John McCain is acting like a winner. A bad-tempered winner with no sense of perspective, a chip on his shoulder the size of his well-fed ego, and an arrogant disregard for the precepts of the President whose “foot soldier” he claims he was so many years ago. Apparently, McCain thinks that being in government service the same time as Ronnie qualifies him to make that claim, although such a lax definition would allow Mikhail Gorbachev the same honor.
But a winner nonetheless, in the same way we saw ‘winner’ defined, back in the days when an NBA team would celebrate with gangsta imitations, in the same way that Floyd Landis figured no one would dare investigate his doped-up Tour de France win, and so on.
Anyway, McCain is going on these days about what a great ‘conservative’ he is, by which we are supposed to accept the hijacking of Senate Judicial hearings, the suppression of individual political speech just before an election, and insubordination of party leadership whenever they disagree with him as proud hallmarks of the Reagan Revolution. Apparently, McCain believes that his present position in front of the GOP race gives him the right to redefine terms, to lie about his opponents, and to declare the race over. But to that I call not so fast, Senator McCain, this race is not nearly done. In fact, it’s just warming up.
Tuesday, February 5, twenty-two states will hold their GOP caucus or primary, with 1,102 delegates riding on the outcome. For comparison, all six states which have had a GOP primary or caucus up to now have accounted for a total of only 181 delegates, and some of those are uncommitted. For all the hoo-dah in the media, the fact is that it takes 1,191 delegates to secure the nomination, and none of the candidates has even cleared a hundred in his tally yet. Seems McCain is real anxious that most of the country does not get a chance to say whether or not this chucklehead should carry the banner of the Republican party into the fall. I certainly understand why McCain would want to shut the doors now, but it’s important we don’t get fooled by his act.
To be sure, McCain did a hero’s service during the Vietnam War. In challenging his hubris, I want to make clear that I am not denying the man his due as a hero. For those unclear on that point, what made McCain a hero during Vietnam was not simply that he was prisoner of war, but that because of his high profile as the son of the Navy’s CNO, McCain was the subject of much worse torture and pressure from the North Vietnamese. Not just physical torture, though there was plenty of that, but emotional torture as well, such as suggesting that if he played along, McCain could get his buddies released from prison camps, or trying to give McCain preferential treatment so the Communists could gain a propaganda victory. For six years, John McCain defied his captors, and was a lasting source of strength to his fellow prisoners.
McCain’s lesser qualities appear, however, in his work as a Senator. As a Senator, McCain quickly established a stubborn refusal to work with anyone who was not going completely in his direction, and more than once McCain defied GOP leadership in critical situations, most notably during the George W. Bush Administration. Bittter from his 2000 primary defeats, McCain was one of only two Republican senators who voted against the Bush tax cuts, saying that he wanted spending cut first, but also that he opposed “tax cuts for the rich”.
McCain was one of the writers of the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which basically tries to stifle anyone discussing an election in the last month before it happens. McCain has never apologized for that assasult on the First Amendment.
Then there is the “gang of 14”, another example of McCain leadership where McCain decided that having the Senate actually do its job as a body and vote on judicial appointments was not good, that one-seventh of the Senate could make back-room deals on judges, not even based on their qualifications, but purely to expedite political arrangements. Again, McCain has never apologized for railroading qualified judges and defying the Constitutional role of the United States Senate. Indeed, McCain seems to think he can gloss that over and we will let it go, as if it were some minor foible. But the record needs to be seen in total, the times McCain got it right, and the times he got it wrong.
I certainly have issues to some degree with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, but in both of their cases, I at least believe they are conducting honest campaigns by the standard we see these days. It is truly disappointing to see a former naval officer of McCain’s repute prostitute his honor in the pursuit of an office he so patently should not perform.