Me: A lot of Dems would have been proud to run with McCain, or have McCain run with them, before '06. A lot about him has changed in just the past few months, though, and I'm very saddened to see it.
Friend: What specifically has changed? I haven't noticed much of a difference ... but then again I've only been following McCain since January.
I’ve made several blog posts about what I don’t like about McCain’s 2008 campaign, but as I haven’t actually compared those negatives to the 2000 campaign, I’d like to answer my friend’s question with a blog post.
I’ve been following McCain since December ’99 (not long for a 60 year old junkie, but quite some time for a lad of just 21), supported him in ’00 (yes, over both Bradley and Gore), and donated to his primary campaign as recently as January of this year. Unfortunately I believe things began to change with him late last summer – perhaps not with his values and inner core, but he seems to have lost sight of those values and that inner core. I did not realize this until only a month or two ago, as my admiration for him put me in denial. Opening my eyes has been an almost heartbreaking process. I hate to watch people fall from grace, as I enjoy admiring good men, but much to my chagrin, that is exactly what I believe is happening to McCain. Here are just four of many examples.
One. In 2000 and years after, McCain was about the biggest political celebrity in decades, and embraced the media as his base – but this year, watching someone else eclipse his celebrity, he has attacked Obama’s fame as a primary reason the Democrat shouldn’t be President, and mocked the press for daring to give someone else positive coverage. Odd that he didn’t mock the press when it was HE who was the celebrity getting positive coverage. Do you really think that, if 250,000 people turned up to hear MCCAIN speech, he would turn them away? I find this criticism hypocritical, and it is probably based in jealousy.
Two. In 2000, when Bush and external Republicans groups attacked McCain’s character – bad for veterans, has a black lovechild, etc. – he was livid, furious that they would engage in slime like that. Today, however, he insists Obama doesn’t really believe the things he says about Iraq and that he only says them for political expediency, despite no actual evidence to suggest Obama believes otherwise. He’s been jumping on the littlest things, suggesting Obama is playing the race card in a heinous way for even mentioning race in passing. That’s abandoning his core principles of positive campaigns and basic civility and decency.
Three. The McCain of 2000 gave us straight talk – it wasn’t just a campaign slogan; it really was the real deal. Yet now we’re getting this baloney that “Drill now, drill here!” is the answer to our current gas price problems, even though the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED Department of Energy says expanded offshore drilling won’t influence gas prices for another 22 years. It may or may not be a good long-term strategy, but it’s not the short-term solution McCain claims it is, and there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise, yet he persists.
Four. In 2000, McCain’s background as a POW was a well-known part of his biography, but he didn’t harp on it. He told us he was reluctant to talk about it, and we believed him, and admired him for it. Yet today, every time someone tries to criticize McCain for anything, it’s what his campaign responds with - he can’t remember how many houses he owns? POW. He wasn’t in a cone of silence at the Saddleback forum? POW. He (probably accidentally) suggested his wife compete in a topless beauty pageant? POW. It’s reaching Rudy 9/11-esque levels. A noun, a verb, and POW. I agree that the way he behaved in the Hanoi Hilton 40 years ago was exceptionally admirable, but it has nothing to do with his ability to make sound economic decisions or even direct battlefield strategy, and it certainly has nothing to do with the rules of the Saddleback forum. That’s just silly, and it offends me that he would use such a sacrosanct story in such a cavalier, political fashion.
McCain, at his core, is a great American, but he replaced his maverick Senate careers and his great 2000 campaign of honesty and bold ideas with the negative ads and unfounded character smears he used to decry, with misleading policy proposals where once a quest for truth stood, and with a striking attitude of anger and bitterness that just wasn’t present before. I denied these changes in tone for quite some time, and still don’t agree with every attack and piece of spin from the Obama camp or the DNC, but the fact is, some of those attacks and some of that spin is actually true. There’s been a sea change, and while I hate to admit it, I just can’t ignore it anymore. McCain is one of the best senators we have ever had, but he would be one of the worst presidents.
Here are four relevant links:
Two columns from Maureen Dowd, who I usually find to be sour, empty, and spiteful but actually nailed it in her column on McCain’s envy and on how his overuse of the POW story cheapens his true heroism.
Two past blog posts of mine: “I Miss John McCain” and “The Economic Hubris of John McCain”.