“Mac is Back,” the chanters declared, reminding me of those two years I spent as an awkward, nerdy kid at San Antonio Macarthur High School, deep in the heart of Texas. But it isn’t flashbacks of a 90’s suburban adolescence that make my stomach groan when I hear the phrase today. These days, I’m reminded about where “Mac” – Sen. John McCain – had been and why he should expect no less than a return ticket back to wherever he came back from this time around.
If you compare John McCain’s winning ways to his campaign of 2000, you’ll notice something. He’s not doing any better in 2008, in terms of getting votes, than he did when he ran unsuccessfully against President George W. Bush. In many states, he is doing worse. The difference is that, in the crowded Republican field of 2008, a small plurality of votes has given him the appearance of “winning,” compounded by the rekindling of a media love affair.
This feeling will not last once McCain has to attract Republican voters with only one or two alternatives instead of four or five candidates.
I have to admit that my newfound distaste for John McCain is recently acquired. After he won the New Hampshire primary, I started to think of him as a tolerable candidate who could make me break my “I’m voting for a New Yorker” pledge for the 2008 election. But after two weeks for McCain to wear thin on me as I remembered why I didn’t like him in 2000.
Watch the Senior Senator from Arizona closely on the TV. Look at his eyes. Am I the only one who thinks he blinks excessively? Al Gore did this, and when Al Gore blinked a lot, in flutters, I saw a man who was surely lying to me. John McCain’s mouth is saying something about the “straight talk express” but his eyes tell me he is lying.
But what bothers me the most about John McCain is that he is disingenuous whenever he talks about his “Straight Talk Express”. From taxes to social policy to foreign policy, listen closely to McCain’s “maverick” positions and the dualism of his positions will make you think that his policy is coming out the backside of a horse – maverick or otherwise.
Take the War in Iraq. When Nebraska Senator Chuck Hegel started getting attention from the bookers at Meet the Press and the other Sunday talk shows for being the lone Republican to stand up to George Bush, John McCain was a little too quick to follow, criticizing the Bush Administration for its war policy. Now trying to appeal for Republican votes, McCain is claiming that he was an architect of “The Surge” policy currently being implemented—quite successfully—by the Bush Administration. I can guarantee you that if the presence of more American soldiers in Iraq had corresponded to an increase in casualties, McCain would be criticizing the Administration for not getting them there soon enough!
McCain appeared the maverick in 2004 when he stood up to the President on a major issue of that campaign – gay marriage. McCain opposed amending the United States Constitution to ban gay marriage, calling it “un-Republican” – but it wasn’t because he believes that all Americans deserve equal rights and protections under the law. Out of the national scrutiny, McCain lent his support to a ballot measure banning gay marriage in Arizona. Like John Kerry that year, he told one audience that the matter should be left to the states, then he told another what he thought the states should do. So he was against banning gay marriage before he was for it!
Today, McCain is embracing George Bush’s tax cuts, joining calls to make them permanent. That, I like, because, well, you’re going to see major economic and social disruptions if the tax cuts are all let to expire in 2011. But back in 2001, John McCain was one of the most vocal opponents of the tax cuts and is partially responsible for why they had to have an “expiration date” before they were passed.
Although McCain is one of the most vocal critics of earmarks, these special congressional appropriations still have found their way to Arizona – which is among the top half of states for getting pork out of the recent Health and Human Services budget.
Sounds more like the “Double-talk Express” if you ask me!
When the Republican field gets narrowed down to a choice between Mitt Romney and John McCain, Mike Huckabee and John McCain or Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, well, getting 36% of the vote – his largest total yet – won’t get Senator McCain as far as it has gotten him to date.
Maybe his colleagues in Capitol Hill can console him with a chant of “Mac is Back” in the hallways of the Hart Senate Office Building.