Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 16, 2011

AN UNLIKELY THAW.... Over the course of the last half-decade or so, there were so many "Whatever happened to the old John McCain?" pieces, they were hard to count. Media figures that adored one of the previous personas of the Arizona senator were dismayed to see what had become of one of their favorite politicians.

Those pieces have, thankfully, run their course. Everyone now realizes that McCain circa 1999-2001 no longer exists, and he's been replaced by the bitter, belligerent senator we saw throwing a tantrum on the Senate floor over gay Americans serving in the military.

My fear is, we may soon see a new push in the media. Instead of figures asking, "Whatever happened to the old John McCain?" we may be confronted with a bunch of "Maybe the old John McCain could come back to us?" pieces.

Today, the Republican senator has an op-ed in the Washington Post, and it's quite good. Reflecting on this week's memorial service in his home state, McCain's piece noted, "President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night. He movingly mourned and honored the victims of Saturday's senseless atrocity outside Tucson, comforted and inspired the country, and encouraged those of us who have the privilege of serving America.... I disagree with many of the president's policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause."

McCain went on to defend the right, as well, but the graciousness towards the president was uncharacteristic of the cantankerous Republican.

I suppose it was inevitable, then, to see a piece like this one, published today by the Post's Dan Balz, "After Tucson, a thaw between Obama and McCain?"

Could the long-icy relationship between President Obama and his 2008 presidential opponent, Sen. John McCain, be thawing?

McCain (R-Ariz.) took a significant step toward reconciling with the president in a graceful op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post. If that article marks a genuine fresh beginning, it would be one positive thing to come out of the horrific shooting spree in Tucson eight days ago. [...]

It's possible that Tucson will let the two leaders turn the page. The McCain who comes through in the Post op-ed is the McCain many have known for a long time.

Look, I suppose anything's possible. I don't know McCain personally, and I'm willing to entertain the possibility that the tragedy in Tucson shook him in a personal, fundamental way.

But I hope it's not too terribly cynical of me to dismiss Balz's optimism as unrealistic. Literally every move we've seen from McCain for the last several years suggests that previous persona is gone, and it's not coming back. He's angrier, more partisan, more right-wing, more dishonest, and more willing to abandon every meaningful policy position he's ever taken than ever before.

It's a nice op-ed McCain had today. It may have been ghost-written, but McCain put his name on it, and I give him credit for his graciousness. But Balz insists that the president "should not let the opportunity pass to reach out to McCain." The president already has, repeatedly, and has seen his outstretched hand slapped away repeatedly for his trouble.

Those waiting for McCain to revert back, I'm afraid, are likely to be waiting a very long time.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Everyone now realizes that McCain circa 1999-2001 no longer exists...

I hate to have to keep correcting you on this point, but that McCain never existed. Never. It was just a media narrative at the time.

John McCain has always been a hot-headed jackass, who occasionally makes a big show of his humility.

Posted by: drew42 on January 16, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

More important, it no longer really matters, from a political perspective, whether McCain is ready to bury the hatchet. He's not a GOP leader in any meaningful sense, and he's no longer the potential 60th vote to break a filibuster.

It's a nice personal gesture on his part, but that's as far as it goes. It isn't important.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 16, 2011 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Violence and death have great humbling effects, and when we level reflection upon ourselves, the living, many times our stories can find different pathways.

Sen. McCain's op/ed, Chris Wallace's epiphany about the uses of "socialist and fascist," and Glenn Beck's concession may not lead others, nor even themselves, to a different pathway, but is it refreshing to note none of these three are out there at this time fear-mongering! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 16, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

If more people read Political Animal, they'd know just how many times McCain has chosen to throw red meat to the far right.

But instead, McCain makes one gracious gesture, and the MSM wants us to believe he's back to "his old bipartisan self"...

Posted by: Chris S. on January 16, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

People do and say whatever they think is in their own best interests.

It has always been that way, and always will. Even "great patriots" like Lincoln and the two Roosevelts had their agendas.

Posted by: DAY on January 16, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter. McCain won his reelection and in spite of or because of what he says, he won't ever again be the standard bearer for his party. The only people who give 2 shits about McCain and what he thinks are beltway pundits and his wife.

Fuck him, his time has come an gone.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on January 16, 2011 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

He's angrier, more partisan, more right-wing, more dishonest, and more willing to abandon every meaningful policy position he's ever taken than ever before.

He's also senile, so you never know what he's going to do next.

