Today was the last straw. I've had it with the one-time hero of this site, John McCain.
He picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. At the time, readers of this site will note that I actually endorsed the move. As I explained later, however, I assumed -- incorrectly -- that Palin possessed at least a minimum standard of knowledge and competence about the world. I viewed her as a female Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal. I'll admit I was completely wrong. As Andrew Sullivan has astutely noted, McCain is singularly responsible for Palin's rapid ascent on the national stage.
He admirably fought for comprehensive immigration reform in 2005, realizing that an imperfect solution was better than no solution at all to the country's immigration problem. But in trying to beat back a primary challenge from the buffoonish JD Hayworth in 2010, McCain seemed to make a hard-line stance on immigration his defining issue, culminating in the laughable "just build the danged fence" ad. As we've noted previously, immigration has never been a McCain issue. This was rank demagoguery.
In the past, he's also taken a reasonable stance on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, making it his firm position that whether to repeal that policy should be left to the discretion of the military brass. Both the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, support repeal. But now, McCain is angrily leading the filibuster to stop a repeal from going to the floor of the Senate. While there might be dissenting voices at the Pentagon, the two most important people at the Pentagon support repeal. By his own standard, McCain's position utterly fails as, again, sheer demagoguery.
Between 2004-2006, McCain went on a one-man crusade against wasteful defense spending, no-bid contracts and fraudulent deals between the Pentagon and its biggest defense contractors. He called out former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on his stonewalling of the Senate's investigation into alleged corruption -- pressure to which Rumsfeld ultimately capitulated, proving McCain right. With little to no fanfare, McCain admirably rose to the occasion time and again on behalf of the American taxpayer, understanding that there is a difference between money spent for national security purposes and money that is just spent on the military. It was precisely because of feats like these -- for which McCain received virtually no publicity or political gain -- that we believed McCain would make an outstanding president.
Today, unfortunately, McCain criticized Sen.-elect Rand Paul for daring to suggest that in order to get America's fiscal affairs in order, Congress must consider cutting the Pentagon's budget. McCain said this evinced "isolationism." No word as to whether McCain will similarly attack his good friend Tom Coburn for the same transgressions after this searing op-ed in the Washington Examiner where Coburn, citing the comments of none other than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen, warned:
Taking defense spending off the table is indefensible. We need to protect our nation, not the Pentagon's sacred cows.
There is a brewing civil war in the GOP over defense spending, with actual fiscal conservatives like Paul, Coburn and Pat Toomey on one side, and McCain leading the charge on the other.
And with that, he has lost me. McCain has engaged in embarrassing double-talk and proven himself to be just another politician who will do anything and say anything to get elected. Why should I continue to support a man like this? As we've noted, McCain didn't need to do this -- Arizona Republicans, while admittedly not thrilled with McCain on every issue, showed no inclination of taking Hayworth seriously in the Republican primary, and McCain won by 25 points.
We wrote a few days ago that conservatives must understand and reconcile their inherently contradictory pushes for a balanced budget and a blank check for the Pentagon. This is a distinction that has apparently since been lost on John McCain. The days of the happy warrior hunkered down in his Senate office late at night, ginning up trouble and holding bureaucrats' feet to the fire, are long gone. The American taxpayer has lost a hero, and the Senate has lost one of its most fascinating, important characters.
McCain could have entered his twilight years as a statesman, the most respected member of the Senate, and an honest bipartisan broker at a time when America so desperately needs such leadership. But the maverick is long gone. In his place is an angry, demagoguing fool who likely -- and rightfully -- will simply fade out from American politics and be forgotten.