The Hill: McCain Approached Dems in 2001 About Leaving GOP Caucus
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 04:42:41 PM EDT
As if people still actually wondered if John McCain stood for anything besides his own ego and ambition, a new report from The Hill's managing editor Bob Cusack indicates that not only was John McCain interested in leaving the Senate Republican caucus in early 2001, a move that would have handed the chamber to the Democrats, but moreover his staff made the first move to the Democrats in a conversation that only ended when Vermont's Jim Jeffords eventually became an independent caucusing with the Democrats, which put the GOP in the minority in the chamber.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist.
Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain's case, they said, it was McCain's top strategist who came to them.
At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn't asked McCain to switch parties.
Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.
"You're really wondering?" Downey said he told Weaver. "What do you mean you're wondering?"
"Well, if the right people asked him," Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, "The calls will be made. Who do you want?" Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey "are very good friends."
McCain's press team is pushing back against this story -- and hard -- which is not in the least surprising because of McCain's already tenuous position among the GOP faithful in the race for the party's 2008 presidential nomination. Yet as Cusack notes, "McCain consistently shot down the rumors, though Weaver acknowledged this week that the senator did talk to Democrats about leaving the GOP" [emphasis added].
While this story, in and of itself, does not threaten to sink McCain's candidacy, it does underscore an extremely important point: John McCain is a hopelessly cynical politician willing to say or do just about anything if he believes it will advance his career. To take a prime example of this tendency, McCain only embraced the cause of campaign finance reform after he became caught up in the Keating Five fiasco, a scandal that cost several politicians their careers and nearly cost McCain his own. Yet these are far from the only examples of McCain's unscrupulousness. Just looking back through some of my posts in recent months (which don't even cover the period of time during which McCain came to George W. Bush's aid despite the fact that the two disagreed so strongly on so many issues), McCain has reversed his position on immigration reform, his recent hirings have included a lawbreaker and an employee of a man he called an agent of intolerance, and he has supported moves that would attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, among many other things.
So with this new revelation, I continue to firmly stand by my previously expressed sentiment that "McCain has proven himself to not be a man of integrity or genuineness but instead just another calculating politician willing to sell out his beliefs in the hopes of winning an election" -- though would perhaps reformulate the second half of the statement about selling out beliefs because it is not entirely clear to me that the John McCain holds any convictions whatsoever.