Now that the accolades and tributes are over, flags are raised, and funerals turned into political rallies are a thing of the recent past, it seems prudent to put John McCain’s political life in perspective. Leaving aside his military career, the perception of John McCain was that he was some kind of principled “maverick” who often stood up to his own political party and always put America first.
This writer lost any respect I may have had for McCain in 2008. During the financial crisis, then President Bush had assembled Congressional leaders as he pushed his TARP proposal. At a crucial time in the campaign, McCain suspended activity to attend this meeting and sat at a table for a great photo opportunity and little else. Meanwhile, his opponent, Obama, did not attend stating his presence would mean very little. In the end, McCain’s presence meant even less. He was no knight in white shining armor running to the rescue. It was then that this writer saw through the facade of John McCain- the maverick.
But, it went back even further. In 2000, McCain sought the GOP presidential nod. His surprise victory in New Hampshire set up a scathing, scorched-earth primary in South Carolina. Yes- Karl Rove, Lee Atwater and the Bush team played dirty with their whisper campaign involving McCain’s adopted Bengali daughter. It was not until nine days after the primary that McCain even addressed the smear campaign against him.
As for principle, McCain’s flip-flops on important issues tells another story. From 2001 or later until 2008, McCain- the originator of the “Straight Talk Express-” had changed his tune on a variety of issues. In the 2008 campaign, he was suddenly in favor of keeping the detention center for terrorists in Guantanamo open, he favored the continued embargo against Cuba, he was against gay marriage, he was in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade, he became a sudden fan of the Bush tax cuts, he was against global warming legislation, and Jerry Falwell became a “true friend.” The principled maverick Senator was anything but principled when it came to his 2008 run. It’s not that I disagree with his change of heart, but that “change of heart” smacks of hypocrisy.
One could excuse some of these changes as evolving on the issues, but there are too many issues to evolve over a short period of time. This indicates that there was not much principle there to begin with, just political expediency. In fact, on three of these flip-flops on positions, he actually voted against his own legislation.
Some have mentioned that McCain did not fit into Trump’s “pugilistic” version of the GOP. In reality, McCain did not know how to win in 2000 or in 2008. The whole maverick image is a Hollywood illusion. He loved the moniker and the praises he received from the likes of the New York Times more than he sought the approval of the people he represented in Arizona. The media found a tailor-made idol in John McCain. He was more fixated on rhetoric and bipartisanship for the sake of it more than anything.
He came to loathe the Tea Party. In Arizona, he purged the Tea Party precinct captains and his operatives installed dutiful McCain clones. One of his aids was intimately involved in getting the IRS to target Tea Party groups for audits. Funny how no liberal groups were targeted, eh? McCain’s record of bravery and being a maverick consists of one thing only: giving good quotes to reporters, sometimes parroting the very lines of the Left. When people like Jimmy Kimmel and Bernie Sanders sing your praises, you know there is a problem. To wit: McCain was a petty, vindictive man who once said Citizens United was the worst decision ever in history- that’s right: worse than Dred Scott, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Roe vs. Wade, and Kelo. Why? It struck down something with his name on it.
And, he was a fool. McCain was adored by the media. He was always there with a quote and he became the self-anointed de facto expert on everything military and international relations. He was their go-to guy…until 2008. The reason they fell out of love with McCain was because there was someone else to love- Barack Obama- and they turned on him. The media fell back in love with McCain only because the media now had a disdain for Trump and McCain said the right anti-Trump stuff. The man they dissed in 2008 became their hero eight short years later.
So, sorry…but, John McCain was no maverick and he had no real principles beyond puffing up his own media-created image. He once had a presidential nomination in his sights (2000) and he folded. In 2008, he had the nomination and instead of fighting, he again folded. Trump may be a boorish buffoon at times and he may be “pugilistic,” but there is one thing he is not: a two time loser.