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Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

McCain the Maverick as a Character Issue

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

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Responding to Jill Lawrence’s observation that, despite John McCain’s claims in the 2008 Presidential campaing, it’s Barack Obama who is making decisions that are angering his party’s base, while a primary challenge from the right has McCain abandoning his previous “Mavericky” positions and toeing the GOP line, Chait writes:

Lawrence ticks off numerous examples. Now, to be sure, the difference is mostly in the positions the two men find themselves in: Obama needs to deal with a Senate where conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans hold swing votes, and McCain is fending off a right-wing primary challenge. Still, acknowledging that fact itself undermines McCain’s contention that his breaks with his party, most of them occurring from 2000-2003, were a mark of character. If they were a mark of character, then his current behavior suggests that McCain lacks character. But I think the evidence suggests that reading characterological traits into “maverick” votes is, at best, a wildly overstated exercise.

That’s true enough, if you assume the mavericky votes were honest expressions of McCain’s idiosyncracy. If, instead, you view them as votes primarily cast in opposition to George W. Bush in a fit of pique by the man Bush beat in a nasty GOP primary, then they make a lot of sense as a manifestation of characterological traits; they paint the picture of a man who is unusually petty and prone to pique, a view that makes even more sense when you consider that McCain was already abandoning his independent persona before J.D. Hayworth announced his challenge when it presented a chance to oppose the administration. And considering that McCain was a pretty down-the-line conservative Senator prior to 2001, I maintain this is the best way to understand John McCain’s professional evolution.

In other news, McCain is also claiming that even if Republicans can’t repeal the ACA because they can’t get past a Presiential veto, that’s okay, they’ll just refuse to fund it. The problem is that most of the spending is mandatory spending, not discretionary spending, which means the funding is automatically ppropriated year to year, and changing that would require passing a new law. Which serves as a nice reminder that on top of being a uniquely petty, crotchety old man, McCain also knows nothing about governanve, budgeting, or Congressional procedure, despite having spent nearly 3 decades in Congress.

John McCain Promises Next 9 Months Will Look Just Like Last 15

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

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This isn’t exactly Earth shattering news:

Democrats shouldn’t expect much cooperation from Republicans the rest of this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Monday.

McCain and another Republican senator decried the effect health reform legislation has had on the Senate, a day after the House passed the upper chamber’s bill.

GOP senators emerged Monday to caution that the health debate had taken a toll on the institution, warning of little work between parties the rest of this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain said during an interview Monday on an Arizona radio affiliate. “They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

Of course, Republicans haven’t cooperated on anything yet this Congress, and their cooperation moving forward was unlikely anyway, to say the least. Still, the logic is funny, as Chait outlines nicely:

Second, if we believe McCain and Graham, they’re saying that there are areas in public policy where Republicans would help make legislative changes that they believe would make the country a better place, but they are refusing to do so out of pique that Democrats employed a commonly-used legislative procedure. In other words, their own claim is that they are deliberately choosing to create suffering — not merely preventing legislation the Democrats want, but preventing legislation they agree would help people and would otherwise support — in order to punish the Democrats. This sounds like something the Democrats would accuse them of doing, not something they’d boast about.

I think Chait is almost certainly right about Republicans here, I don’t see any reason to believe they don’t honestly think they have the best ideas for the country. But I don’t for a second believe the logic Chait describes doesn’t describe John McCain to the letter. After all, most of the Republican Party, and certainly the conservative movement, has always been skeptical of/hostile to immigration reform, so doing everything they can to kill a Democratic plan on the issue wouldn’t be any different then where they’ve been for 20 years. But John McCain made immigration reform a significant cornerstone of his legislative career, and more specifically made cooperating with Democrats on the issue central to his public persona for years. And now he’s threatening to take him ball and go home, because he lost a Presidential election Democrats passed a healthcare bill with 60 votes in the Senate.

The sad thing is that important media figures will still try to pretend John McCain is something other than a cruel, angry, petty man.

McCain’s Sixteenth Minute

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

The TAP editors ask:

Listening to Sen. John McCain talk about the economy is starting to feel like watching Kanye West after an awards ceremony. Paul Waldman considers the failed candidate’s sixteenth minute and asks why the media is still paying attention to him. Any thoughts as to why he’s clinging to the spotlight?

