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.

Chris Matthews is a McCain groupie. Tweety had McCain on Whiffleball this week and had his head so far up McCain's bung hole that you could see the soles of Tweety's shoes.

Even though McCain is the 4th most conservative Senator at 14 places to the right of Trent Lott, he is still running further to the right:

"He thinks, not necessarily incorrectly, that he can pick off a few of us," says David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which rates conservative lawmakers. "It adds up to making him acceptable. He doesn't need 65 percent of the party to adore him, but he needs to defang their hostility." In this effort, McCain has been criticizing Republicans mostly from the right, shrewdly bolstering both his anti-establishment and conservative credentials--largely through appeals to what he calls "one of the bases of the Republican Party, a very important one, that believes in fiscal restraint and fiscal discipline." McCain has signed a "No Pork Pledge," fought against wasteful bridges in Alaska and urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral."

At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government." The routine has won him praise from the likes of National Review editor Rich Lowry, who recently wrote: "For the first time in years, conservatives have listened to McCain talk about a high-profile domestic issue and have nodded their heads vigorously."

In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL. Citizens Against Government Waste dubs him a "taxpayer hero."

He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

Naturally, McCain is still not "conservative" enough for Grover Norquist. Ghengis Khan would be too liberal for Grover Norquist.

But right-wing Republicans like Norquist still hold McCain's occasional moderation and rebel style in deep suspicion. Many observers believe they will rally around a more ideologically pure candidate like Senator George Allen of Virginia or Sam Brownback of Kansas. "The politicized, active part of the Republican base has been stepped on by McCain," says Norquist, citing McCain's opposition to Bush's tax cuts as well as his support for greenhouse gas reductions and his pioneering of contemporary campaign-finance reform. "It'd be hard to imagine we'd be supporting Senator McCain," agrees former Congressman Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth.

Some of that criticism can be chalked up to McCain's testy relationship with parts of the GOP's Beltway establishment. Toomey's Club for Growth is being sued by the Federal Election Commission for violating a section of the campaign-finance laws that McCain wrote. Norquist is implicated in McCain's current investigation of how über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed milked millions in casino money from unsuspecting Indian tribes. But among social conservatives, McCain's standing is unquestionably precarious. Though he has always voted with the right on abortion, McCain opposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (on states' rights grounds). He supports expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and he helped preserve the filibuster by stalling the "nuclear option" for judicial nominees in the Senate.

The voters are going to be seeing a lot of Two Faced McCain:

Over the next year, we're bound to see both sides of McCain. He'll continue to push for noteworthy reforms in the Senate--on torture, lobbying, defense procurement, immigration and other issues--while quietly and not-so-quietly courting elements of the conservative base. Right now, he's offering Republican activists a firm handshake. If it ever becomes a bear hug, akin to his embrace of Bush on the campaign trail in 2004, the John McCain of '08 may look quite different to moderates and independents from the John McCain they think they know now. If the heir to Barry Goldwater emerges as the new face of conservatism, it'll be clear that even straight talkers know how to spin.

Tags: 2008, General 2008, John McCain (all tags)

Comments

24 Comments

Another scary article
The Mark of McCain ... worth a re-read.
by Freedom 2005-11-24 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Another scary article
Yowza! The subtitle says it all. Meet The Senator Most Likely To Start A Nuclear War

Great find Freedom!

by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-24 03:04PM | 0 recs
Lynn Cheney agrees

John McCain is a bad, bad man.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-24 04:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Lynn Cheney agrees
Great blog! But any reference to McCain is Oblique at best. My terrible permanent-eyes- crossed malady is acting up again...
by blues 2005-11-25 01:25PM | 0 recs
Why is he allegedly popular with some on the left?
He's not a "straight talker" - that's just a product of brilliant marketing directed at the lazy sycophants in our incompetent national media. Oh look, there's another shiny bauble! It's the same game that planted the meme in 2000 that dubya would be "more fun" to have a beer with at a backyard picnic - I don't know about you, but I've never find it to be much fun to hang out with chronically underachieving wealthy former frat boys who hand out stupid nicknames and had the potential to puke on my prime minister's shoes (okay that was dad - who had the flu - but, you get my point).  

He's to the right of Attila the Hun (and to the left of Grover Norquist, but who isn't?).

He enables dubya and his administration. That's a long and very sorry list.

