Friday, September 15, 2006

McCain Presidential Campaign Watch

Here's the lede of an article on the Financial Times online edition titled "McCain stands his ground on CIA jails":

John McCain, the Republican frontrunner for the 2008 presidential election, has dramatically raised the stakes in a fight with the White House over interrogation techniques permitted for use at secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons by saying he is unwilling to back down on the issue even if it ruins his chance of becoming president. (Emphasis added)

Wow, what a maverick! This guy's a man of principle! He doesn't care about politics, just doing the right thing! He's willing to take a stand against the leadership of his own party, including the Commander-in-Chief, even if doing so destroys his shot at the presidency! What an amazing coincidence!!

What an amazing coincidence that McCain is taking this Fearless Straight Talking Stand in circumstances where... this just happens to be the politically expedient bumper sticker for him to slap on the Straight Talk Express right now, preferably right on top of that "I Heart Bob Jones" bumper sticker he started sporting in May. Here's my take on how Mr. Straight Talk -- and Republicans in close Congressional races -- are going to play this:

1) McCain takes a Bold Stand against Administration over-reaching;

2) The press types up all kinds of Maverick Straight Talk Express Saint McCain stories;

3) Republicans in tough races where Bush is unpopular associate themselves with McCain's concerns about America's reputation in the world;

4) The White House announces they're grateful to Saint McCain for his help on the Geneva Conventions file, they're going to change the proposal a bit;

5) Saint McCain signs off on the New and Improved Proposal, it's a Victory for the Troops and America's Moral Authority in the World! (Will the New and Improved Proposal be any better? Doesn't matter. You think the journalists who type up the campaign press releases actually read documents?)

6) See? The way to change course and to safeguard again the Cheney Administration's excesses... is to support independent-minded Republicans like John McCain! Those guys can be trusted to Protect America and Stand Up to Bush and to deliver (wait for it) CHANGE!

7) New GOP spin & talking points: Where was Nancy Pelosi when Saint McCain and other Strong-but-Moderate Republican Reformers like Linc Chafee and Chris Shays were fighting to protect the American Way of Life and America's prestige in the world by making sure we adhere to the Geneva Conventions? In San Francisco running a workshop for NAMBLA members on how to apply for government grants to recruit children into alternative lifestyles? Weren't all of the protagonists in the torture debate Republicans? If you want oversight of the Cheney Administration, how about people like John McCain? If you're a Terra Voter who's concerned that Bush has gone a bit too far, just look at how willing he was to work with McCain and to consider his criticism!

Is Karl Rove upset that McCain is sucking up all the oxygen that would otherwise be available to Democrats? I can't see why he would be. His main concern is to keep the House and the Senate. My bet is that he's hoping the Democrats decide to sit this one out on the theory that you never get involved when your enemy is self-destructing.

Democrats need to be in the fight, not on the sidelines. And they need to remember that McCain is not their friend. He's not going to carry their water. He's not trying to tank the GOP. He's positioning himself as an Agent for Change for his race in 2008 -- which is the only way he's going to have a shot post-Dubya. Right now, a lot of Republicans are looking for a way to cast themselves as agents for change -- or at least as not in lockstep with Bush -- and McCain is giving them coattails to ride. Is providing those coattails going to destroy McCain's shot at the Presidency? I can't see it.

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