NARDI: Decline and fall of John McCain

Tom Nardi

I used to think that John McCain was the next great hope in politics, a sensible man willing to cross the aisle to get things done. I used to think McCain had principles, and that he would stand up to anyone to defend them. I used to think that McCain deserved to be president.

I also used to be na’ve.

McCain’s cozying up to President Bush aka Shrub after the 2000 elections was the first clue to McCain’s lack of a political spine. “Anonymous” people spread horribly denigrating rumors about McCain – stating he fathered an illegitimate black child, distributing flyers in churches calling him the “fag” candidate for hiring gay staffers and implying his years in the Hanoi Hilton had driven him insane and rendered him incapable of being president.

And yet, after such horrible treatment, McCain snuggled right up to his nemesis. In fact, do a Google search for that now infamous picture of McCain giving Shrub a bear hug. Could you do that to someone whose supporters smeared you from here to next week? I couldn’t. But that hug is the least of McCain’s sins.

The day I realized McCain was a political hack was last March, when I learned he was to give the commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. After years of casting himself as a maverick politician, even calling Falwell himself “an agent of intolerance,” McCain suddenly became a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Or rather, he showed his true colors.

See, one thing you have to know about McCain is his voting record. Over the span of his legislative career, McCain has earned a ranking of 83 (out of 100) from the American Conservative Union. Now while that might seem low, Rick Santorum, that prince of the radical right, received just 88 over his career, which thankfully is over.

McCain was proud to wear the label of “maverick” when it suited his needs. Need a moderate to run against George Bush in 2000? McCain’s your man! See McCain working with Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform? What a maverick! See McCain supporting Bush at every turn? Such a maverick! (OK. If you were paying attention, that last one doesn’t make any sense. But the media never picks up on it. I’m glad you did.)

But even if McCain were just a conservative, I could still see him as a good guy if he weren’t a liar. There is an amazing video circulating on YouTube pointing out that McCain flip-flops more than beached fish on speed. Check out, and you will see what I am talking about. The “Straight Talk Express” has derailed and is now ablaze.

In the leadup to the Iraq War, McCain said that “the success will be fairly easy” and that “we can win an overwhelming victory.” Well, apparently that didn’t work out. So fast-forward to January 2007. What’s McCain’s opinion now?

“I knew it was probably going to be long and hard and tough, and those that voted for it and somehow thought it was going to be some kind of an easy task, then I’m sorry they were mistaken,” he said. “Maybe they didn’t know what they were voting for.”

Where does one work up the nerve to say something like that? Call people out on something you did as well? Politicians always act as if we the people aren’t paying attention, but McCain is downright insulting our intelligence if he thinks we are buying what he says.

Add to the mix that McCain has blown off two votes on the Iraq War – the defining issue of our times – in this month alone, and you see the spectacular crash of a once-promising politician. Never mind that what you thought made McCain a good man was nothing more than a specter. Too bad. I really could have seen myself voting for who I thought McCain was.