Slate on McCain: "The Bush Hugger"

John Dickerson at Slate has an interesting read on the ability of John McCain to snuggle up to President Bush seemingly without hurting his own political prospects. The piece is a bit fawning for my taste, but that's what we've come to express from the establishment media when it comes to coverage of McCain. Dickerson does do a decent job of giving the time line of McCain's emergence as one of Bush's closest allies.McCain's rapprochement with Bush got going in 2004, when the senator campaigned with Bush to help him win back moderate Republicans disenchanted over the war in Iraq. In a gesture seen by millions of viewers, he sat with Bush's family during one of the presidential debates. Afterward, McCain criticized John Kerry's views on national security, despite his friendship with the Democratic nominee. When rumors surfaced during the race that McCain might replace Dick Cheney, McCain campaigned with the vice president to stop the whispers. "He was there whenever we needed him," said a Bush staff member days before the election. Recently, when Cheney refuted charges that the president manipulated prewar intelligence, he quoted the senator: "As John McCain says, it is a lie to say that the president lied."

This support for Bush is yielding support for McCain in turn. Just three weeks ago, McCain's political action committee took in $1 million in just one week. Many of the professional Republicans who helped to kill his candidacy when he ran against Bush in 2000 now write him $5,000 checks—the full amount allowed by law.

This is essentially what it should come down to for anyone who buys into the myth that John McCain is a moderate. Forget Dickerson's baseless claims that McCain is "winking" as he embraces Bush. Just listen to what the Bush administration says about the so-called maverick. "He was there whenever we needed him." And yet somehow McCain is going to sell himself as an independent in 2008? Ridiculous.

The Real McCain

Bumped by Matt.

Hat tip to Nathan Newman at The House of Labor over at TPM Cafe for an article about McCain in the current issue of The Nation, The Real McCain.

The Nation has gotten on board the McCain Truthsquad bandwagon started by Matt Stoller in these diaries:

Two Faced McCain

Follow Up On McCain

The McCain Scam

This is the starting point for Ari Berman's article:

The détente with conservatives that began with his vigorous embrace of Bush during the 2004 campaign has become a full-on charm offensive.    .  .  .    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.

There's more...

Two-Faced McCain: "I'm not racist, I just hang out with racists."

More fun from liberal star John McCain:

Today, Senator John McCain is heading to Alabama to host a fundraiser for George Wallace Jr., who is running for Lieutenant Governor in a contested primary. Wallace has given four speeches in front of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group that was created from the mailing list of the old White Citizens Councils and has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as growing more openly "radical and racist" in recent years. However, Wallace claims he sees "nothing hateful" in the group which opposes interracial marriage, hate crime legislation, and "Afrocentric" education in schools. In 2000, McCain took George Bush to task for speaking at Bob Jones University without condemning their policy against interracial dating.

This is just like McCain backing Intelligent Design or his near perfect extreme record on abortion.  No one really gets that he's cutting deals with crypto-racists and right-wing nuts, so he can present himself as a moderate reformer.  He's not.  He's two-faced.  He'll cut deals with extremists, and then cut deals with moderates, telling everyone what they want to hear.

McCain Follow-Up

There were some fabulous comments on my earlier post about John McCain.  You should read them.  Here are some things people brought up:

  • John McCain voted to convict Clinton on two counts.

  • John McCain supports teaching creationism in schools.

  • John McCain supports a ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

  • John McCain is strongly anti-choice.

  • John McCain is strongly pro-war and defends this administration's conduct whenever possible.

Now one thing to keep in mind is that McCain is the Chair of the Committee on Indian Affairs, and has the means and ability to leak and sink Jack Abramoff and his ilk, since they dislike him intensely.  McCain might even be conducting a little house cleaning in the party to get rid of the corruption, so he can run in 2008 on a clean government platform.

Don't be fooled.  This guy's as partisan and vicious as they come.