Posted by: strictadherent on January 16, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Someone got to McCain(Mark Salter?) after his even more pathetic than usual behavior during the lame duck session, and convinced him to change course(at least temporarily), or risk destroying whatever goodwill he had earned over the years. This op-ed comes on the heels of his pledge to do all he can to help implement DADT, which constitutes a veritable outpouring of goodwill for the cantankerous McCain.

Nevertheless, history shows us that McCain has never been a gracious man, and I doubt ever will be. And regardless of his behavior, there will always be high profile media figures around to rationalize it, and desperately try to convince the public of his inherent decency.

Posted by: Holmes on January 16, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I have been a McCain watcher for too many years to think that this is going to be a new improved McCain - it is not going to happen, truth is Obama started the process of healing and hope to
Arizona - McCain's state. McCain was backed into a corner. You only had to see the sour face of McCain during the service to see how he really felt.

Posted by: joan on January 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

As Obama was shaking hands with everyone he could after the Tucson event, McCranky had his back turned. Don't believe me. go back and look at the tape. A deliberate snub? Maybe, maybe not. But if McCranky was sincere in his appreciation of the speech he should have been lined up with all te other politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike in the delegation, to shake his hand.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Too much horse race coverage in the media - that's covering the process, not the policies. I care about where McCain stands on votes coming up, not on his demeanor. It's nice that he's being nice, but his real legacy is Sarah Palin, and that's done more damage to the nation than he can personally ever recoup.

Posted by: nyc on January 16, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

I think way too much is being made of this Op-Ed by McCain after watching him flip-flop on every major issue in the past ten years, the way he ran his 2008 campaign and has behaved since then, and his poor judgement in picking a nasty hick like Sarah Palin as his running mate without even vetting her. McCain is still McCain. Nothing has changed. McCain remains useless but dangerous to the nation.

Posted by: max on January 16, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta go with Drew42--McCain has never been anything but a furious,entitled dickhead. Any different persona was constructed, out of whole cloth, by the media.

Posted by: psychobroad on January 16, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

nyc - you make the observation of the century!

No matter what becomes of McCain, he will forever be remembered as that dude who gave us all that one lovely Ms. Sarah Palin!

Wow! What folly he did unleash! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 16, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Balz is a piss-poor seer.

McCain has proven he does not deserve a "restart"

Posted by: SteveADor on January 16, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, maybe McCain will pull a "Lucy" and yank away this conciliatory football -- but maybe not. I think he's been looking for a way to distance himself from the walking disaster that is Sarah Palin and, unless he truly is suffering from dementia, he sees that his pandering to the extreme right wing has brought him exactly nothing politically. He doesn't have to fight another primary challenge for six years (when he'll be dead or seriously considering retirement), so what does he have to lose by becoming what most Americans tell pollsters they want -- legislators who work together for the greater good? Even if that makes him anathema to the Tea Party, I can see how it might boost his general popularity considerably.

Posted by: dalloway on January 16, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kirsten Gillibrand is now on MTP

What a nice change from the constant MTP presence of Mr.Wilson - - telling us all to get off his lawn.

Posted by: SteveADor on January 16, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

While I don't know the future Psyche of McCain, we should remember that he was in a viscous primary against the very same tea partiers who were shouting "Vote From the Rooftops" at Giffords.

He knows it could have been him.

Posted by: Dervin on January 16, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I think that after last Saturday, McCain is a little worried about what he unleashed when he put Palin on the ticket. Hence the op-ed. Remember when he got a little worried during one of his rallies and told that woman Obama is not an Arab? This is that same kind of damage control. He'll go back to disliking him.

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 16, 2011 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Moving back to the mythological 'good' McCain is not a possibility. There is a possibility of moving ahead to a McCain who's not a raging shithead. I'd be in favor of that.

Posted by: MattF on January 16, 2011 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Wel, as they say, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 16, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

...but I believe he (Obama) is a patriot... - McCain on his home turf

That word patriot sure caught my attention. Which meaning of patriot is he using here? If McCain called me a patriot, I'd be offended. Only fools are fooled.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on January 16, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Kirsten Gillibrand is now on MTP

What a nice change from the constant MTP presence of Mr.Wilson - - telling us all to get off his lawn."

Agreed. I like Gillibrand a lot. BTW, was David Gregory on vacation? How did someone besides McCrusty get on MTP?

Posted by: max on January 16, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I remember a time when it was sort of taken for granted that the President of the United States was a patriot who was sincerely trying to advance our country, and acknowledging that wasn't anything special, it was just part of the polite respect due the office of the Presidency.

