Sunday, July 11, 2010

Slate: The Saddest Senator Why John McCain has become so painful to watch

The left also thinks McCain's fake turn to the right during the primary is pathetic. Some excerpts from the article -

I've stopped reading news about John McCain for the same reason I tune out the daily updates on Afghanistan and the BP oil spill: It's just too damned depressing.

In the last few months, McCain has flipped his position on dropping the military's anti-gay "don't ask, don't tell" policy, soft-pedaled his support for climate-change legislation, and dropped his support for humane, comprehensive immigration reform. In just the past week, he has come out against Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination on the lamest of grounds and defended Arizona's ugly anti-immigrant law against challenge by the Justice Department.

It's hard to believe that this is the same guy who, a decade ago, was denouncing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance," who reduced Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a sputtering rage with his efforts to ban soft money, who opposed Bush's tax cuts, and who stood up to Dick Cheney on the treatment of accused terrorists. When McCain told Newsweek earlier this year that he has never considered himself a "maverick," it sounded like another confession under duress, with the Tea Party standing in for the Viet Cong.

This is the conventional interpretation of McCain's collapse: that he has had to fall into line because of the primary challenge he faces in Arizona. Lindsay Graham—who has gone from McCain understudy to McCain replacement in the role of "sane Senate Republican not from Maine"—said as much in a recent interview with the journalist Robert Draper: "John's got a primary. He's got to focus on getting re-elected." The Republican running against McCain, J.D. Hayworth, a former member of the House and popular talk radio host, has pressed hard on the hot button of immigration, charging McCain with supporting "amnesty," an unfriendly characterization of McCain's former view that it would be cruel as well as impractical to try to deport the approximately 12 million people who are in the United States illegally. By Graham's hopeful logic, McCain will begin edging back to the center once he secures his party's nomination in late August and, if re-elected, will throw off his chains and do his maverick dance once more.

To some extent, this is a matter of physical decline. As the inside account of his campaign in Game Change makes clear, fatigue brought out McCain's cranky side. With his stiffness from war injuries and scars from cancer surgeries, McCain looks older than a lot of 73-year-olds—and apparently feels older, too. The other factor may be the reactivation of McCain's powerful sense of dishonor.

After he ended his 2000 presidential campaign, McCain returned to South Carolina, where he lost the primary to George Bush, and apologized for not opposing the flying of the Confederate flag over the State Capitol. "I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth," he said.

If, as I suspect, McCain relives his 2008 failure as a shame on the scale of these other events, he can't simply apologize again. Surrounding himself with lobbyists, truckling to the right, and reversing a series of positions were the essence of his campaign, not momentary lapses.

So instead of grappling with his damaged honor the way he has in the past, by examining his soul and apologizing, McCain has retreated into a kind of political second childhood.

But as disappointed as some of us may be with the latest John McCain, I suspect he is even more disappointed with himself.

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