Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 8, 2010

A 'MAVERICK' NO MORE.... The whole point of John McCain's "maverick" persona was the notion that he's an unconventional Republican. He doesn't sound and act like all of those other guys -- McCain likes to work across party lines, the theory goes, and bring disparate people together.

Maybe now the political establishment can drop the pretense that this persona still exists.

John McCain has released the first two ads of his 2010 Senate reelection campaign, and he's got some sharp words for President Obama, possibly the sharpest he's offered yet.

"President Obama is leading an extreme, left wing crusade to bankrupt America. I stand in his way every day. If I get a bruise or two knocking some sense into heads in Washington, so be it. I'll keep fighting for jobs and economic growth for Arizona as long as I'm in the Senate," McCain says in one of them.

"My lot in life has been to wage war against wrong, like today's massive spend at the worst possible time," he says in the other. A narrator calls McCain "Arizona's last line of defense" against Obama's agenda and says McCain leads the charge against "ridiculously unaffordable ideas like government-run health care."

By some estimations, McCain's new ad campaign makes it sound as if fighting against the White House is more important than the Cold War and counter-terrorism.

Substantively, this hyperbole is obviously silly. President Obama is obviously not an extremist; his agenda is not a "left-wing crusade"; he doesn't want to "bankrupt" the country; and the reform plan has nothing to do with "government-run health care." No serious person could make any of these arguments with a straight face.

But McCain's saying these absurd things anyway. Ben Smith had an interesting response to the new message: "A far cry from the old McCain image."

Quite right. The "maverick" is gone, replaced with just another far-right Republican offering bizarre attacks against the president. It's a reminder of the tragedy of John McCain.

He, perhaps more than any Republican lawmaker of this generation, had an opportunity to become a giant. The media loved him. The public respected him. His rivals perceived him as a reasonable, honorable man. Over many years, he cultivated a reputation that most politicians would kill for.

In his quest to be president, McCain threw it all away. Offered a chance to reclaim the mantle, and with President Obama extending an outreached hand, McCain has chosen to let the opportunity again pass him by, preferring instead to be little more than a petty, tiresome far-right partisan, undistinguished from his fellow petty, tiresome far-right partisans.

"His political epitaph is going to be dictated by how he conducts himself in next six or 13 years," John Weaver, formerly one of McCain's closest advisers, recently said. "Will he be seen as a giant of the Senate who came back from a presidential loss like Scoop Jackson, Robert Taft or Ted Kennedy, or will he go down a different path? Only he can decide it."

He's already decided. What a waste.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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"Will he be seen as a giant of the Senate who came back from a presidential loss like Scoop Jackson, Robert Taft or Ted Kennedy, or will he go down a different path? Only he can decide it."

"Scoop" Jackson? What did he do besides trying to help destroy the Democratic Party(since the DLC'ers list him as an inspiration .. and maybe he actually started the DLC .. I am not sure)?

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on January 8, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

As far as I know Scoop Jackson had nothing to do with the DLC. He was really hawkish on foreign policy, but a pretty standard liberal on domestic policy. The DLC wasn't founded until two years after Jackson's death.

At any rate, it's worth noting that McCain doesn't really have the leisure to be a maverick anymore. He's got a serious primary challenge on his hands, and would probably lose in the primary if he was working with Obama on stuff. Not that that really excuses him, but it's worth remembering.

Posted by: John on January 8, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Why does irresponsible John McCain think deficits are "left wing" and "bankrupting America?"

George Bush flipped the federal budget into massive deficits from large Clinton-era surplusses. Where were the left wing charges then?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 8, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Remember, he's campaigning in a state that thinks an ignorant racist and fascist pig like Joe Arpaio is what's needed for effective law enforcement.

Not said as a defense of Wet-Start Johnny, but if you think McCain is bad, he's campaigning against a space alien.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 8, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

McCain was always a disgrace to the name of "Maverick." Samuel Maverick, the original "Maverick," was a Texas Unionist at the time of the Civil War, and his grandson Maury Maverick was an ardent New Dealer congressman and mayor of San Antonio who was redbaited by the forerunners of today's Texas Teabaggers. Both have extensive, interesting biographies on Wikipedia. Going with the rightwing flow never made anyone a maverick, and it never will.

Posted by: ericfree on January 8, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you're missing the point. McCain has always been a "petty, tiresome far-right partisan." He hasn't, and probably can't, change. The only difference between then and now is that the presidential campaign has given him too much real (not media-managed) public exposure.

