July 16, 2007
The McCain Meltdown
sounded so promising, the idea of John McCain running for president in
2008. A celebrated war hero, and a man respected by members of both
parties like few men in politics, McCain had the added distinction of
being defeated in vicious fashion eight years previously, in a race that
many, many Americans likely wish in retrospect had gone the other way.
But now, the summer prior to the year of election, McCain’s second
presidential campaign appears dead. He’s far behind in the polls, has
raised little money, and last week, three of his most-trusted longtime
advisors – including strategist John Weaver and speechwriter/book
co-author Mark Salter – exited or greatly reduced their roles in the
what went wrong? Many things. McCain apparently assumed, incorrectly,
that the Republican tradition of handing the presidential nomination to
the person whose “turn” it is would hold. It hasn’t. His candidacy has
lost what made the 2000 version unique – its newness and hunger for
reform – and never found a reason to exist beyond that. Plus, McCain is
old (now 71), and looking older than ever, especially in his lackluster
debate performances. In the first, he vowed to follow Osama Bin Laden
“into hell,” before grinning maniacally.
Making matters worse, the “outsider” label has fallen to fellow
Republican/future candidate Fred Thompson, while the “newcomer who may
transcend politics” mantle is being taken up by Barack Obama, who
appears even better at putting forward that sort of message than McCain
was the first time around.
And, perhaps worst of all for the McCain candidacy, his occasional
forays into political centrism has absolutely ruined him with the
conservative base. When McCain met with the since-deceased Jerry Falwell,
after having lambasted him as an “agent of intolerance” just a few years
earlier, it made absolutely no one happy. Moderates saw him as a
sellout, while conservatives believed him a panderer.
McCain, unquestionably, has bungled things greatly with this campaign
strategically. But regardless, he remains significantly more qualified
for the presidency than any of the other major Republican candidates,
especially the ever-more-pandering Mitt Romney and the increasingly
unhinged Rudy Giuliani.
Even I, as a liberal-leaning Democrat, have often wished – especially
around 9/11 and the initial prosecution of the Iraq war – that McCain
and not Bush had been president the past years, a wish I’ve rarely had
about, say, Al Gore. Then again, that’s part of the problem. McCain may
be essentially a down-the-line conservative who has never pretended to
be anything but, but he’s taken the more liberal side on such issues as
immigration reform, the “Gang of 14” compromise on judicial appointments
and torture. The latter is a position on which, as one who has been
tortured himself, he certainly holds the moral high ground.
a result of this, the senator is considerably more respected by both the
press and by liberals in general than your typical veteran Republican
lawmaker. Democrats even attempted to draft him as vice president in
2004. As McCain’s crumbling candidacy shows, nothing portends pure death
for a Republican candidate than respect from the media and/or liberals.
McCain, over the years, was often rumored to follow in the footsteps of
his idol, Theodore Roosevelt, and pursue an independent run at the
presidency late in his career. Perhaps 2004 would have been the time to
do it, especially at a time when Americans were both craving strong
military leadership and highly dissatisfied with both hateful political
partisanship and the two main candidates themselves.
But instead, McCain chose to reject John Kerry’s offer to be his running
mate, endorsed Bush and largely sat out the ’04 campaign, running for
president four years later at exactly the wrong time.
Could McCain still make a comeback? That’s very possible. After all, at
this time in 2004, John Kerry’s bid also appeared dead in the water, and
he had already been through at least one of the 50 or so personnel
shakeups of that cycle. But with little money and no natural base of
support, it appears McCain’s second presidential campaign will have
little in common with his first, except for the part about losing.
© 2007 North Star Writers
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