Wither the Maverick

I used to have a certain respect for McCain. Sometimes I agreed with him, most times I didn’t. In the era of hyper-partisanship, I thought his work with Feingold on campaign finance reform showed a willingness to reach across the isle that has been missing from politics for years. Yes you can argue the results weren’t what was planned, or that the bill itself was a failure giving rise to the 527s and I’d probably agree with you.

McCain’s total and complete collapse into the gutter sewer (more apropos) this week has left me wondering what happened to that Maverick person that I respected. Two important articles popped up today. The first from Jonathan Alter over at Newsweek. After lamenting wallowing that McCain is currently doing he points out:

The real question is what all of this might mean for a McCain presidency. The list of troubling portents is growing long: repeated campaign staff upheavals reflecting poor management skills; abrupt reversals on big issues like tax cuts and relations with Russia (where he was superhawk one day and superdove the next); shameless pandering on a gas-tax holiday that even his own economic advisers think is a joke; confused handling of Social Security that annoys all sides of the debate; bogus charges (e.g., Obama is causing high gas prices, Obama didn’t visit wounded soldiers because he couldn’t take the press) that undermine his integrity; and an angry, bunker mentality among aides that one GOP operative, fearing excommunication from Team McCain if identified, describes as “lacking only a Luger and a cyanide pill.”

Victory for McCain would hardly prove redemptive. “You can’t govern winning this way,” Weaver says. “We’ve seen that after the last two elections.” And defeat would leave John McCain feeling more than the usual depression, wondering why he mortgaged his precious personal honor just to trade up to the White House.

That last graph is key. If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that governing by shitting all over the opposition only works if your party controls the legislature. The GOP doesn’t and in fact stands to loose ground. Campaigning this way is the definition of failure and will only ensure he’s a lame duck when he takes the oath of office. We’ve huge issues that need to be dealt with and need a functional government.

As pointed out by John Heilemann’s excellent article in the New York Magazine:

Many of McCain’s advisers from 2000, such as John Weaver and Mike Murphy, express qualms about the campaign’s newly nasty tone. (One can only imagine the sigh of relief emanating from Mark McKinnon, the heralded adman who helped McCain win the nomination but whose aversion to taking a cleaver to Obama caused him to sit out the general.) “In this kind of year—a change election, with big issues at stake—that sort of campaign is not gonna be in a voice the American people can understand,” Weaver tells me. “And at some point, John will need the goodwill that he spent years achieving.” And you think he’s in danger of losing that? “This is not a cost-free exercise,” he says.

Absolutely right.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten myself all excited when John McCain promised to run a respectful campaign.

Really is the GOP so bad off that even their “mavericks” need to wallow and fling shit around to “win”


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