Dan Balz thinks we ought to sit up and take notice because washed-up Senator Crankypants, after two frickin' years, is finally getting over being a sore loser, but seriously, that wasn't much of a compliment. (And doesn't pointing out that you believe the President is a patriot who's trying to advance the country imply that someone could think otherwise? Isn't it a little back-handed?)

Sorry, Dan, McCain is still not a nice guy, and one op-ed doesn't mean he's forgiven that young n* for stealing his rightful seat in the Oval Office.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 16, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe even Grampy has his limits. Maybe he's saying Obama is simply Wrong, not a Muslim terrorist. If he were sane, that might even be plausible. Maybe Lucy is offering to hold the football again.

Posted by: Tomm Undergod on January 16, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

I don't honestly remember a time when I thought John McCain was a good guy (and I'm no spring chicken!) It's not a matter of "will the real McCain stand up." John McCain has been on his feet and waving for our attention for decades. I don't see anything but a man who managed his public persona better twenty years ago. Not a hero, not a person of quiet fortitude, not a genuine leader or a man of consequence. Just based on his personal and professional history, it's hard to believe the idealized John McCain ever existed.

Posted by: PW on January 16, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Water cooler gossiping about office politics passing for analysis in the WAPO. Does anyone actually care which ranting McCain shows up to work? Outside the beltway, I mean?

Posted by: thebewilderness on January 16, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

@Jeff In Ohio,
You really think McCain's wife still gives 2 shits about him?

Posted by: Nothing but the Ruth on January 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I don't give to farts for what old McGrumpy happens to say this minute; he's bound to say something entirely different next minute. He's never been a nice guy, and his '08 loss curdled the last drop of any milk of kindness he might have had. And his common sense went even before then.

What really gets my goat is that Balz, thinking with his balls, instead of his brain. Obama "should reach out to McCain"??? It's up to Obama??? Obama reached out to McCain right out of the gate, by taking Napolitano into the govt and out of running for Senate. She had been a very popular Governor and, at least in '09 (the Tea-pissy started later, changing the landscape), looked like a very strong contender for that seat. Obama handed McCain a consolation prize and McCain just spat on Obama. And has been spiting, and snarling, and biting ever since, no matter how far Obama "reached out".

As far as I'm concerned, Sen McCain and Mr Balz can... lick one another.

Posted by: exlibra on January 16, 2011 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

I believe, like many others, that McCain is not sincere with his "good will" towards Pres. Obama. He has been taking a beating in the media lately, and rightly so, for his sour, angry, mean spirited manner. This oped is damage control but in the spirit of Pres. Obama's speech, it's a step in the right direction.

It's all too likely though that the MSM will quickly give Sen. McCain absolution for his past two years of surly behavior which is not warranted. His future manner and actions should be the determining factors as to whether this attempt at civility was made in good faith.

The Balz piece in the Washington Post was inaccurate in it's characterization of the Obama/McCain relationship since the election as being one of mutual resentment. He claimed that both have seemed more interested in scoring points against the other than in putting the 2008 campaign behind them. This is totally untrue. Pres. Obama went out of his way to be gracious to John McCain many times after the election and was rebuffed rudely every time.

Posted by: Kathryn on January 16, 2011 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

I believe, like many others, that McCain is not sincere with his "good will" towards Pres. Obama. He has been taking a beating in the media lately, and rightly so, for his sour, angry, mean spirited manner. This oped is damage control but in the spirit of Pres. Obama's speech, it's a step in the right direction.

It's all too likely though that the MSM will quickly give Sen. McCain absolution for his past two years of surly behavior which is not warranted. His future manner and actions should be the determining factors as to whether this attempt at civility was made in good faith.

The Balz piece in the Washington Post was inaccurate in it's characterization of the Obama/McCain relationship since the election as being one of mutual resentment. He claimed that both have seemed more interested in scoring points against the other than in putting the 2008 campaign behind them. This is totally untrue. Pres. Obama went out of his way to be gracious to John McCain many times after the election and was rebuffed rudely every time.

Posted by: Kathryn on January 16, 2011 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

McCain has probably always been a phony. It may simply be that he considers it advantageous to re-assume the "maverick" pose he struck so profitably a decade ago, since people are getting tired of his current, grouchy old man act.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 16, 2011 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is just deeply relieved that the President did not point the finger of accusation at the right as he justifiably could, which explains a lot of the favorable reaction on the right.

Posted by: bob h on January 17, 2011 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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