March 08, 2007
Steve Benen writes:
According to a new NBC/WSJ poll, Sen. John McCain is “facing unexpectedly formidable challenges,” and now trails Rudy Giuliani in a head-to-head match-up by 20 points nationally. The WSJ adds, “All told, 2008 is shaping up as the worst presidential year in three decades to be the candidate of the Republican establishment, the spot some in the party think Mr. McCain has assumed.”
Remember four years ago, when John McCain was the maverick? When John Kerry was feeling him about to be his vice-president? When the Washington Monthly was running cover stories begging him to run for the Democratic nomination?
The tragicomic part, for McCain, is that in 2003, he was the perfect candidate for...2008. But he spent the intervening years sucking up to Bush and cozying up to the establishment and making nice with Jerry Falwell and generally debasing himself to coalesce the Republican Party around him, only to find, for the first time in memory, that that may have been a sucker's game. It's possible that, when all is said and done, not only will he have humiliated himself only to lose, but he'll have lost because he humiliated himself. It's downright Shakespearean.
Can I give Josh Green a retroactive wanker of the day award?
Posted by: Atrios | Mar 8, 2007 2:56:16 PM
...sucking up to Bush and cozying up to the establishment and making nice with Jerry Falwell...
That's not what's pissing off the Conservatives about McCain. McCain has always sought to sell out the Conservatives on issues in order to be seen as the "moderate". For that the liberal press once called him a "man of conscience". Of course when moderate Democrats do it (Lieberman) he's just a traiter to his party but when McCain did it, he was somehow an intellectual that was not driven by ideology.
Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 8, 2007 2:57:55 PM
Heh. If you wish.
Posted by: Ezra | Mar 8, 2007 3:00:58 PM
So essentially you're saying that McCain is the GOP's version of H.H. Humphry, except he won't even be able to say he was at least (vice) President?
Posted by: DAS | Mar 8, 2007 3:10:22 PM
fighting the last war....
Posted by: jerry | Mar 8, 2007 3:12:27 PM
I don't know about Shakesperean, but certainly he did it to himself - as Fred says (eek), conservatives weren't going to vote for "maverick John McCain" no ways, so he'd have to do something to win them over... or pursue a strategy that made them irrelevant. That he seems not have the nerve or the creativity to find the latter strategy, but instead did a full "pander bear" on their issues to achieve the former is I think what did him in all the way around (and I'd agree, he's pretty much wrecked). But I don't think it's truly operatic/Shakesperean to be a pandering politician... just par for the course. Which suggests that a number of people got the McCain read in 2003 so very very wrong.
Second, Fred, on one level you're right - the media that labeled McCain "maverick" calls Lieberman "hopeless" - but still, both show the pitfalls of aiming your best pitch at the wrong team. Lieberman will never be able to run for President, and indeed his Senate career is probably over because he decided to ignore his own party's disillusionment with him while conservatives call him "a brave upstart" - that's not far from McCain, except that McCain may have more strength in his home base of Arizona. If McCain were winning, or if Lieberman were changing minds, you might have a case for some big difference between them; but otherwise I don't see anything except that both have messed up.
Posted by: weboy | Mar 8, 2007 3:15:53 PM
Ezra, do you really think McCain is doing so poorly among the Republican base because he's prostrated himself before them? I'd imagine that it's because of the past several years of being a maverick that he is getting exactly these problems. Note Fred's trollish comment.
Posted by: Tony V | Mar 8, 2007 3:17:25 PM
All I know is I supported him in 2000, but won't bother to even look at him now. He sold out. He threw away what he used to stand for, in the hopes of getting elected, and so, stands for nothing now.
Posted by: William Bollinger | Mar 8, 2007 4:09:34 PM
All I know is I supported him in 2000, but won't bother to even look at him now.
I thought he was kinda K00L at the time, too. This is probably all academic as a ticket with Hillary and Obama would be unstoppable. I don't see a candidate on the Horizon that can energize the conservative base and beat that.
Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 8, 2007 4:19:58 PM
Come on, the media may not like Lieberman as much as they like McCain, but they hardly hate him. Lieberman and McCain are both "men of conscience" as far as the media are concerned, even today, though the luster has worn off both, and Lieberman had less luster to start with.
Posted by: KCinDC | Mar 8, 2007 4:22:21 PM
Fred's right about McCain. As a conservative(for the most part) I would never vote for McCain in a primary
One example, him immediatley calling the 'Swift Boat Veterens for Truth' liars without actually listening to what they said and with no proof they lied. And as we all remember, the Swift Boat Vets ended up making Kerry recant some of his lies about Vietnam.
He called key religious leaders "agents of intolerance", then later tried to make up with some of them. He used to oppose a ban on gay marriage, now he supports it. In 1999 he sided with the pro abortion lobby on Roe v Wade, saying that to overturn it would lead to back alley abortions, now he is pro life and for overturning Roe v Wade. Of course there is McCain-Feingold Act.
And then there is immigration. Remember when he told a group of American workers that they didn't have the fortitude to pick lettuce all day, even for $50 an hour? But the Mexicans can do it.
He is a disgrace. If you guys want him, you can have him. He'll never win the Republican nomination.
Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 8, 2007 4:23:12 PM
I wrote in McCain in 2004. I think part of his problem is that he's no longer "fresh". Plus, he’s starting to look old, which doesn’t help, especially when the country’s looking for something new.