Well, the most obvious answer is because McCain is still a very senior, very high profile, member of the Senate. It wouldn’t reallyhave made much sense for the media to start ignoring John Kerry altogether after the 2004 election, because he was still directly relevant to the political process, indeed he’s now the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. In the event the Republicans regain control of the Senate, McCain will again be chairing a committee, and be amongst the most senior members of the majority party. So he’s no exactly irrelevant.

But more to the point, the media likes John McCain because McCain is basically a pundit. He goes on television and delivers perfectly made-for-TV arguments; concise, misleading, argumentative, and ignorant. So in McCain a producer has the best thing ever (for them), a member of the Senate who also knows how to script a good television segment.

John McCain is Still an Idiot

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

One of the things that’s always infuriated me, more than most it seems, about John McCain is his genuinely stunning ignorace. It’s absolutely frightening how many basic mistakes about issues and process the guy can make after nearly 3 decades making public policy in Congress. I don’t always agree with someone like Richard Lugar, or even Barney Frank for that matter, but at the same time there’s always a certain amount of respect for them, because I know that they have some genuine expertise on their primary issues, and on issues that aren’t their primary focus they can take the time to learn the basic parameters of them before they expound on the topics. Not John McCain. The latest example, via Yglesias:

So, we will be seeking fair and transparent use of the money. I believe that Arizona can compete with any other state or locality to get the much-needed money. Already we’re seeing a good example. There was $2 billion in the Senate bill of the stimulus package for light rail; there was zero in the House. It came out of conference – only Democrats, no Republicans in the room – with $8 billion for light rail. And guess where it’s going to go? A light rail between Las Vegas and L.A. Everybody knows that.

Now, putting aside the fact that McCain is repeating an already debunked lie about the rail line between Vegas and Los Angeles, what sort of person that’s even the slightest bit familiar with rail transportation thinks that light rail runs between cities? That’s a very basic mistake you couldn’t possibly have made if you put even a little bit of effort into learning about rail issues before you decided to talk about them. But learning about issues isn’t really John McCain’s style.

The Real McCain

Monday, February 16th, 2009

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Sam Stein chronicles Democratic anger at Senator McCain:

Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the brash political attacks Sen. John McCain has launched against Barack Obama in the weeks since the new president took office. No one expected the Arizona Republican to be a legislative ally for this administration. But it was widely assumed that Obama’s overtures to McCain in the weeks after the election would dull some of the hard feelings between the two. Now, they are realizing, it has not.

“He is bitter and really angry,” Bob Shrum said of McCain in an interview on Friday. “He is angry at the press, which he thinks is unfair. He is angry at Obama and angry at the voters. He has gone from being an angry old candidate to being an angry old defeated candidate.”

I’m not really sure why anyone is surprised by this. Back during the campaign I noted that McCain is a delusional egomaniac prone to fits of pique, and that the mythical “2000 McCain” was, well, a myth. John McCain is a testy old man. He sees the world in black and white terms where literally everything is a matter of good vs. evil. More than that, he identifies himself through this prism, such that he’s always a great and noble crusader for the forces of good, and then by extension to oppose him you must necessarily be on the side of “evil.” That was the overarching theme to his apostasy from 2001 to 2003, when his personal pique led him to reflexively oppose George W. Bush, and that will be the overarching theme now. Barack Obama beat McCain, and he beat him badly. John McCain does not suffer defeat gracefully, so expect quite a few attacks leveled at Obama from McCain’s office.

The only question is why anyone cares?

Noam Doesn’t Like the Townhall Idea

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

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TNR’s Noam Scheiber dissents on the idea of McCain and Obama “jointly campaigning:”

McCain has several big disadvantages vis-a-vis Obama. He faces a massive enthusiasm gap and will have trouble attracting large crowds. He’s in all likelihood going to be massively outraised and outspent, making it hard to get his message out. And, possibly as a result of the previous problem, he’ll be cast as a right-winger determined to continue George Bush’s policies.

