Straight Talk About McCain
I haven't linked to a Frank Rich column in ages, maybe even since the New York Times lifted its subscription blockade and made its columnists available to everyone again. But this week is a worthy one, as Rich takes a look at the presidential candidate who remains unknown.
John McCain is being hidden behind a veneer of maverick misdirection. I don't believe that he was ever the image he presented, but it seems more certain during this campaign than ever before. There's virtually nothing left of whatever charmed the press when McCain ran in 2000, but his campaign still seems to be running on charm inertia. With a few exceptions, the press is treating McCain as they imagine him, not as he actually appears in the 2008 campaign. Here are a few paragraphs from Rich:
What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president's response to Katrina; he fought the "agents of intolerance" of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.
With the exception of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.
McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn't start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after "Mission Accomplished." By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn't get to New Orleans for another six months and didn't sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.
McCain long ago embraced the right's agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.
You know the drill. Read the whole thing.