Monday, August 23, 2010
McCain's Last Embarrassing Act
“Barnacle McCain” is the way one might characterize the senior senator from Arizona, now fused so ferociously to the tidal rocks of a fifth term that he will say pretty much anything, no matter how much the utterance is at odds with his older, saner positions, in order to secure his own reelection.
I do wish that McCain had not fought the primaries as an insecure, reactive, poll-watching hack who focus-groups his way to reelection. From a first-timer, such strategic micro-tailoring would be understandable; from a fifth-timer, the whole exercise seems tawdry, unseemly, yucky.
Conservatives have always found McCain confounding, and infuriating: No one has ever counted him among the more ideological of Republican politicians, his reputation being, instead, that of an “honor” politician who laid great, often gaudy, stress on Doing the Right Thing, on being a “maverick,” a condition that bestowed a certain unpredictable magic on him while at the same time freeing him of ideological taint.
Adding to conservative consternation with McCain was the fact that much of the American media, ideologically liberal as a tribe and partisan in favor of the Democrats, treated McCain as a “hero” precisely to the extent that he dissented from conservative policies and caused trouble for the Republicans. (He is, after all, the McCain of McCain-Feingold, a law that counts among its fans a certain Barack Obama.) McCain took his biggest wrong turn when he boarded his “Straight Talk Express” and became the media’s darling, always providing pungent copy, always giving them a lead, always sniping and sneering at the “Establishment” and quite unaware that the press adored him because he was useful to them in their own soft-core anti-Americanism.
The decent thing for McCain to have done after Obama’s election would have been to say that he was calling it quits, giving way in the Senate to a politician less spent. But he didn’t. Politicians without a guiding ideology are, frequently, the ones who stay in the game longest. Manic redefinition, constant reorientation, tracking the latest directions on the ideological GPS, places them on an unending trajectory of reelection, a journey that ends only with death. The late Senator Robert Byrd was one such man; McCain, without Byrd’s godawful stains, is shaping to be another.
McCain has conducted himself like a sore and unpleasant loser since his defeat by Obama, without ever plumbing those Al Gore depths in the sore-loss stakes.
He seems to have taken deeply personal offense at the loss, and it has weakened him to the point where Hayworth, a Tea Party caricature whom Palin cannot bring herself to support, has forced McCain to spend $20 million to defend his Senate seat. Insecurity is a very expensive vice.
He’s differed from many in the GOP on immigration, the environment, and campaign finance.
I don’t think he cares much about the social issues.
One is almost inclined to feel sorry for him.
Posted by Rachel Alexander at Monday, August 23, 2010