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Opinion

Opinion

McCain integrity takes last gasp

April 18, 2010

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We are gathered here today to pay our final respects to John McCain’s integrity.

It died recently — turned a triple somersault, stiffened like an exclamation point, fell to the floor with its tongue hanging out — when the senator told Newsweek magazine, “I never considered myself a maverick.” This, after the hard-fought presidential campaign of 2008 in which McCain, his advertising team, his surrogates and his running mate all but tattooed the “M” word on their foreheads.

Indeed, not only did they call McCain a maverick, but so did the subtitle of his 2003 memoir. Heck, his campaign plane when he ran for president back in 1999 was dubbed Maverick One. Yet there he is in the April 12, 2010, edition of Newsweek, page 29, top of the center column: “I never considered myself a maverick.”

And his integrity kicked twice and was still.

The death was not unexpected. McCain’s integrity had been in ill health for a long time. Once, it had been his most attractive political trait, drawing smitten prose from political reporters and intrigued attention from voters sick of the same old, same old from politicians who would bend like Gumby for the electorate’s approval.

McCain’s integrity wouldn’t allow him to be that guy. He was this hard bitten former Navy flier and heroic POW, impatient with the belittling demands of politics as usual, a fellow who would speak an impolitic truth or cross the aisle to work with the opposition because he had this quaint idea that the needs of the country superseded the needs of his party. Then came the GOP presidential primary of 2000 in which McCain was bested by one George Walker Bush and a load of dirty tricks. McCain took note. And his integrity took sick.

The illness began in that selfsame campaign.

By his own admission, McCain lied to voters about his opinion of the Confederate battle flag, fearing that calling it what it is — a flag of treason, racism and slavery — would cost him votes in flag-worshipping South Carolina.

In later years, he embraced right-wing religious extremists he had once condemned. And reneged on a promise that he’d be open to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if military leaders advised it. And went from opposition of offshore oil drilling to “Drill, baby, drill!” Et cetera.

Two things here: One, all the nattering about flip-flops aside, there is nothing wrong with changing one’s opinion. It indicates a thinking mind.

Two, McCain is hardly unique. Indeed, they have a name for people who change their opinions in order to win votes: politicians.

But these are not just changes of opinion we’re talking about. Rather, they are betrayals of core principle. And while that might be politics as usual, there is a higher standard for the politician who has positioned himself as a man of uncommon integrity, a purveyor of straight talk in a nation hungry for same. When that man panders, the disappointment is keen.

So it stings to see McCain knuckle under to the ideological rigidity that makes it heresy to cross the aisle, question the orthodoxy or have an independent thought. There’s a sense of loss for those who ask of leaders, leadership. It reinforces the cynical notion that there is no one out there who is authentic.

One is reminded of that poignant scene in “The Truman Show” where Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank has just discovered his entire life was a made-for-TV fiction. “Was nothing real?” he asks. A voter who believed in John McCain, who regarded his iconoclastic singularity as a stirring example, might be forgiven for asking the very same thing.

“I never considered myself a maverick?!” Wow.

With those words, McCain completes his transmutation into an avatar of all that is wrong in American politics.

May his integrity rest in peace.

Comments

tange 4 years ago

I almost jumped on this one, when it first appeared, but I guess I couldn't even buy its oxymoronic premise: "McCain integrity"—not so much a last gasp as gas passed.

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jaywalker 4 years ago

jonas made me laugh. again.

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LoveThsLife 4 years ago

Politicians have integrity? Who knew?

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Flap Doodle 4 years ago

Pitty-pat writing about the conservative movement is rather like a pig writing about sunspots. He may see them, but cannot understand them.

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jaywalker 4 years ago

Well said, Rex. I particularly appreciated "sanctimonious joy", as that was the phrase I was looking for.

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Rex Russell 4 years ago

First let me say, you can almost feel the sanctimonious joy Pitts had in writing this article. As a journalist, I would hope he would normaly be above that. But as far as McCain goes, his fall from grace was gradual. In 2000, he was admirable. He lost to Bush(inadmirable), but he lost "his own way". He didn't lose who he really was. The second time around he listened to handlers that said he had to suck-up to the televangelists and idiots of the party. In essence, to get elected, he had to sell out everything he was. The final straw was Palin. At that moment I lost the last ounce of respect I had for a man I had respected for quite some time. He trashed his reputation, dignity, and legacy in that campaign.

