Now that he has burned his last remaining principles on a bonfire of campaign money , spending $21 million to run an anti-immigrant hard-right primary campaign to keep his grip on the Republican nomination in Arizona, what’s left for Senator John McCain to do? Come back to Washington and rescue his country through the force of his statesmanship , says the Washington Post’s David Broder:
In a Congress in which Democrats have pitiful approval ratings and Republicans even worse, McCain is one of the few names that does not draw instant contempt from the voters. The reputation he established for independence – for being his own man, no matter what the pressures – has survived the vagaries of an exceptionally long career.
That reputation is his ticket to influence, and a precious gift he can bestow on others, Republican or Democrat, who are willing to join him as a dysfunctional Senate prepares to struggle with a challenging agenda both domestic and foreign.
“Reputation,” in David Broder’s formulation (which probably resembles John McCain’s formulation, as far as John McCain goes) is some immutable quality that a person possesses, something that cannot be changed by anything that person says or does:
I did not begrudge him the $20 million he spent to win Tuesday’s primary, or whatever amount it was. Nor was I bothered by the doctrinal compromises the senator made to convince Arizona voters that he was, in fact, a conservative. McCain has always been a realist, doing what was necessary to survive a North Vietnamese prison camp or a tough political trap. His 2000 embrace of George W. Bush – a man he had every reason to dislike – showed his practicality, and it made possible his own presidential nomination in 2008.
Campaigning against J.D. Hayworth was like surviving torture from the Viet Cong, you see. You cannot hold a man accountable for what he does under the inhuman pressure to ingratiate himself to voters. Or to ingratiate himself to his party. The fact that McCain has spent a full decade doing the opposite of what he supposedly knows is right—that is the very thing that makes him a leader. Practicality. Realism. Sometimes you need to have the wisdom to do the wrong thing, over and over and over again.
So now, Broder explains, precisely because of his willingness to do whatever is expedient and dishonorable, John McCain has earned the chance to help show the country the way out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither of those projects will require the least bit of difficult or unpopular decision-making, right? And then, while he is at it, he can “[steer] the GOP away from an experiment in extremism.”
Yes, it is time for a wise Republican giant to lead the party away from all this Sarah Palin Tea Party rabble-rousing. Who decided that a mean, divisive lightweight like Palin deserved to become a national political figure, anyway? Wait, really? John McCain did ?
Well, you can’t possibly think he meant it.