ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER THOUGHT HE HIT A FUN CHORD WHEN HE CALLED the Democratic National Convention, “True Lies.” Clearly though, the convention we have been watching this week is piling a mound of duplicity on a foundation of mistruths. Enough have made an issue of this Republican Party disingenuously leading with personalities like Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, McCain, and even Laura Bush. So, I’ll leave that alone. But where is John Ashcroft? Jerry Falwell? Don Rumsfeld? Tom DeLay? Where is the real face of the party that Bush built?
Although Giuliani’s and McCain’s speeches were ones that I feel compromised their integrity, they are still part of the “as good as you are going to get” faction in the Republican Party — and frankly, if I remove the low score for the McCain speech the other night — I still admire his tenacious commitment to honest public debate, straight talk, big ideas, and an end to the structural corruption in Washington.
I happen to know, directly as well as indirectly through close associates of McCain’s, that he despises George W. Bush and his advisors, or at least used to. Virtually none of McCain’s senior campaign staff were offered positions after Bush won the presidency. They were persona non grata, and McCain’s campaign finance reform tenaciousness widened the personal divide even more.
What did McCain get for this gushing enthusiasm for Bush who should be working as a ranch hand on McCain’s ranch and not from the commanding heights of the White House? (No slight towards ranch hands intended.)
First of all, McCain believes in supporting the President of the United States in war, any war — good or bad. I respect that actually, though I think it is the role of Congress to help shape good from bad, just from unjust wars. McCain and I just disagree on the Iraq War. In his speech, McCain blurred the laudable response of Bush against bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan — but then made the mistake all others make which is blurring Iraq and the Saddam Hussein challenge into our angst about bin Laden. McCain is smarter than that and is not embarrassing or challenging the President on this point. But he didn’t just abstain, McCain cheered for Bush — even though I’m pretty sure McCain considers Bush’s people pretty corrupt, pretty nasty and devious, and on some fronts, very unintelligent. And those are kinder words than McCain would use.
So, Maybe McCain is getting a promise that if Cheney doesn’t finish his next term as VP and resigns mid-way, McCain will be selected as Bush’s mid-term VP. I haven’t seen anyone suggest this, but maybe Bush knows it was better to keep Cheney through the race, keep him on for a year, and then put him out to pasture allowing another major force to enter as a successor to Bush. This would converge with some of what David Broder just wrote in the Washington Post about the McCain phenomenon.
I don’t think that McCain would have sold even part of his soul to Bush for more restrictions on 527s and a bigger commitment to genuine campaign finance reform. I know McCain wants to abolish the Federal Elections Commission or totally reform it — but that too is something McCain could force without Bush’s sponsorship. McCain wants to curb media consolidation in this country and get the FCC moved in some new directions — but Bush will not undo Rupert Murdoch and McCain’s other agenda items are also too small for McCain to have given the kind of speech he did the other day.
Some think that McCain is positioning for another run in 2008, but it only makes sense if he is the heir apparent and his age in 2008 is less of an issue. He will be 72 years old in 2008 — and while I think he wears his seniority very well — age could be an issue unless the Republicans stack that deck early. That is only possible if Cheney leaves his post in 2006 or 2007 and Bush gives McCain Cheney’s job.
What I have suggested is entirely speculative, and there are guys out there like Rick Davis who ran McCain’s last campaign who probably know the truth of McCain’s motivations. I don’t want to ask Rick because I don’t want Rick to be compelled to tell me I’m wrong, which I think he would have to do whether true or not (out of respect to Cheney).
However, you heard it here first — I think John McCain will succeed Dick Cheney as Vice President mid-term if Bush/Cheney wins.
It’s all kind of like redistricting Texas mid-term, another subject we all need to look at again. Where is Tom DeLay?
— Steve Clemons