The Real McCain?
This past primary season, many people had perceptions of Senator John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) that were simply laughable. Some thought that he was pro-choice. Others thought that he was the more "liberal" of the two major Republican candidates. But at least everyone knew the one crucial thing to understand about John McCain: His alleged genuineness. The opposite of the fast-talking politicians, McCain was a maverick and someone who spoke from the heart with his "straight talk." But a May 9th smoke-filled room summit with Republican nominee Texas Gov. George W. Bush may finally reveal the truth about one of the most brilliant political con-jobs of the modern era.
McCain and Bush have agreed in principal on an agenda for this meeting. Bush is expected to ask McCain if he wants to be considered as a Vice Presidential candidate. The duo will also speak about McCain endorsing Bush or at least somehow becoming more involved in the campaign. And while it would appear unlikely that the meeting would yield the formation of a Bush-McCain ticket, the odds of a mutually beneficial political marriage seem better than even right now.
By welcoming McCain into the campaign, Bush wins by attracting some of the McCain voters. McCain wins as well. Let's not kid ourselves here; this guy wants to be president in the worst way. Right now he's making the same calculations as any smart pol would do. He realizes that the biggest reason why he lost is because he did not have internal party support. Selling himself out to show party loyalty will bring him the crucial institutional backing he needs if Bush loses and a 2004 bid is on his mind.
But that is exactly what this meeting means for McCain. It provides conclusive proof that he is nothing more than another politician with a King Kong-sized ego and not Tarzan riding in on a rope swing to save the nation from special interests and corruption.
If Bush does not change his stance on many key issues in this campaign and McCain comes out in support for him to any degree, McCain is doing more than abandoning whatever integrity he has. He is also abandoning the voters who believed this message enough to cast their ballots for him. The move toward Bush constitutes the typical move made by a top challenger to the nominee. And McCain received the bi-partisan cult following he had for being atypical. The conventional political two-step could easily backfire by exposing him as just another disingenuous ego-filled presidential hopeful willing to sell himself for his career.
John McCain spent the past year trying to show the differences between him and Bush. So now when it behooves him, he casts those marked differences aside? This certainly doesn't sound like the white knight of the government corruption fight. But upon further review it seems consistent with the John McCain that exists beneath the veil of heroism with which the media adorned him.
This is the guy who almost got kicked out of the Senate for his role in a campaign donation scandal. But of course later he apologized and fought tirelessly for campaign finance reform and a government unbeholden to special interests.
It is also the same guy who first suggested during the South Carolina primary that the state should be allowed to fly the Confederate flag on their capital. But as recently as last month, he decided that South Carolina should take down their Confederate flag--on the heels of the South Carolina primary where he said exactly the opposite. Then on April 19 in Columbia, South Carolina, McCain said that he "feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win in the South Carolina primary. So, I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth." In short, McCain publicly stated that he lied about his feelings on an issue to help him win an election but again came out with an apology after the fact.
Now McCain may come out on the team of George W. Bush only months after running ads against him in South Carolina that equated him with President Clinton. Will he just apologize again later saying he did it to put himself in better position for a second presidential bid? That remains to be seen. But if the results of the Bush-McCain tea party are in any way as predicted, we ought not to view it as an aberration from the norm but as his most flagrant waffle yet and absolute proof of his real agenda.
America wanted an honest, principled candidate after the eight-year reign of the double-speak king. So they ignored these truths for a long time. But involvement in the Bush candidacy seems impossible to ignore. So where did all that straight talk go, John? I guess to quote the President, that depends on your definition of the word straight.
Brad R. Sohn '02 is a government concentrator in Kirkland House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.