In the years before, he was known to the public, but not really all that well. His handlers and his many friends in the media were able to manage his public image. They turned his actual personality -- hot-headed, ill-informed, spiteful -- into the "Maverick" label.

The campaign exposed McCain for what he really is. And as valiantly as some in the media might try, there's no going back.

Posted by: drew42 on January 8, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

He lost the Presidential election on empty rhetoric (with his culture whore sidekick) and he continues to be a loser with empty rhetoric. Gawd help the stupid white christian people of Arizona; that's all I've ever seen there anyway. Gawd help the unfortunate others there too.

Posted by: Trollopy non-theist on January 8, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

This from the man, who with his friend Phil Gramm fought to deregulate the banks, who was involved in the Federal Savings & loan debacle, and who wants to bomb Iran, who also though the economy was strong before the last election when Bush had sent it off the cliff. Now McCain must dance to the tea baggers tune and do as he is told or he is history, that is how low he has become.By the way - for your entertainment- watch the cartoon 'Learn to speak tea bag' it is very cute and by all accounts the cartoonist is getting death threats from the teabaggers. I think it is on KOS.

Posted by: JS on January 8, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

McCain's motto was never Country First. It's Whatever It Takes. And in a party that behaves and thinks like a sports franchise, that's all you really need. Tribalism this stupid would burn a maverick alive.

But don't worry about McCain's obituary. He'll do just fine. By the time he dies, he'll be a "giant of our era", a "towering figure", and "one of the great patriots" of American history. He'll be entombed next to his spouse Tim Russert.

Posted by: walt on January 8, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I've known several people who worked as Congressional staffers, and they (including the relatively conservative ones) never had anything good to say about McCain, even when the media types were swooning.

The only real point of interest about McCain is how easily and how ruthlessly Rove & Co crushed him in 2000. This should have offered a pointed clue about how they would run the country when they won the Presidency-- but, somehow, the media didn't follow up that particular story.

Posted by: MattF on January 8, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

McCain belongs on the 'dung heap" along with Rove and the rest. These guys will slowly learn that all their words will come back to expose them. They are dinosaurs as far as tecnology is concerned and don't realize that with a keystroke you can prove how phony they are and have been.

Posted by: fillphil on January 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe now the political establishment can drop the pretense that this persona still exists.

You're kidding right?

Posted by: ckelly on January 8, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

He reminds me of one of my friends that has to comment on everything, even if he does not know anything about what we are talking about. Just can not pass up the opportunity to talk.

Posted by: Rick on January 8, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

McCain: "If I get a bruise or two knocking some sense into heads in Washington, so be it."

So McCain is an outsider who will come into the Senate and knock some sense... notice he doesn't mention where he currently works now....

Posted by: Ohioan on January 8, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is bitter and ruined.

His combined massive ego and his low self esteem are so evident in their contradictions.

Recall he could barely look at Barack Obama during their debates.

He cannot now contain his disdain--and-- jealousy?

As such, he is both grandiose and delusional about his subsequent role.

He is a reflexive contrarian ---and that is all.

Posted by: progressively opining on January 8, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

War on Wrong! WTF Has there ever been a war on right?

Arizona must have serious problems with both short term and long term memory. Or maybe it's just the media who has a problem.

Posted by: anomaly on January 8, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

West bids two purple hearts

If I get a bruise or two knocking some sense into heads in Washington, so be it.

Ah... the brave-battered warrior card.
That's a posture we can believe in...

Posted by: koreyel on January 8, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: stormskies on January 8, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what McCain uttered at a Town Hall Meeting in New Hampshire two years ago,
and it really shows how out of touch and feeble he is. Can you imagine him as president?
How very narrow-minded--he hates the bloggers:

"Now we've got the cables. We've got talk radio. We've got the bloggers. I hate the bloggers.
We've got all kinds of sources of information."

He's still stumbling around saying the same kind of inane remarks as GWB.

Posted by: progressively opining on January 8, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say this attack by McCain comes from two factors:

1: His continued seething hatred of Obama for defeating him and stealing the Presidency that he feels was his by divine right or some other B.S.

2. Paranoia over the threatened primary challenge from the right by J.D. Hayworth and therefore a need to prove his credentials to the teabagger crowd.

Both are just further examples of what a pathetic figure he's become.