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75x55 4 years ago

Way to stay current, Pitts.

Conservatives have known this for years now - RINO by any other name ("maverick", whatever) is still a RINO.

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jaywalker 4 years ago

McCain's fall in politics was predictable, and a lot of what Pitts' says is sadly true.......however, the schadenfreude is palpable, not to mention the obvious lack of respect dripping from each smarmy phrase. Pitts' reports this as if the same sad transformation doesn't happen every single year to members of each party, when the 'good fight' just gets too tiring or when the double-talk finally takes it's toll. Let's talk about 180's and double-talk with the current President, Mr. Pitts, or for that matter ANY Prez or politician. For the love?! That's the game!

Poor piece.

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puddleglum 4 years ago

i am beginning to tire of all of these attacks on the confederate flag. maybe once I get elected governor of Kansas, I may change our flag so that the stars and bars are hanging out the side of the covered wagon.

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beatrice 4 years ago

Tom, you are calling Obama a liar because of something someone else said?

Further, why does changing one's mind make that person a liar? He could be considered a liar if he knew he had no intention of using public funds when he said he would. There is no reason or proof to suggest this. Later, it was realized that using public funds might not be in the best interest of his getting elected, so he changed his mind. Who would want to vote for someone who is incapable of changing his mind when new circumstances present themselves? So changing his mind doesn't make him a liar, it just proves that he is rational.

If changing his mind, or "flip-flopping," is going to make someone unworthy of voting for, I guess Mitt Romney doesn't stand a chance of ever getting elected.

Being a liar is saying somthing like Joe Biden fell off the wagon when he drank at the "beer summit," even after you have been told that your source was flawed and that Biden had a non-alcoholic drink that day because he is a non-drinker. If you did that, you would be a liar. Remember?

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Tom Shewmon 4 years ago

Of course, no refuting my 12:47 post.

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porch_person 4 years ago

(laughter)

I agree. People have known about the current Republican strategy to "keep 'em dumb" for quite awhile. Karl Rove and Lee Atwater made their living off of public manipulation. As Peggy Noonan said, "This is a narrative. Republicans don't do narratives, at least they didn't in the past".

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porch_person 4 years ago

TomShewmon,

Do the Republicans offer any alternative other than fools with no integrity?

I rest my case.

The Republican Party is one where "elitism" is a vice. An organization where it's more important to be "common folk" than "informed".

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beatrice 4 years ago

Tom, if you think this is the first time I've had anything bad to say about the "birther" Hayworth, you are sadly mistaken. Remember, I live in AZ. I've been critical of him since he was a sports caster. He is a former House member, recognized by those in Washington at the time as one of the "Non-Rocket Scientists" for his lack of intelligence.

It is one thing to be a conservative, but Hayworth is your typical, run of the mill Ditto-head types who doesn't actually practice what he preaches. Like Palin, he is for things before he is against them. He claims to be fiscally conservative, as long as you don't look at his voting record in support of W. Oh, and he really doesn't like immigrants, especially from Mexico, which, amazingly doesn't play all that well with the non-white residents of the state.

Keep hoping for change Tom, especially since even in your best case senario the Dems will likely maintain power in both chambers through Obama's first term. I certainly enjoyed the change that did happen in 2009 and will continue through Obama's re-election in 2012.

By the way, didn't McCain call the economy "fundamentally sound" back in fall 2008? Isn't that when you were making the same claims?

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independant1 4 years ago

Hey fwent, when i read your post, joe biden's image popped into my head.

"Stand up, Chuck, let 'em see ya." –-Joe Biden, to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham, who is in a wheelchair, Columbia, Missouri, Sept. 12, 2008

and

"Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs." --Joe Biden, Athens, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2008

Why doesn't the media feast on him a la quayle? answer, he's a career politician and lib.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years ago

Boy, I am glad a few of you mentioned Palin, I did not see any mention of it in the article. I think I am one of many millions who drew in a breath with a "great sucking sound" when they announced moose lady as McCain's running mate. I am not sure how the Party of Lincoln could ever make such a collosal blunder, now magnified by the behavior of this political nobody who quit her job in an elected polition. This was one of the worst political blunders I have ever seen, even worse than Dan Quayle.

