March 4, 2010

I come to bury McCain, not to praise him.

There's got to be an age joke in that Shakespearean line as applied to John McCain.  But before anyone gets carried away, let there be no misconception - I am talking about his Senatorial career being buried, not the Senator himself.  Let me also add the usual pre-amble of those who seek to disparage the Senator; I wholeheartedly respect and appreciate the sacrifices he has made for his country as a soldier.  But let me also add that in his terms in Congress he has done some good, (typically fighting pork projects, and as a member of the Armed Service Committee) and carried himself with a measure of propriety not seen in the likes of say, a Charlie Rangel.  For all that he deserves his due.  But let's face it, he took over a Senate seat formerly held by conservative icon Barry Goldwater.  I didn't know Barry Goldwater, I never worked with Barry Goldwater, but I'm safe in saying - McCain is no Barry Goldwater.

Starting with full disclosure, I wrote a series of posts last year dissecting what I saw as flaws in McCain's Presidential campaign.  I did not really address his conservatism, more so his tactical errors.  I'm happy to say that in this mid-term election year, it would seem ideals are more important than tactics.  Good news for conservatives, but not any better for McCain, who is weak on conservative values as well.

Politico had a piece today about all the high level Republicans McCain was lining up endorsement deals with in order to stave of a more conservative, Tea-Party-relating contender for his Senatorial throne, in one J.D. Hayworth. The latest to climb aboard the McCain Express is one Mitt Romney, who could not resist the opportunity to take a swipe at populism Sarah Palin (who also happens to be endorsing McCain).

But these endorsers are all party elite, party insiders. It strikes me as this being McCain's Marie Antoinette moment. While it's true that McCain has moved right this year, in order to counter Hayworth, it's also true that he was begged by his constituency to do so in October 2008 and pooh-poohed the idea - it was beneath him. Besides the voters of Arizona being smart enough to see through the charade of McCain's conservatism-of-convenience, they have to be more than a little annoyed that McCain is seeking beltway endorsements. Did he not see the town hall energy last summer? Did he not witness the Tea Party frustration over the last year? Surely he must understand that he needs to be seen connecting with Joe the Plumber types and not Pawlenty the Presidential candidate or Scott Brown the rising Republican star. Otherwise he can claim to be no less out of touch than the obstinate health care Democrats. 

Endorsements from Republicans will help him more than endorsements from Democrats like Lieberman to be sure, but  McCain has a lot to prove to conservatives.  He is not embraced but endured. McCain-Feingold, a prime example, was a travesty and conservatives recognize it.  Or being part of the Gang of 14 group that forged a useless compromise on Bush's judicial nominees and prevented a nuclear option being triggered so it wouldn't be used again in the future inappropriately - wait, what

Remember too, that Arizona voted for Barry Goldwater before it voted for McCain.  Notwithstanding the relative Republican safety of the seat, it is no more his seat than was Kennedy's seat Kennedy's.  It too belongs to the people.  John McCain, if he wants to represent them, has to do more than get high profile endorsements, as impressive as those might be. 

More insiders = more out of touch.

That might not be fair, but it is perception, which makes it reality.  And as much as at any point in his career, including 2000 and 2008, John McCain has something to prove - not meaning he's on a mission, meaning he should be because voters deserve it and hopefully will expect nothing less.

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