The unmoderated debates would help him overcome all three problems. They’ll draw big crowds and generate lots of buzz. They’ll help him get his message out for free. And, just by virtue of appearing frequently at Obama’s side and having a civil debate, they’ll make him look much more moderate than the Obama campaign wants him to look.

While not an advantage per se, the rationale for Obama seems clear; further building upon his promise of a “new politics,” and the chance to foresake conventional electoral advantages in the name of discussing issues. It furthers his narrative and, presumably, his message carries more favor with the American public than the GOP message at present. It is a political gamble, but at the end of the day successful politics is always a gamble at the beginning. What would we have called a decision to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination this year in 2005 if not a huge political gamble?

Obama Warm to Town-Hall Idea

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

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Also from Ben Smith, reporting on Obama’s response to a McCain challegenge to campaign at townhall style meetings over the summer:

Carrie Budoff Brown e-mails from an Obama avail in Oregon that he appeared to look favorably on campaigning with McCain this summer at town halls, as suggested by the Republican’s campaign advisers:

“That is a great idea,” Obama told reporters in Bend, Ore. “We would have to think through the logistics on

But if he were the nominee and he could debate “substantive issues” with McCain before the voters, Obama said he would welcome it.

This strikes me as a win-win, at least for Obama. McCain has to do it to have any chance to compete in the media game with a MUCH better financed Obama, and Obama can keep the debate regularly focused on issues in a year that trends to Democrats.

Burton Fires Back at Salter

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

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Obama spokesman Bill Burton responds to the McCain campaigns memo accusing Obama of “attacking” McCain’s age, again per Halperin:

“Clearly losing one’s bearings has no relation to age, given this bizarre rant that Mark Salter just sent out. It’s clear why a candidate offering a third term of George Bush’s disastrous economic policies  and failed strategy in Iraq would want to distract and attack, but it’s not the kind of campaign John McCain has promised the American people that he would run,”

Salter Pushes Back on Obama

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

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…accuses him of “unfairly” bringing up McCain’s age. Full letter, per Halperin:

To: Interested Parties

From: Mark Salter, Senior Advisor

Date: May 8, 2008

Re: Senator Obama’s Attack Today

First, let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama’s attack today: He used the words ‘losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning.

We have all become familiar with Senator Obama’s new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is.

It is important to focus on what Senator Obama is attempting to do here: He is trying desperately to delegitimize the discussion of issues that raise legitimate questions about his judgment and preparedness to be President of the United States.

Through their actions and words, Senator Obama and his supporters have made clear that ANY criticism on ANY issue — from his desire to raise taxes on millions of small investors to his radical plans to sit down face-to-face with Iranian President Ahmadinejad – constitute negative, personal attacks.

Senator Obama is hopeful that the media will continue to form a protective barrier around him, declaring serious limits to the questions, discussion and debate in this race.

Senator Obama has good reason to think this plan will succeed, as serious journalists have written of the need for ‘de-tox’ to cure ’swooning’ over Senator Obama, and others have admitted to losing their objectivity while with him on the campaign trail.

Today, Senator Obama is complaining about comments John McCain made about a senior Hamas advisor stating that Hamas would welcome Senator Obama’s election as president. Indeed, on April 13th, senior Hamas political advisor Ahmed Yousef said, ‘We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance.’

The McCain campaign has never suggested that Senator Obama supports Hamas’ agenda, but it is more than fair to raise this quote about Senator Obama because it speaks to the policy implications of his judgment.

Just today, the president of Iran, whom Senator Obama wants to meet with unconditionally, called the state of Israel a ’stinking corpse.’ Iran is the paymaster and state sponsor of Hamas.

In his victory speech this week, Senator Obama stated that ‘wisdom’ is meeting with our enemies, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Raul Castro. John McCain couldn’t disagree more. Rather than giving tyrants and dictators the prestige of meeting with an American president, John McCain will instead meet with the champions of human freedom around the world and opposition leaders fighting for liberty .

We understand why Senator Obama doesn’t want to engage in a debate over leadership and judgment with John McCain, but the American people demand that debate take place.

These are serious times that call for a serious debate on the profound issues facing our future. John McCain is ready for that debate and we hope Senator Obama will one day get serious and join it.

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