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Tom Shewmon 4 years ago

Beatrice carries the torch lately for hateful comments toward any conservative (Hayworth this time). McCain can go as far as I'm concerned, but Glassman (D) is trailing McCain by a whopping 22 points and Hayworth by 9 points and McCain leads Hayworth by only 5 points, which is nearly w/in margin of error. I hope Hayworth wins. We need some hard-core conservatives in congress---someone like Hayworth who'll tell Dems what's on his mind and not hold back. The senate is looking more every day to be a shift. People are simply fed up with Dems. Now they want to start tackling cap and trade (tax and regulate). When will the lamestream media fess-up on Obama's lying about taxes? Tea partiers already see right through his BS. Dems are in trouble this fall------not saying they'll lose one or both chambers (think they will lose the senate) but the shift will be very telling. It will have Dems nervous and edgy leading into 2012. And if Obama keeps on the same track he's been on......it will be a devastating election for Dems in 2012. The rosy pictures painted by the lamestream media on the economy are not working. People will still see high foreclosure, high UE, inflation and national debt blowing up. It's not good for Dems. And again, McCain needs to go into retirement. God forbid his daughter jumps into politics.

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Flap Doodle 4 years ago

If I were ranking people based on their ability to understand the conservative movement in America, I'd rank Lenny between Trotsky and Tojo.

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Flap Doodle 4 years ago

Woo hoo! Reagan/Bush citation sighting! Way to stay current, merrill!

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independant1 4 years ago

ah hem,

If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics. (Will Rogers)

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beatrice 4 years ago

McCain's integrity left the building once and for all when he introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate. In no way could he honestly have believed that she was the next best person to possibly run the country should he have been elected. Thank god he didn't. That whole mavericky thing wouldn't have done any of us any good.

Now, he is running up against a dim-witted former sports announcer turned Teabagger, J.D. Hayworth, who is seriously challenging him for his party's nomination for Senate. Hopefully they will tear each other apart, one will run as an independent, and whoever ends up as the Democratic candidate will win.

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Machiavelli_mania 4 years ago

All things pass. And so it is with McCain.

His political peak was in 2000. He was at his political prime then.

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Richard Heckler 4 years ago

The reckless lending practices began under Reagan/Bush that help finance the mass exodus of USA industry and USA jobs.

Hostile Takeovers,Mergers and leveraged buyouts promoted the loss of the USA economy. It was stunning the amounts of money our financial institutions would lend out to "Fortune 500" corporations. Such huge debt it would seem would be reckless.

Soon after new ownership took place huge layoffs would be announced. Soon thereafter another announcement dictating the need to move over seas if the new owned corporations were going to remain in business. Oh my labor costs were just the root of all evil yet under previous ownership these corporations were profitable.

Many times I wondered where in the world were Wall Street banks finding such obscene amounts of money. Loaning more it seemed than any corporation could possibly be worth. The Wall Street casino machine gamble gamble gamble knowing full well the USA government would FORCE taxpayers to clean up after any financial mishap.

Of course there was the Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan financial institutions debacle which destroyed retirement plans and sent millions of golden agers back into the work force when job opportunities were on the decline in a big way. Brother McCain made history here as well.This colorful Reagan/Bush history is all laid out here: http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

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Kathy Getto 4 years ago

McCain's death rattle became audible with the appearance of Sarah ,"the maverick" Palin.

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Robert Rauktis 4 years ago

Pitts is right, a good man was lost to the American political machine in 2000. Senator McCain doesn't need to grovel to be elected. He's got nothing to prove and can leave the scum bucket to the present germs.

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Flap Doodle 4 years ago

Because I trust huffingtonpost for unbiased news. {not}

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windchimes 4 years ago

And then there is former President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney.

even lower integrity than McCain, in fact they belong in Dante's Inferno sub-basement level.

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Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Was he ever a maverick? Nothing more than political rhetoric!

McCain: The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five. The story of "the Keating Five" has become a scandal rivaling Teapot Dome and Watergate ... http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1989-11-29/news/mccain-the-most-reprehensible-of-the-keating-five/1

================================================================== McCain's Non-Support for Troops and Veterans: The Master List http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandon-friedman/mccains-non-support-for-t_b_131046.html ==================================================================

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jayhawklawrence 4 years ago

Making much of little.

While reading this column, I was reminded of Krauthammer.

Time for that vacation?

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