'Reform Republicans' - The McCain Scam

Liberals love John McCain.  Whether it was the torture amendment or him as a dream VP, McCain has a romantic bipartisan sheen that attracts Democrats.  For instance, back in May, 66% of liberals had a favorable impression of McCain, which was at the time higher than Howard Dean.  Part of this is because McCain is not nearly as crazy as Bush, and part of it is bills like McCain-Feingold that showed a real commitment to reform of something, even if he isn't actually competent enough to pull it off.

But a great deal of it is that liberals lay off him, and often embrace him (read Newsweek's sickening account of the 2004 election campaign to see a simpering John Kerry begging John McCain to run with him).  'Moderate' Repulicans McCain and Giuliani were the only surrogates that Doug Forrester could bring into New Jersey towards the end of the Governor's race, and both cohered nicely with Doug Forrester's moderately extreme messaging.  All the other surrogates had been effectively trashed by their own allegiance to Bush, but not these two.

Liberals shouldn't fall for it.  John McCain is a corrupt Republican, just like Bush.  He doesn't play to the base, preferring instead a 'good government' bipartisan strategy, but he's corrupt, mean-spirited, and puts his ambition above everything else.  As Ian pointed out, McCain voted to strip habeas corpus rights in a messy vicious bill.  Ian goes on:

Can't torture them, but as long as DOD rules are followed we can lock 'em up forever with no civilian judicial review. And who determines DOD rules? Rumsfeld.

Brilliant. Just Brilliant.

McCain is playing people. He voted for the most fundamental violation of rights possible. If you don't have habeas corpus, you have nothing. "We must not torture them once we throw them in our gulags." Anyone who takes him as a hero because he proposes an amendment that bans torture, while voting against habeas corpus for those prisoners at the same time, is simply a sucker who just got played.

Ian is right.  Liberals who like McCain are being played - go through his FEC reports and you'll find a very similar set of business interest donations to the standard Republican.  And lest we forget, John McCain has a sordid history of corruption for business interests.

McCain was one of five senators who met with regulators in 1987 and encouraged them to ease up on Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under scrutiny for risky investment practices. The government ended up bailing out the S&L's federally insured depositors two years later at a cost to taxpayers of $3.4 billion, and Keating served several years in prison for fraud, although his conviction was later reversed because of juror misconduct.

Between 1982 and 1987, Keating had steered $1.4 million in campaign contributions and gifts to the five senators. McCain had received $112,000 of that, along with nine trips on Keating's jets to the Bahamas and elsewhere.

Although the bank regulators later said they felt pressured by the Keating Five's intervention, the senators insisted they were not trying to exert inappropriate influence. McCain even said as much during one of the two meetings. "I would not want any special favors for them," he said, according to notes taken by one regulator. "I do not want any part of our conversation to be improper."

But when the meetings were publicly exposed, leading to 23 days of congressional hearings, McCain had an epiphany. "The thing I learned was that it's not only impropriety that counts," he said during his 2000 presidential campaign. "It's the appearance that's just as important."

Whether McCain really learned that lesson is debatable. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he received hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies affected by the committee's work, and he has repeatedly been criticized for intervening with regulators on behalf of businesses whose employees gave him money, including Paxson Communications and AT&T.

But the alleged business corruption is really not the issue - the issue is his hypocrisy.  Let's go back to torture - everyone knew torture was happening during the 2004 election campaign, yet John McCain hugged Bush and supported him anyway.  

The next President will be the person who can effectively call himself or herself a government reformer, who will save the country from insider DC Bush politicians.  Republicans know this, which is why the idea that there's some war inside the party instead of a subtle rebranding strikes me as a bit naive.  Witness the 'Bush is a liberal' idea that's floating among right-wingers.

So liberals need to ask ourselves a question every time we fete McCain or lay off the punches.  Do we want John McCain to be the next President, and have four more years of debt, incompetence, and war?


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