Posted by: gf120581 on January 8, 2010 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Here in Zonerland, McCain is perceived as one of the major voices and leaders within the Republican Party,---along with luminaries such as Limbaugh and Palin. "Tough" minded yahoos and Dominionists still see his celebrity as a war-hero as defining all that he does and says. Logic is not expected.
Until there is a major demographic shift, Arizona will continue to seem more like "Alabama West."

Posted by: -syzygy- on January 8, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, c'mon Steve. McCain has ALWAYS been a pathetic, opportunistic, corrupt hack. Read a careful, detailed history of his life in politics. Read about his time in the military.

I dunno about you, but I wouldn't trust him to take out the garbage, and if I did, I'd watch every step he took, because he's so obviously a textbook case of a shallow, corrupt politician.

Maybe he tried to be a little different, once in awhile. A little. But, 99% of the time? He's been a corporate tool, and a viciously partisan corporate tool at that.

The man's been a fraud from his earliest adult years.

Posted by: LL on January 8, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

He, perhaps more than any Republican lawmaker of this generation, had an opportunity to become a giant.

Winning the primary was a great example of McCain's uncanny ability to misread events.
The right wing led by Rush Limbaugh excorciated he and Huckabee daily but McCain still won the nomination by a mile. He had earned the right to at least try to build a majority party and marginalize the extremist elements of the GOP.

But instead of doing the frightfully obvious and pivoting to the center for the general election he picked the Vice President they demanded while discarding all remnants of McCain 2000.

And they still hate him. I seem to recall at his concession speech she got a lot more applause than he did.

We dodged one.

Posted by: woody45 on January 8, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would be worthwhile to spend a little time examining the Senator's "lot in life".
Srsly, "wage war against wrong"?
That'll work!

Posted by: thebewilderness on January 8, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's "maverick" reputation for breaking with his party was entirely a result of his being petty and vindictive after his savaging by Rove et al. in the 2000 primary campaign, continued for a while because it got him a lot of attention. Petty, vindictive, and opportunistic are the consistent traits in his career; the "maverick" phase was an effect, not a cause.

Posted by: Redshift on January 8, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"...Will he be seen as a giant of the Senate who came back from a presidential loss like Scoop Jackson, Robert Taft or Ted Kennedy, or will he go down a different path? Only he can decide it."-Weaver

This is laughable. Blind to his complete manipulating hypocrisy is anyone who sees greatness in this master manipulator. If he wasn't made to be a POW he would have paid to be one for all the mileage he's gotten out of it. A multimillionaire who still collects over $50k in disability payments?? plus his senator pay with all the perks. How can anyone be blind to this self serving low life. We know he never would have made the naval academy much less graduated in the bottom 10 of his class if not for his father. He did everything his captives asked of him including propaganda films but he knows how to win wars--Ha.

In the senate he has never done anything of value for the American people but has been a good bought and paid for senator for the special interests (S & L scandal anyone). He would support progressive legislation but only when he knew it would be meaningless or woulldn't pass. He crossed the isle only to piss.

If anything this last election finally exposed this hypocrite for the unintelligent low information milker of the government tit for all to see if only they would take the blinders off and see the man and not the propaganda.

He is so disconnected from the American people (unless you wear $400/loafers...or really believe we are all Georgians now and want another cold war). Maybe Arizonans are tiring of the 6yr lie...I mean he wasn't any good and not very bright when he was 60 but now in his 70s he needs to stay focused on finding his way back home.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 8, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry too much about a bruise or two, Johnny - at your age, worry about breaking your hip. There's no coming back from that.

Posted by: Mark on January 8, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

btw...how does McCain manage to stay on disability when anyone else who is on disability gets knocked off once they return to work or start working...plu must repay any benefits received while working? So how is multimillionaire McCain getting away with collecting over$50k in disability payments?

Posted by: bjobotts on January 8, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"...how does McCain manage to stay on disability...?" bjobotts @ 3:53 PM.

I'm presuming it's Viet Nam-war disability and therefore for life. And I thought I was greedy...

Posted by: Doug on January 8, 2010 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

"McCain doesn't really have the leisure to be a maverick anymore."

I think this nails it. Starting in 2003, McCain decided he had follow the party line in order to win the 2008 presidential nomination. Now he has to stay there or risk losing his Senate seat to a primary challenger.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist on January 9, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK
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