A year ago John McCain was the certain GOP nominee and almost a shoo-in for election—the one guy who could cross party lines and lure Democrats in a Reagan rerun.
That was then. This is now.
The Arizona senator slid down the slippery slope of immigration reform faster than an Olympic bobsled.
Yes, he was and probably still is the strongest supporter of and apologist for Bush’s war—though Giuliani runs a close second—but he also supported Bush’s “amnesty” immigration plan along with Ted Kennedy. This, the one seriously acceptable social program the administration ever proposed, remains a live third rail among Republican voters and poor McCain electrocuted himself.
A couple of months ago his funds were drying up, his staff disassembling and the punditocracy said it was all over for the Viet war hero. Likely it is—he’s just an asterisk below the Guiliani-Romney-Thompson-Huckabee leadership tier—but there is something about this guy that makes me think there’s an outside chance he could stage some kind of comeback.
If it happens it will be in New Hampshire, where he beat Bush back in 2000. (I’m not predicting this by any means—just saying it’s not out of the question.)
In any event, this media darling has starred in one of our longest-running political soap operas. He has a very conservative voting record—pro-life, pro-trade, pro-privatizing social security, anti-universal health care and so on. But somehow he is consistently attacked within the GOP for being a liberal—or, more accurately, a maverick. Unreliable.
That’s in large part because he cosponsored the campaign finance reform act with Sen. Russ Feingold. Worse yet, in the 2000 presidential he denounced the ultras of the religious right, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. (He came back to kow-tow to them a bit later, of course.)
And though he ardently supports the war and the “surge,” he is, having been tortured himself as a POW, adamantly against torture. He’s the only major Repub to state clearly that “waterboarding” is a form of torture. That’s truly a liberal, maverick position this year.
Fact is, he is volatile and can get a bit nutty. I was on a radio show with him some years ago, clearly supporting his campaign-finance legislation, but when I suggested it didn’t go far enough because it didn’t call for free television time, he went up like a skyrocket.
A couple of months ago he shouted a full-bodied scatological epithet to Sen. John Cornyn, the silver-haired lawmaker from Texas, who no doubt deserved it. But that’s also kind of a liberal-maverick thing to do, too.
So is joshing on the Daily Show with his pal Jon Stewart and bantering so often with Chris Matthews you’d think he was a co-host of the Hardball show.
In the long run, even if he manages a comeback and should strangely win the Republican nomination, Clinton’s or Obama’s people will make tacos out of him in the general election.
He remains a very interesting character, but is no longer the threat I once believed him to be.
Don Rose is our resident liberal-progressive political columnist. We just wish he would stop pulling his punches in his commentaries, get off the fence and tell us what he really thinks. (TR).