Third Party & Independents Archives

McCain Swan Song(?)

Although I am glad he did not win the presidency, John McCain is an American hero who has served his country with courage and honor… and who will hopefully continue do so.

I voted for Barack Obama. I am happy he won, and I truly believe he was the best available choice to steer our country back onto the correct path from which we have strayed. In all honesty, John McCain was, from the outset of the primaries, the second best possible choice for our country among those who ran, and he would have been infinitely better than our current president. It did not happen for him, and it never will.

But what is next for the four term Arizona Senator? Some Senate Democrats think there's a need for the old John McCain, hoping for the Senator that worked across party lines on such issues as campaign finance reform and immigration comes back to the chamber as his old self. And although I would not put much weight on what democratic senators have to say these days (their approval ratings are lower than the president's), I would say I absolutely agree with this sentiment.

There have been many sitting senators run for the presidency, only to lose and return to the senate chamber a defeated man. One need look no further than John Kerry in 2004 to see a defeated man return to the US Senate and simply go through the motions of representing the interest of his constituents while licking his wounds. There have also been sitting senators run for president, get defeated, and return to the chamber to represent their consituents and parties very well. Two prime examples are Senators Kennedy and Dole, both of whom ran for and lost their party's nominations in 1980.

So where does this leave McCain? Will he be more like Kerry, or Kennedy and Dole? The answer: he can be so much more than all three combined. The best comparison for Senator McCain comes to me from my ninth grade history class: The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay.

Although Clay was not a sitting senator the numerous times he ran for the presidency, he did become a senator after his many humiliating defeats, and he did so with the zeal of working for the country he loved. He worked so hard and was so influential, in fact, that he was named one of the five greatest US Senators in American history in 1957 by a panel that included John F. Kennedy... no small feat.

Clay was know as The Great Compromiser because he worked to bring both sides of an issue together to reach a conclusion that was mostly satifying for all. His two most notable examples revolved around slavery. In 1820 Congressman Clay of Kentucky brokered a compromise whereby Missouri could enter the union as a slave state while Maine entered as a free one. In 1850 another compromise put our Civil War on hold for 11 years as a compromise was reached on the expansion of slavery, brokered once again by Clay, this time a US Senator. The Maverick Senator from the west worked his entire career to ensure the needs of his country were met before the needs of himself or his party... and I am talking about Clay, not McCain.

There is also another interesting similarity between the two. John McCain once said during the campaign that he'd 'rather lose an election than lose a war'. Maybe he got his wish this week. What is interesting is that Clay, while running for president, said something very similar. From the Wikipedia article:

And although the Whigs had become as adept at political organizing as the Democrats by the time of Clay's final presidential bid, Clay himself failed to connect to the people, partly because of his unpopular views on slavery and the American System in the South. When Clay was warned not to take a stance against slavery or be so strong for the American System, he was quoted as saying, "I'd rather be right than be President!"

Interesting that both men made these statements about unpopular stands they took on matters of great importance. Clay's views on slavery turned out to be correct. Whether or not McCain's views on the Iraq War do remain to be seen. Regardless, these statements of principle over ambition, and their (I believe) heartfelt sincerity, really place these two gentlemen well above the fold of those who would say anything to achieve office, and maybe that's why they can mean so much more to our country from the Senate chamber than they ever could from the Oval Office.

Our country needs John McCain now more than ever. His ability to form alliances with those from the other party while maintaining strong ties to those in his own will be needed in the years ahead. This is John McCain's chance to make his mark on history. Who knows... maybe there will be some commission in 2157 that names the five greatest senators in American history... and maybe John McCain's name will be next to that of Henry Clay.

Posted by Doug Langworthy at November 6, 2008 2:16 AM
Comment #269663

I personally don’t think he is that important a figure, but I sincerely hope Palin fades into her ignominy.

Posted by: googlumpugus at November 6, 2008 4:57 AM
Comment #269668

McCain is carrying too much baggage to be very effective now…he should never have run for president…running a campaign exposed him for the half man he turned out to be…before he ran there was a certain aura about him that allowed for admiration…that has faded by now, and he has too many warts.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 8:14 AM
Comment #269670


I disagree.

