Saturday, March 01, 2008

IT'S SATURDAY-- TIME FOR SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT JOHN McCAIN

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With John Hagee's endorsement in hand, establishing him as the candidate of the certifiably insane extremist wing of the GOP, McCain is now testing the waters of triangulation against the conservative Republican base he was formerly courting so assiduously, by trying to appeal to normal mainstream voters, calling himself a "liberal Republican." He has a long and hateful voting record that clearly shows he isn't. Just this week alone, the nonpartisan Children's Defense Fund and the equally nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters each ranked him as the worst scoring reactionary throw-back in Congress on children's issues and on conservation and environmental issues-- the worst, not the second worst or in the middle of the pack-- the absolute bottom of the far right barrel. That is the John McCain that a lazy mainstream media has allowed to paint himself-- for years and years-- as a "moderate."

Yesterday author and journalist Joe Conason pointed out a political quagmire it will probably take more than John Hagee's incantations against Catholics, gays, Jews and New Orleans to get him out of. Sometime in March the total number of American dead in Iraq will cross the 4,000 mark. How many are too many for McCain? He's already said he's willing to keep fighting there for 100 years or 10,000 years. Are 40,000 troops too many to sacrifice for greater oil profits? (It certainly isn't for lower gas and energy prices as you may have noticed.) 400,000? If John McCain were in power a couple decades ago he says he would have continued fighting in Vietnam. Why? Because he hates them? I think we've see what a president driven by narrow hatreds leads to. We don't need another one-- an even more self-righteous one, if you can imagine such a thing-- like George Bush.

This week's Economist has a clear-eyed view of McCain's chances to actually pull off a third George Bush term, No Country For Old Men. The Economist poo-poo's the NY Times story about McCain's lobbyist connections and the DNC suit against McCain's unethical camapaign practices (too complicated for ordinary people to grasp) but "both stories point to a long-term problem: money."
McCain sells himself as a scourge of special interests and hammer of lobbyists. He also styles himself a hands-on reformer who has tried to fix America's campaign-finance system. For a presidential candidate, this might prove the equivalent of attaching a sign to your behind saying "Kick me".

Mr McCain is no stranger to the world of lobbyists. Several members of his staff, including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, are lobbyists. So are about 60 of the most generous contributors to his campaign. The senator is not averse to taking lifts on corporate jets. The public-finance system Mr McCain helped design is so unwieldy that even the man who invented it finds it a nightmare.

The New York Times article points to another worry for Mr McCain: that swooning journalists may soon abandon him for a candidate even more to their liking. Mr McCain had no trouble wooing the media when his rivals were George Bush and Mitt Romney. A few hours shooting the breeze with the senator on the Straight Talk Express and most journalists are eating out of his hand. But what happens when his rival is the coolest kid in town?

Mr McCain's problems go further. In a normal year he would enjoy a huge advantage on national security. Mr McCain is a war hero who has spent most of his professional life cogitating on matters of war and peace. He is also a hawk in a country where hawkishness is normally considered a virtue. He was calling for "rogue state roll-back" in 1999 when Mr Bush was arguing for a more humble foreign policy (remember that?).

But this natural advantage has been upended by the Iraq war. Mr McCain is more closely identified with the war than anybody except Mr Bush and Dick Cheney. He was one of the loudest supporters of the surge. Exit polls show he is first choice among Republican primary voters whose top concern is Iraq. He has said it is "fine with me" if American troops remain in Iraq for "maybe a hundred years".

But can you base a successful presidential bid on defending an unpopular war? Recent polls show that around two-thirds of registered voters want to bring the troops home within a year. That includes a third of Republicans as well as more than 90% of Democrats. The success of the surge has done almost nothing to reduce Americans' desire to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

...McCain is on equally treacherous ground when it comes to domestic policy. The voters are in a strongly anti-Republican mood: they prefer Democrats on everything from health care to taxes. Democrats are more united than Republicans, who are at each other's throats over immigration and global warming. They are also more fired up: they have been raising more money and packing in bigger crowds than Republicans for over a year now.

Hagee's no where in sight but at least McCain has Holy Joe watching his back while he explains how he feels about a century of war in Iraq:

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