44 PM

Lt. Hultgreen was the first female Navy pilot cleared for combat. It was widely believed prior to her fatal crash (while attempting a carrier landing) that she was woefully unqualified and was only cleared because the Navy was desperate for some good PR after the Tailhook scandal.

Posted by: b at May 3, 2006 5:46 PM

This sort of McCain statement worries me more:

He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform….I know that money corrupts…I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 3, 2006 8:12 PM

McCain wants clean government when he has the Windex bottle in his hands, not in the hands of John Q. Public - that would be intolerable.

He will probably be President, but that remark is going to haunt him.

He can fight the press for the rest of his public life, but he has basically done what Gary Hart did in 1987 - "Go ahead and follow me around". If McCain stumbles on the slightest detail of campaign finance or fundraising, he will be impaled.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 4, 2006 11:03 PM