McCain, for all of his faults, has been a moderating voice in the Senate. He has always had the “baggage”. Nothing new about him was disclosed during the campaign that wasn’t known before, and now, more than ever, this country needs centrists like McCain who will work together to pull this country back from the brink.

The decision to pick Palin was a grave mistake, and IMHO, was a political millstone that the McCain campaign couldn’t recover from in the eyes of the independents.
While the choice of Palin for VP may have given the ideologues on the far right something to be excited about, it did nothing for those of us that were on the fence about McCain, and it showed that the Republican party has learned nothing from the last 8 years.

The speech McCain gave in conceding to Obama brought back memories of the same man I would have voted for in 2000.
That speech made me wonder where that same man was throughout this Presidential campaign.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 6, 2008 9:32 AM
Comment #269676

Hindsight is 20/20, when Obama caught up and flew by the the most powerful political machine and team in America The Clinton’s, it was obvious with the numbers they both were bringing in compared to the republicans,Obama was very gracious to the Clinton’s overall he showed incredible wisdom and did it his way, McCain has no axe to bare and grudges to hold and the path he takes is up to him we the people spoke on Tuesday, give him a Medal.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 6, 2008 10:00 AM
Comment #269682

Doug, nice piece. Thanks for sharing.

Perhaps if the old, pre-2008 McCain re-appears, he’s got more to give and this country can benefit from taking it. I miss that old John McCain.

Unfortunately, the past year’s model was John McCain in name only.

The mere memory of his astonishingly poor judgment in picking his running mate is going to make it difficult for his judgment to be trusted going forward. Some of his 2008 policy pronouncements would have earned him the sobriquet “flip-flopper in chief” had he run as a Dem. His embrace of failed Bush policies have disqualified him to be considered a maverick.

So he’s got a lot of baggage to shed before he can successfully contribute. I think he can do it and I hope he does do it.

Posted by: EJN at November 6, 2008 10:29 AM
Comment #269697

I actually felt a bit sorry for McCain during his concession speech. If he had shown more of that attitude and sincerity during the campaign, the results may have been a little different. I do honestly hope that he will go back to work and do what he said as far as continuing his efforts to keep this country safe and support all it is known for.
Funny now that it’s all over, OUR interpretations and impressions of Sarah Palin are proving correct. There is more and more surfacing about her, and unless a huge number of people are struck with amnesia, four years, or eight will not be long enough for her to be seriously considered for anything.

Posted by: janedoe at November 6, 2008 12:40 PM
Comment #269699

I think McCain changed in 2004
I respected him and supported him in 2000 and thought he would have made a viable and good president at that time.

Then he started to suck up to Bush and their policies in a very embarrasing way.
Especially for someone who had been totally slurred and slandered by the person he was not embracing.
and then the approaches to the Pastors of Hate that he had reviled in 2000.
It just exposed to me that this man had abandoned his princples in order to appeal to the far right wing base in a misguided attempt to get the Presidency at any cost.

It really is too bad, the McCain of 2000 had wisdom, integrity, honor and respect
The 2004-2008 version totally abandoned all of those attributes — I hope it is a lesson for those who follow.
His concession speech appears to be (I hope) the first step on his road back to honor and integrity.

Posted by: Russ at November 6, 2008 12:42 PM
Comment #269700

Someone, somewhere…I scanned it in passing…mentioned that the ‘Mac is Back’ might be asked to act, within the Congress, as a liaison for bills struggling with partisanship. His brag about cross-aisle relationships was at least partially true, and if he was serious during the campaign about wanting to bring us together…perhaps such a job would be a good one for him.

I think Reid and Pelosi should give that serious consideration…

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 12:48 PM
Comment #269702

John McCain is a corrupt old incumbent who’s time is long past and would be if the voters weren’t as corrupted by the system as their politicians are.

Does Palin get to keep the clothes?

Posted by: jlw at November 6, 2008 12:58 PM
Comment #269704

Narysdude… I think you might be giving Reid and Pelosi too much credit if you think they will… McCain needs to reach out to people like Schumer on the other moderates of both parties.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at November 6, 2008 1:03 PM
Comment #269713

>Does Palin get to keep the clothes?
Posted by: jlw at November 6, 2008 12:58 PM


Yeah, but she’s gonna give ‘em to charity doncha know…and, she gets to keep that great atlas McCain’s staff gave her too…you know…the one wherein she found out Africa was actually a continent???…not just a collection of countries, somewhere…and that Russia is really too far away to see from her front porch…and that North America has three big countries and a whole buncha little-bitty ones.

