Sunday, April 16, 2006

More of the Same with McCain

Two of my favorites, Dick Polman and Helen Thomas, write about one of my least favorites, John McCain.

Polman, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, observes that Candidate McCain puts his right foot forward:

There comes a time, in the life of virtually every ambitious politician, when it is deemed wise to retool the image, reposition the issues, and put old rhetoric in sync with new realities.

That moment has arrived for John McCain. The erstwhile straight-talking maverick is now riding the Spin Talk Express, in the view of many skeptics.

It's simple pragmatics. McCain knows that his likely bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination will flop unless he can convince grassroots Republicans that he's not in bed with the "liberal press." In short, he wants to nix the joke, long uttered by disdainful conservatives, that his official title is Sen. John McCain (R., Media).

Hence, his spate of recent moves: The Arizonan used to vote against President Bush's tax cuts; now he's voting for them. He said during the 2000 campaign that the Rev. Jerry Falwell was an "agent of intolerance," but now he's showing respect by speaking May 13 at Falwell's college. He has softened his earlier opposition to a federal amendment banning gay marriage. He used to punt on the issue of teaching creationism, but now he endorses it. He has hired a former senior Bush operative whose name turned up in Tom DeLay's money-laundering indictment.

* * * *

Not surprisingly, McCain's actions have alarmed a number of his media fans - Arianna Huffington contends that he is selling his soul in the service of ambition, "making a pact with the devils of the religious right" - yet that reaction is precisely what McCain needs to woo the social conservatives who vote heavily in crucial Republican primaries, notably in Iowa and South Carolina. And what better advertisement for McCain's conservative bona fides than to be assailed on Meet the Press and The Daily Show as having betrayed his maverick persona?

* * * *

The irony, however, is that McCain's efforts to present himself as an establishment conservative Republican may not sway his target audience. Many conservatives dismiss his image overhaul as mere opportunism. They acknowledge McCain's conservative voting record, but they point out that on a lot of big issues - such as campaign-finance reform and guest-worker immigration reform - he hooks up with liberal Democratic senators like Russ Feingold and Edward Kennedy.

* * * *

Wary conservatives might settle for McCain if it ultimately appears that he alone can prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency. If that happens, perhaps his most daunting challenge as the nominee would be to attract the independents and Democrats who warmed to his maverick image. In the end, his prospects for success in 2008 may hinge on whether he can build bridges between his two personas, the old and the new.

For those interested in the Daily Show video, As McCain Turns, watch it at Citizen McCain via OneGoodMove.

Thomas' aptly titled Commentary, Want more Bush? Elect McCain, likewise points to his move right of this media darling. Thomas, ever the real "straight shooter," is not taken in:
With his "hail fellow well met" persona and tendency to jaw with the media and pundits in the back of the campaign bus, he has created the impression in some quarters that he is a "moderate."

Forget it. His voting record speaks for itself.

McCain is working hard to prove his staunch conservative credentials as he woos the far right in his party.

If he wins the presidency, the country can expect a continuation of Bush's aggressive foreign policy and ultra-right domestic programs.
I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record with McCain (see a few rants at Sitting in a Tree and He's Not the Right Man). My concern, however, is with those Democrats who want to believe that he would be a reasonable compromise candidate. He's not. I feel that same way about McCain that I did about Ralph Nader -- he can only hurt the Democratic Party, by siphoning off voters who would otherwise support a real Democratic candidate.

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