He's a republican (That's reason enough to not vote for him, at least from the perspective of my parents in Arizona who never have and never will).

Gee, he's "good" on torture. Sure hope he gets that torture amendment passed. Yeah, right. The reality is - torture is already absolutely forbidden under U.S. law, treaty obligations, and the peremptory norms of international law. He hasn't asked if dubya signed any executive order(s) - "secret", "super double secret" or otherwise - relating to such behaviors, has he? He should be holding hearings and talking about impeachment, but he won't.    

He'll never get my vote. I'd sooner vote for st. ralph (that'll never happen, either) than John McCain - and that about says it all.

by Michael Bersin 2005-11-25 01:47AM | 0 recs
Unbeatable
McCain is turning out to be a master politician. He came out as a maverick against the far-right in 2000. This is what defined him as a "maverick" and a "moderate". Yet, he's spent every moment since his defeat courting those who defeated him -- the far right. And he's been able to do so without shedding his "maverick" status. This is what makes him unbeatable in a general, and perhaps, even in the Republican primaries.

The question is, what is he really? What will he do if elected?

by LiberalFromPA 2005-11-25 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Unbeatable
Karl Rove beat him in 2000.

As for the "conventional wisdom" from the media about larger than life potential presidential candidates - I have two words for you: John Glenn.

John McCain will have a substantially less than "maverick" record from 2000 to 2008.

...The question is, what is he really? What will he do if elected?

His record answers those questions.

Now, the real question for those Democrats who insist on deifying him is: "When are you going to stop with the mindless hagiography and start criticizing his real record of enabling the dubya administration in its grotesque failures?"

by Michael Bersin 2005-11-25 08:50AM | 0 recs
McCain is a Senator
Why on earth would anyone assume that McCain's record as a Senator is unassailble, while the conventional wisdom in the liberal blogosphere is that any Democratic Senator is unelectable because of their Senate record?

Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Internal cognitive dissonance meter triggering exploding head syndome! Danger! Danger!

by Gary Boatwright 2005-11-25 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain is a Senator
Professor smith, I see, is up to no good.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-11-25 10:08AM | 0 recs
Maverick
His record will show he's not maverick, but the MSM continues (and will continue) to perpetuate this falsehood. It would be too much work for them to go against the image they've helped create of this guy.

I think his maverick/moderate status will stay in the public mind. The Democrats have a serious uphill battle on trying to combat this, and the MSM will resist them.

by LiberalFromPA 2005-11-25 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Maverick
Then let's make it our mission to not enable the media by not repeating their conventional wisdom.

Challenge them here and everywhere.

by Michael Bersin 2005-11-25 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Maverick -- The New Game.
It's not "The Media." It's not the "Main Stream Media." It's now the Media Conspiracy. As in MEDCON.
by blues 2005-11-25 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Maverick -- The New Game.
...It's now the Media Conspiracy. As in MEDCON...

That works for me. Though, our media of dubya enablers are uncurious, lazy, and stupid. Did I mention that they were lazy?

by Michael Bersin 2005-11-25 02:55PM | 0 recs
Flip The 'Maverick' Label--He Strays From Truth...
So, if the media's addicted to calling him a maverick, why not use that against him?  A maverick is one who strays. And that certinaly describes McCain in a number of ways.  

In 2000, he lambasts the same folks he's now making nicey-nice with.  Early in the 2004, he warns against sliming Kerry's patriotism, but then when Kerry is slimed, he steps in to protect Bush from Kerry's counter-attack.  And, of course, he was long postured as a straight-talking critic of Bush. But, who's that getting a birthday cake from Bush, with a shit-eating grin on his face, the very day that pictures of flooded New Orleans flashed around the globe?  Yup, it's John McCain, straying from his independent, straight-shooter image once again.

Put it this way: in the image-driven world of American politics, John McCain is a maverick. He does all the things I mentioned above, and more. But in the real world of American politics--seen in his Senate voting record--he's the 4th most conservative Senator in this Congress.  In the real world, he's no maverick at all.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-11-25 05:53PM | 0 recs
He wont win in 08
As the article notes, Allen and Brownback, and maybe even governors like Hcukabee and Barbour are more appealing to the base. If the entire field was filled with social liberals like Pataki and Giulaini and McCain, then he might have a shot. Also, correcy me if I wrong, but I think he has a cosponsored some legislation with Ted Kennedy to implement guest worker, the plan that the right wing hates. So Ted Kennedy and John McCain agree on immgration. The GOP primary ad just writes itself.
by jj32 2005-11-25 12:00PM | 0 recs
Worth the re-post:
McCain is anti-choice, a bigger neocon warmonger than Bush (he wants more troops), and viscerally anti-gay.  He has publically endorsed the proposed amendment to Arizona's state Constitution for the 2006 Arizona ballot that would ban not only gay marriage AND civil unions, but also any legal agreement entered into by gay people.  It's just as draconian of a measure as Ohio's was in 2004.

