Thursday, March 13, 2008
When I watched McCain’s speech March 4 after he clinched the Republican presidential nomination, I thought, “The Democrats are gonna kill him in November.’’
If anything, McCain’s speech reinforced that he is a well-rehearsed actor on stage, working harder than ever to keep his calm. Some would argue that his against-all-odds comeback (campaign in disarray last fall, lack of money, reviled by the most-conservative members of his own party) shows he is worthy of being the GOP standard bearer. I say look at who he was running against. In the words of The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart: “All it took was grit, patience and what was in retrospect a cartoonishly weak field of opponents.”
McCain doesn’t know what he believes. Except for believing his own press about his “maverick” status (Will the national media PLEASE put that word to rest once and for all? McCain nowadays is as much of a maverick as a stick of peppermint gum), McCain has changed his views when politically expedient on everything from immigration to pork.
McCain is not ready to be commander in chief. Yes, Hillary Clinton’s 3am phone call commercial worked… for her in her battle with Obama before the Ohio and Texas primaries. In the case of war-monger McCain (maybe that phrase can replace “maverick’’), my fear is he’d answer that pre-dawn call and say, “Nuke ‘em all.” Remember, this is the guy who says we could be in Iraq for 100 years.
McCain will lose the Iraq debate. McCain can say all he wants that the surge has worked, that Iraq is freer and safer than ever, that the Iraqis want us there, etc. But five years and tens of thousands of deaths later, that does not diminish the fact that poll after poll shows Americans hate the war and its human and monetary costs ($12 billion a month), and think we should exit, sooner rather than later. As the United States edges toward recession, people are concerned about having a decent place to live and putting food on the table for their families, domestic issues where Democrats traditionally have a far better track record. In Clinton’s case, yes, she did vote to authorize the war in Iraq, but it is something she came to regret and admit was a mistake. McCain rarely admits errors.
McCain’s weaknesses deserve exposure. Now that McCain has eliminated his GOP rivals, the national and Arizona media should start digging beneath the veneer. The media have been criticized for shallow, less-than-critical coverage of Obama. Well, McCain has been in the limelight since his 2000 run for president, and many in the media still act besotted. Could the national reports have been any more gushing about the March 2 barbecue at McCain’s northern Arizona home? Who cares that he discussed his barbecue secrets? A blog by his daughter, Meghan, has numerous photos of national reporters posing at the event. How can we expect deep stories on McCain by the same reporters he wines (beers) and dines? The Arizona Republic, McCain’s hometown paper, said this week it was “ramping up” its McCain team and that the paper wants to cover him “more thoroughly and aggressively than anyone else,” according to Michael Calderone’s media blog on politico.com. What that actually entails remains to be seen, and the newspaper has a lot of catching up to do.
Meanwhile, although the New York Times story on McCain’s connection with a lobbyist and her company was not perfect, it did reveal the contradiction between what McCain says about lobbyists and how he acts. Among other things, the Times story noted that although McCain long has criticized fellow lawmakers for having close ties with lobbyists, he is “relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.”
There are other legitimate areas of inquiry. How about some more digging into McCain’s role as chairman of the International Republican Institute? IRI is one of many so-called “democracy-building” nonprofits, which receive millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars each year, that critics say seek regime changes more favorable to the United States through less-than-diplomatic means. How about holding him to account on the key issue of immigration reform, and for championing a failed Senate immigration bill, despised by conservatives, that would have allowed undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, that he has disassociated himself from? And really, can we trust someone who so zealously supports the war in Iraq that, upon returning from a visit there, he said the security had improved so much that he had come from a neighborhood where it was possible to walk around freely? What he left out was that he was under heavy Army guard at the time. The reaction of incredulity prompted him to amend his statement. But again, how could he even utter such words in the first place?
It is too bad McCain was not more closely scrutinized during the primaries, but it is not too late to start.
In this presidential election, Democrats have the momentum needed to win. Admittedly what should have been a cakewalk for the Democrats into the Oval Office has turned out not to be the case. Obama and Clinton are fighting over every delegate and it is possible there won’t be a presumptive nominee by the Democratic National Convention in July. Still, Americans are fed up with the lack of leadership by President Bush and his policies – many of which McCain has supported. And don’t think Democrats won’t exploit McCain’s like-fest in the White House Rose Garden March 5 when Bush endorsed him before the two chowed down on hot dogs. I, too, envision McCain at the podium come November. But it will be for a concession speech.