Iraq is killing him, because he’s more aligned with Bush on Iraq – possibly further right even – than the other candidates. If the debate can swing to other topics, such as fiscal policy/responsibility, or non-Iraq foreign policy, I think he’ll do a bit better.
All in all, I was a strong McCain support in the past and I’m now reconsidering.
Posted by: Dan | Mar 8, 2007 4:25:52 PM
Iraq is killing him
This is hardly passive, though. McCain attached himself to this war, and this specific way of fighting this war (surge!!) with a single-minded vengeance. He has worked hard to make himself the war candidate. His policies have been implemented by the president, andh ave been so objectively bad, that he's in a heap of trouble.
Asking for a change in topic is probably McCain's best bet, but he's the one who made the war, his war, the central issue to begin with.
Posted by: DivGuy | Mar 8, 2007 4:42:43 PM
At the end of the day, McCain was, and is, and ever will be, Orrin Hatch 2.0, an extreme conservative Western senator, only on this release, they tweaked the media interface, installed a new biography module, and got some graphic arts professionals to design the box.
Underneath, though, it's the same old code.
He might as well be Steve Symms.
Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Mar 8, 2007 5:04:36 PM
The Republicans aren't going to win in '08, and they're OK with that. There is a season for growth, and a season to prune back the overgrowth. We are entering the latter.
Posted by: tweez | Mar 8, 2007 6:07:44 PM
I think RObert Reich read it right. McCain figured he'd be able to play tough and advocate a surge while Bush "stayed the course" or began a slow withdrawal, thus letting McCain claim if only his plan had been followed we would have salvaged the Iraq adventure. After Bush took up the plan, McCain tried to say Bush wasn't doing big enough of a surge. Now he seems lost. McCain tries so hard to please to whoever he's talking to that he winds up annoyiung everyone.
Posted by: Don | Mar 8, 2007 6:09:22 PM
No doubt a lot of Republicans who are sympathetic to McCain aren't voting for him because they know he'd lose in the general, due to his having, so to speak, lashed himself to the deck of George Bush's war.
Posted by: kth | Mar 8, 2007 6:18:24 PM
it couldn't happen to a more deserving opportunist
Posted by: della Rovere | Mar 8, 2007 8:53:12 PM
hopefully Hillary will be the other bookend in the miscalculation game the opportunists play
Posted by: della Rovere | Mar 8, 2007 8:54:21 PM
After Bush took up the plan, McCain tried to say Bush wasn't doing big enough of a surge.
What he not only tried to say but did say is that the surge was smaller than the one he called for, which is a fact. He has backed Bush on the surge as far as it goes, while rightly criticizing the way the war was handled overall. There was never any evidence for Reich's speculations, and they remain unsupported.
Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 8, 2007 9:35:20 PM
Atrios: before you give Josh Green that retrospective WotD, you ought to demonstrate that Green badly described McCain as he was in early 2002 when he wrote the article.
Maybe Green misread McCain as he was then. I've never yet seen the case made, aside from McCain's extreme hawkishness (which even then didn't seem to matter, because few were yet taking seriously the idea that we might go to war against Iraq).
Posted by: RT | Mar 9, 2007 5:53:05 AM
All I can say about McCain now is: sucks to be him, doesn't it?
Even if he wins the GOP nomination, who's going to care? He'll be 2008's Bob Dole: they finally let him have his moment, way after his moment had passed.
Posted by: RT | Mar 9, 2007 5:55:17 AM
What he not only tried to say but did say is that the surge was smaller than the one he called for, which is a fact.
What's your source for that fact? As I understand it, McCain was calling for roughly 20,000 more troops in Iraq last fall, before Bush had announced any kind of surge. He then escalated to 30,000, and I'm not sure, but I think by that time a surge was highly likely but Bush had given no numbers. The number Bush has announced is around 21,000 or so, but more than twice that if you count the support personnel as well. McCain's numbers are within the ballpark of Bush's or even below, depending of course on which of Bush's numbers you think are more relevant.
He has backed Bush on the surge as far as it goes, while rightly criticizing the way the war was handled overall. There was never any evidence for Reich's speculations, and they remain unsupported.
Posted by: Sanpete
Here and elsewhere, you've demonstrated an attitude towards evidence that in a judge or juror, I'd find admirable. In casual discussion of politics, though, it seems a little bizarre. No evidence for Reich's speculations? How about motive? McCain needs to remain loyal to the idea of war to get through the Republican primary, but distance himself from the disastrous execution of it to have a chance in the general election. That's a tough dilemma. How would you do that, except for supporting a surge slightly different from Bush's?
Posted by: Cyrus | Mar 9, 2007 10:19:05 AM
Cyrus, the Think Progress timeline is oddly selective. McCain made a highly publicized call for 5 to 10 additional divisions in mid-December. This was interpreted in the press as 15 to 30 thousand, on the basis of the idea that a typical division is about 3,000, but since he apparently spoke of seven divisions as about 30 K, he may have had more in mind. (The support personnel aren't counted.) He's never said that Bush's 21,000 was surely too few, only that he was concerned that it might not be enough. In a C-SPAN interview I saw him do with Lieberman in January he said that Bush's number was on the low end of what might work, that he was backing it, and that he would be more comfortable with more.
Possible motives aren't really evidence in this kind of context. He has a motive to punch Bush in the mouth, but that and a plan to visit to the White House aren't evidence he intends to. Reich's speculations are just speculations. Keep in mind that this man doesn't love war and sending kids off to war, and I suspect he's not as cynical about that as Reich rather cynically thinks.
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