He's also mentally unfit to be president and does not have the temperment to be president.  Whilst working against the NAFTA Treaty in 1994 in Arizona, he told me to my face to, "watch my step."  This was after I had dared to argue with him about the effects of the treaty.  He was redfaced and flushed he was so angry.

John McCain is an asshole of the first magnitude.

by jgarcia 2005-11-25 12:38PM | 0 recs
The Neocons Are So Principle-Driven?
Doubt that. Very, very much doubt that. Their idea it to find someone with some cloakable mental infirmity -- make him or her king or queen -- and then be in a position to yank that cloak at their own pleasure. Their game is played with shadow puppets.
by blues 2005-11-25 12:55PM | 0 recs
If he's the nom, we're dead
Yes we all know he's a fraud.  But the MSM adores him; and too many rank-and-file Dems have been suckered in.  Once a "theme" is ingrained, it takes years to bleach it out.  Witness the 35 percent that still -- and will always -- support Bush. The press ass-kissing of McCain will make their treatment of Bush look like hatred.
by tuffie 2005-11-25 03:19PM | 0 recs
McCain is posited, over and over,
as a maverick, main stream, moderate.  This is exactly what W. said he was, and he sold it - hook, line, and sinker.   I think left talk shows, blogs, etc. need to start talking about McCain for what he is.  My fear is that he will be our next President, and we will be f*cked again.  Hillary loses to him big time - not that I'm any fan of hers, either.   Watch out for McCain. Now is not to soon to take him down.....
by oakland 2005-11-25 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain is posited, over and over,
Uh, no.  That's leftwing anti-Hillary spin.  HRC is the only one who comes close to McCain.  She loses against him 44-42 according to the last Gallup poll that measured it.  McCain wins HUGE against ALL other potential Dem challengers including Edwards, Kerry, Clark, and even Gore.

HRC can be him.  She's the only one who can because of her take-no-prisoners campaign people like Begala and Carville and Greenber and Lewis.  Oh, and don't forget Bill.

by jgarcia 2005-11-25 04:38PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain is posited, over and over,
Polls at this point, 3 years in front of the election, are a hair's breath short of totally meaningless.  It's a little early to pick a presidential candidate based on who can beat McCain in a hypothetical 2-way.
by arenwin 2005-11-25 07:47PM | 0 recs
HRC can *beat* him.
by jgarcia 2005-11-25 04:39PM | 0 recs
there is no crisis
I'm not going to lose sleep over the aura of inevitability that surrounds discussions of McCain in the general election.  There's no emergency here, and it would be a serious mistake to start thinking about our own candidates in terms of how they stack up against him.

The media myth that McCain is a hero of moderation won't survive in the bright lights of a campaign unless his opponent allows it to - these mystiques can come crashing down very, very fast when they're truly built on hot air.  (Remember Ross Perot?  The man who could make DC run like a business?  There are at least a few examples from every election cycle.)

The media are lazy, but they also like to change the story they're telling now and again.  By 2008 if not before, they'll be bored, and ready for a new one.  Now is the time to start laying the groundwork so that we're ready to provide it to them.  The materials Gary quotes show that a good start on this has already been made.

by arenwin 2005-11-25 08:05PM | 0 recs
Yes! Let the truth about McCain come out!
I have wondered for years why Democrats are so willing to embrace McCain -- and that includes liberal Democrats! Of course it is always refreshing when a Republican breaks away from the group speak of the right, and McCain has done that a few times, but it has never changed his rock bottom conservatism on issues that should be important to Democrats. And when he joined the Bush campaign, and then, the Schwarzenegger campaign that should have been the end. But you still hear of Democrats who vow they will vote for him if he runs! What craziness!
by SharonToji 2005-11-27 10:14AM | 0 recs

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