The so-called mainstream media is obviously conflicted about John McCain. It seems that the shelf-life of the barbeque is coming to an end. The rose-colored glasses are starting to crack.
The Los Angeles Times posted a story yesterday ‘Between a maverick and a hard place’ where they appeared to be waking up to the fact that McCain really isn’t the maverick that his reputation would lead you to believe.
I find this article interesting because it represents the media’s desire to maintain that belief that McCain still holds this image. For each fact they provide, they respond with the false perceptions. I suspect that old habits die hard or maybe it’s similar to when you realize a friend isn’t who he or she appears, you want to continue to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The fact is most of us have been aware of McCain’s un-maverick style for a while now even while the media continued to paint him as this moderate Washington outsider who was the friendly, personable common man.
It is evident that they were going to present this argument with their subtitle: “McCain defends his outsider image after having embraced GOP dogma for the primary.”
The key word in that sentence is ‘image.’ McCain may have been ‘the outsider’ prior to 2000, but after Bush took office that was off the table. For some reason, this article only identifies the McCain shift since he decided to run for president in 2007.
Authors Nicholas Riccardi and Maeve Reston spend a good portion of the article listing the areas where McCain broke from the party and used quotes to falsely represent that McCain still can be classified as a maverick.
I think they have identified every issue where McCain and Bush have differed over the last 8 years. They mention: ‘campaign finance reform, tobacco regulation and the early Iraq strategy.’ What they don’t mention is McCain isn’t observing those campaign finance rules for this presidential run and he has fully supported the Iraq War and didn’t disagree with the strategy until after it was identified that the Bush strategy was off-the-mark. Amazingly, they reiterated these 3 differences from Bush later in the article. When you don’t have much material to work with, you have to hope no once notices the repetition.
Where the authors appear torn is on the obvious McCain flip-flops – the Bush tax cuts, and embracing the previously denounced religious leaders. Where they totally miss the mark is the timing. “To win the GOP primary this year, McCain embraced party dogma …”
The fact is, McCain had ‘embraced party dogma’ pretty much since 2000.
“The John McCain of 2000 wouldn’t even consider voting for the John McCain of 2008,” Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, “John McCain has changed …”
“The price he paid for his party’s nomination has been to reverse himself on position after position,” Barack Obama told voters at a town hall meeting. “And now he embraces the failed Bush policies over the last eight years — politics that helped break Washington in the first place. And that doesn’t exactly meet my definition of a maverick.”
“The campaign has also undercut McCain’s image as a straight-talker by dramatically limiting the national media’s access to the candidate, who once charmed reporters and voters alike with his easy, free-wheeling, common-man conversational style on his campaign bus,” the article says.
The reason McCain’s access to the media has been cut is quite simple. McCain has appeared flustered, often making misstatements and has spoken off message. Who can forget the squirming when McCain was asked why birth control was not covered by insurance? The goof reel really reduced in recent weeks quite probably because of the reduced access.
But this insistence to repeatedly address the areas where McCain differs from Bush is frankly frustrating.
“He can point to areas where he broke with the Bush administration, where he broke with his own party,” said Charles H. Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin.
But Riccardi and Reston bring up McCain’s opposition to Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 (positions that McCain has since reversed) and McCain’s pursuance of lobbyist Jack Abramoff who had many ‘dealings’ with Republicans. The New York Times uncovered a connection between Abramoff and McCain where McCain received somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 through the Abramoff team. (Read An Abramoff Connection Among McCain’s ‘Bundlers’)
They conclude with the stance that McCain changed his positions only after determining he was running for president in 2008.
“Around 2005 or so, he realized he was running for president and he made a calculated decision . . . he was going to do whatever was necessary to win this office,” said Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, whose book “McCain” is subtitled “The Myth of a Maverick.”
“A maverick doesn’t mean you’re always against your party,” said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University.
Does a maverick mean that you only break from your party 5% of the time over an 8 year period? If the authors and Mr. Welch are correct and McCain only made this calculated decision in 2005, what does that say about most of his stances from 2001-2005?
Zelizer said: “So many Republicans just hate him because he doesn’t play ball. That’s the definition of what a maverick is.”
Maybe over McCain’s first 2 decades in office this may have been true, but over the last 8 years, it is clearly false.