Now, after studying that thing for a couple of years she can come back down here and show us how great she’ll be at foreign relations…I’m sure that Republicans will assure us she’s qualified to become their President…

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 2:11 PM
Comment #269714


Nah, you’re right. They won’t see the potential, and who can blame them…it just seems like a good idea to this old idealist.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 2:12 PM
Comment #269748

I don’t think JMcC really tried all that hard. He wasn’t very confrontational with BHO, perhaps suffering from the same inhibitions as so many others. Even the National Review wimped out in their coverage. My theory is still that the Rpblcns need the Dems in power during the current mess to have someone to blame for W’s garbage.

Posted by: ohrealy at November 6, 2008 5:55 PM
Comment #269762

>I don’t think JMcC really tried all that hard. He wasn’t very confrontational with BHO.
Posted by: ohrealy at November 6, 2008 05:55 PM


No, he wasn’t very confrontational…he was sneaky, underhanded, dishonorable and dirty…and, lied a lot…but, not confrontational…I’m pretty sure it did not have anything to do with those pesky ‘inhibitions’ you hint at…gee, I wonder just what you were hinting at!?!? But what ever those pesky inhibitions were, they didn’t stop him from having his surrogates use Hussein as a swear word, and/or saying Obama was ‘different’ than the ‘rest of us’. Nope, I’m pretty sure inhibitions didn’t have anything to do with his losing the election.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 7:18 PM
Comment #269767

Nice assessment of McCain’s legacy, Doug, though I think you give Senator Kerry short shrift. He has continued to be active in the Senate and, more importantly to the Democrats, he has been a tireless fundraiser and supporter of their candidates. I found my way on to his e-mail list in 2004, so I know! In my view, he is the unsung hero of this election for the Democrats.

As for McCain, I think Russ’s take on the 2000 McCain vs. the 2004-2008 McCain is dead on. I, too, hope that his concession speech is an indicator that we have the old John McCain back (no pun intended).

He is an extraordinary American and I believe we can really use his common sense and guts right now. As hard has he has fought to be president, I always got the sense that McCain felt more comfortable in his role as an esteemed Senator and — dare I use the now-tired term — political maverick than as a presidential hopeful.

As a long-time independent (albeit a left-leaning one), I was a strong supporter of McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000. But, as Russ points out, McCain 2004 sold out McCain 2000. At the time I wrote it off to his being a good party man, but the obvious willingness to betray his own principles in an effort to win the presidency continued throughout the 2008 campaign.

As Rocky Mars writes, nothing epitomized this more than the VP pick. Like Russ, Rocky and many other independents and undecideds I’ve spoken with, I was forever gone from the McCain camp when he made the inexplicable and indefensible choice of Palin. Conservatives who applauded and then defended the decision were simply being dishonest, either unwittingly with themselves or with the rest of us in a desperate attempt to keep the campaign afloat. Even Pat Robertson has acknowledged that she was far from ready for the role she had thrust upon her.

She may have “fired up the base,” but her selection suggests that the campaign believed that a vote cast out of enthusiam for the ticket counted more than one made half-heartedly. Maybe some on the fringe right would have stayed home or voted for a third party in protest if McCain hadn’t chosen “one of them.” More likely, they still would have voted for McCain simply to ensure that Obama didn’t win. Meanwhile, many of the independents that McCain needed to offset the expected surge in interest from young and minority voters — there are at least three in this thread alone — had seen enough and gave up on him.

Now we hear from Newsweek that McCain wanted Lieberman as his VP. His advisors talked him out of it, which is too bad. If he had stuck to his guns and made history with a bipartisan ticket, he’d have had my vote because he would have given true substance to all his talk of reaching across the aisle. Based on what I’m reading here and hearing elsewhere, I’m guessing that I wouldn’t have been alone.

