Thursday, February 09, 2006

McCain’s Misplaced Indignation

The political world has been all atwitter this week over the little dust-up between Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) after some sharp exchanges over work they were trying to do together on lobbying reform.

McCain got steamed and accused Obama of "partisan posturing" after Obama pushed him to consider a Democratic-sponsored reform bill instead of the ideas suggested by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). After Obama wrote a formal letter to McCain asking him to support the Honest Leadership Act proposed by the Democrats, McCain sent a response to Obama that could well have been written by a peevish high-school student.

“I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere,” wrote McCain. “I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.”

McCain then went on MSNBC’s Hardball and did some macho posturing with Chris Matthews, condescendingly saying that he gave Obama “a little straight talk.”

As I see McCain get so publicly angry and indignant at some routine political maneuvering by Obama, I wonder what the hell happened to this man’s moral and ethical compass. While I have nothing but the highest regard for the courage that was required for McCain to survive over five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, I lost a lot of respect for the former Naval officer when he rolled over to George W. Bush – and has continued to do so – after what Bush did to him and his family during the 2000 presidential primaries.

Where was the anger and machismo then, when it was really warranted?

Even cynical political operatives were left aghast at the slime that Bush and his campaign team threw at McCain after the Arizona Senator whipped them 48 percent to 30 percent in the 2000 New Hampshire primary. It was obvious after that first primary that the Republican nomination would be grabbed by one of them and the Karl Rove smear machine went into full production.

Here’s what they did to McCain in the South Carolina primary that followed New Hampshire:
  • Used “push polling” by calling Republican voters and asking them "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" It was disgusting enough to use such a race-baiting tactic to begin with, but to use McCain’s child – whom he and his wife adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh – because they thought her dark skin might fool a bunch of ignorant, right-wing Southerners, shocked even hardened political pros.
  • Had leaflets distributed by local religious fanatics describing McCain as “pro-abortion” and “the fag candidate” (because McCain was the only Republican presidential candidate to meet with the gay Republican men’s group, Log Cabin Republicans).
  • Circulated rumors that McCain had cheated on his wife and refused to denounce local right-wing groups that went after his wife, Cindy, as a “drug addict” due to a problem she had once had with prescription painkillers. Indeed, the night before the South Carolina primary, a GOP operative appeared outside a McCain campaign event with a stack of leaflets calling her a drug addict and a "weirdo."
  • Impugned his courage and patriotism in the worst possible way. Team Bush constantly referred to McCain’s alleged “temper problem” and implied that he was mentally unstable based on his time spent as a POW. Rove himself was even accused by the McCain camp of spreading rumors against McCain, such as “suggestions that McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war.”
  • Used Ted Sampley – yes, the same guy who participated in the swift boating of John Kerry in 2004 – to compare McCain with ‘the Manchurian Candidate’ and to suggest that he had only escaped death while in captivity by collaborating with the enemy.
But McCain quickly forgave Bush for all of this, worked his heart out on Bush’s behalf in the 2004 presidential election and embraced him literally and figuratively at every turn.

And he gets this indignant with Barack Obama? Talk about some misplaced anger.

Maybe McCain actually believes this pack of cretins will support him in 2008 because he’s acted like their lap dog for six years and swallowed what would have driven most men to walk up and punch Bush in the nose. But he is wrong. Bush’s people will find someone else to support in the next presidential season, will hang him out to dry and laugh behind his back.

Perhaps then, he’ll wonder how he could have gotten so upset at Obama, while allowing people who attacked his military service, his spouse and his child to get off scot-free.