Monday, March 13, 2006

John McCain is a figment of your imagination

(picture via Ezra Klein)

I'm glad the netroots are finally getting around to disenfranchising the American media and public of the wildly inaccurate picture they have of John McCain, but I'd sure love to hear someone in the media besides Paul Krugman give this some air. From Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times (no link because it's behind a pay firewall):
So here's what you need to know about John McCain.

He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.

And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.

It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

This isn't all, either. , McCain was for Bush's Social Security privatization plan, and as I noted back in November, he gives speeches at racist organizations, has kneeled at the throne of Jerry Falwell (a man he demonized during the 2000 elections) and is for Intelligent Design and a gay marriage ban in Arizona (he got so much "maverick" air play for voting against a federal ban, but he actually was for it: it's just that he wanted the states to be ones who pull the trigger).

Everyone needs to understand that John McCain is great at PR and image maintenance. He has a pretty good bead on what people like to see, and he plays the part when the cameras are rolling. He's like other supposedly "moderate" Republican senators in this way, like Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, or Arlen Specter. He talks a lot of talk for the cameras, then walks into the Capitol building and meekly toes the party line, just like Snowe and Hagel weep and wail about illegal wiretapping and then cave for the president the moment he shows a hint of displeasure, or when Specter grandstands about the Senate's role to protect Americans from bad judicial nominations and then votes to confirm Sam Alito, one of the worst Supreme Court candidates since Robert Bork (and incidentally, one who did little little to hide the fact that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade-- yet Specter plays up his "pro-choice" cred every election).

I think (at least I sincerely hope) that McCain's obsequious cleaving to W will come back to bite him in '08. It just seems like a serious miscalculation to me, and it would be a fitting end for the career of a man who thrived on PR and political calculation instead of conviction and principles.

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