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?