Posted by: Sam McD at November 6, 2008 7:44 PM
Comment #269769

Marysdude…in the Newsweek recap of the election, McCain is quoted at one point saying, “What the f––– would I want to lead this party for?”

I think that McCain’s ambivalence about his own party and his antipathy toward many on the rabid right fringe, was evident throughout his campaign.

Much has been said about the lack of a consistent message and I believe that was the result of McCain never fully buying into the below-the-belt, attack dog tactics of his staffers who had used them so successfully on the Bush campaigns. Maybe I give the man too much credit; but I believe that any other candidate would have let this campaign sink far further into the gutter, especially when he fell so far behind.

Posted by: Sam McD at November 6, 2008 8:03 PM
Comment #269789

Sam McD,

I certainly hope you’re right about his sweet self…I’ve had a hard-on for him since he gave it up as a POW. He uses his POWship as some sort of armor, but he lacked courage while he was one. I find it impossible to hold him up as some sort of hero…he lost three airplanes…he was captured…he was released…he soon went into politics…he did a few good things, tried to do some other good things…but, for the most part has just been another corrupt (Keating) official. Then he ran against a good man for the office of president, and tried to smear that good man with labels like ‘unAmerican’, ‘terrorist’, ‘alien’, and it pissed me off.

I hope Pelosi and Reid can use his talents for conciliation, but I will not respect him…not in this lifetime.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 9:47 PM
Comment #269794


While I find it hard to define McCain as a hero simply because he was a POW, I don’t think that you or I or anyone else we know wouldn’t “give it up” under the same circumstances.
Was it McCain himself that “smeared” Obama, or was it Palin, or perhaps his campaign?
I don’t remember him actually saying any of the things you accuse him of, and I do remember him chiding some members of his audience at a rally for their accusations.
His actions as a member of the Keating Five 20 years ago were reprehensible, but I think he has done more good than harm as a Senator.

Perhaps I am just biased. He is my Senator.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 6, 2008 10:38 PM
Comment #269798


Who has the final say in a campaign? If it is not the guy running, why would we ever vote for any of them? He had plenty of chances to stop that crap, especially those ugly robo-calls there toward the end, but he elected not to. If he could not control Palin, why did he think he’d be better at it after the election?

Plenty of POWs gave it up, but plenty more did not. He was the only one who gave it up at the Hanoi Hilton, of the group he was locked up with, while he was there. All the others held their own. You are right, I don’t know how I would have held up under the same circumstances, but I’d be willing to bet I would not have capitulated the way he did. He talks about his bad experiences and he wears them like a badge of honor…Bah!

Posted by: Marysdude at November 6, 2008 11:40 PM
Comment #269853

Marysdude, you are correct that McCain bears the responsibility for his campaign. Consider that, publicly, Bush was nothing but complimentary toward Kerry about his military service, while the Swiftboaters that his political machine undoubtedly supported (if not created) trashed Kerry to the point of no return.

McCain’s equivocation about the attacks was apparent in his careful use of the term “fact-based.” Not “true” or “factual,” but something short of that. As if he were saying, “Most of us know that Obama isn’t really what I’m portraying him to be, but if I’m going to be president I need to try to convince some of the more gullible among us to think he is.”

While he disappointed me throughout his campaign, I’ll continue to hold him in high regard and believe that he’s just another good man who let his ambition temporarily run away with him.

Posted by: Sam McD at November 7, 2008 12:16 PM
Comment #269855


If you have read any of my posts here in the last several months you would have seen that I have been as critical of McCain as anyone.
That said, I am not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
McCain has been, and hopefully will continue to be an effective voice in the Senate.
Warts aside, just because I didn’t want McCain as my President doesn’t mean that I don’t admire what he has accomplished over his long career.

Admittedly, the choice of Palin for VP scared me sh**less, and I am willing to bet that that choice came more from the RNC than it did from McCain. I am also not so naive as to belive that the RNC didn’t have it’s paws all over the attack adds we saw leading up to the election. We saw the same “win at all costs” MO against Gore, and Kerry.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 7, 2008 12:33 PM
Comment #269929

Rocky & Sam,

Yeah…you’re right…but…damn…

Posted by: Marysdude at November 7, 2008 10:35 PM
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