Last night, John McCain easily dispatched his primary challenge from the buffoonish JD Hayworth, 56-32, to virtually guarantee himself a fifth term in the U.S. Senate.
Although I haven't written much about it, I've been somewhat disappointed with McCain's primary campaign.
I wasn't disappointed so much by his tactics -- I thought Hayworth represented everything that is wrong with the Republican Party, and I'll admit that I watched gleefully as the McCain team hammered him over and over. This is politics, and if you step into the ring with the likes of John McCain, you'd better wear your brass knuckles. After all, Hayworth started it, using his radio program to slam McCain for everything for his support for "amnesty" to campaign finance reform. McCain then buried Hayworth in an avalanche of negative ads, from the funny (click here) to the outright bruising -- battering Hayworth for his ties to Jack Abramoff and his stint as a pitchman for a get-rich-quick scheme. It's delightful to see a man of Hayworth's poor character get run over.
I haven't even been disappointed with what liberal commentators see as McCain's refusal to work across the aisle since the Obama administration took office. McCain was reportedly one of about 10 Republican senators in discussions to build a bipartisan economic stimulus package roughly half the size of the package proposed by House Democrats and eventually signed into law. The Obama administration followed its own advice to never waste a crisis, swatted away the idea of a more fiscally responsible bill, scoffing at the notion of a truly bipartisan endeavor, and effectively slapped those Senate Republicans in the face.
On the other big-ticket issue of the Obama presidency, healthcare reform, it was clear that the Obama administration knew it had the votes, and showed no interest whatsoever in working with Republicans like McCain. There were areas of clear agreement between the parties -- pre-existing conditions, the anti-trust exemption, etc. -- and the president made a conscious choice to ignore the wishes of a majority of Americans and push ahead with a pointless, ineffectual bill that cost better than a trillion dollars and won't lower healthcare costs by a penny. Why should any Republican get behind that? I don't blame McCain one bit for refusing to work with the president. As Mike Pence pointed out, Obama doesn't seem to understand that "bipartisanship" means more than simply letting Republicans vote on Democratic ideas.
Rather, I've been more disappointed with McCain's changing tenor on issues like immigration and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Every politician changes his stance from time to time, but McCain's was obviously calibrated to move to the right and kowtow to the Republican base. Frankly, Hayworth was such a farcical dunce that I don't think McCain needed to do this. McCain's conservative record -- never voting for a tax increase, crusades against pork-barrel spending and wasteful government contracts, a 100% pro-life rating from Right to Life -- speaks for itself. The immigration issue especially bothered me. I agree that the federal government needs to do a better job securing the border, but McCain's "build the danged fence" ad was laughable. Building a fence has never been a John McCain issue -- and in fact, McCain has even waved off the notion that a fence needs to be built at all.
I always thought John McCain was a bit more noble than this. Especially running against a clown like Hayworth, changing these positions really wasn't necessary.
I read an interesting theory on McCain somewhere -- the idea is that McCain, whose lifelong obsession has been honor, duty and country, will change his positions and make normally unbecoming personal attacks on those people who he believes to be so dishonorable, because the greater sin would be allowing Americans to be hoodwinked by such fools. These are not merely individuals who McCain runs against, but rather those individuals who in McCain's eyes are dishonorable people who cannot be entrusted with public office -- JD Hayworth and Barack Obama are in this category, and I believe George W. Bush was, too.
But regardless of what you think about John McCain -- and here, we still admire him and believe him to be among America's greatest leaders -- he truly is the ultimate political survivor, a quintessentially American story, and a national treasure.
As McCain enters what might be the twilight of his political career, we are thrilled that he's sticking around a little while longer.