Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Altar Call

Guess who's coming to dinner?
LYNCHBURG, Va. — American military hero and Arizona Sen. John McCain will deliver the Commencement message at Liberty University on May 13, at 9:30 a.m., in the Liberty University Vines Center. In addition, renowned Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer will speak during the University’s baccalaureate service on May 12, at 7:00 p.m., in the main sanctuary of the Thomas Road Baptist Church. ....

While Sen. McCain and Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell have had their share of political differences through the years, the two men share a common respect for each other and have become good friends in their efforts to preserve what they see as common values. This will mark his first ever appearance at Liberty University.
Boy, that's some nice How Would Jesus Spin there.

"Political differences?" Back in February 2000 when he was seeking the Republican nomination, McCain denounced Falwell -- along with his friend the hurricane mover and assassination enthusiast Pat Robertson -- as "agents of intolerance" on the religious right. Not only that, but he compared those two to Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, which to conservatives is akin to comparing them to a gay communist pederast.

This wasn't an off-the-cuff slip. A few weeks later, McCain delivered a broadside to the divisiveness of the Religious Right: "The politics of division and slander are not our values," he said. "They are corrupting influences on religion and politics and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country."

I was impressed by those words and thought McCain was a man of principle. Heck, I even crossed over to vote for the guy in the Republican primary because he seemed to possess a rare quality in the modern GOP -- sanity. But now that McCain is positioning himself for the GOP nomination, he's decided to flip-flop and cast his lot with the Mayberry Mullahs.

It's a craven political move, and one that should badly tarnish McCain's carefully crafted images as both a "maverick" and an independent. A maverick doesn't jump through the hoops in Falwell's fiefdom, and an independent doesn't give a stamp of support to the guiding forces of the party's theocratic wing. It's been coming for a while, I suppose. He's been spooning with Bush for years now and now it's time for him to start cuddling up to Falwell too. And, it seems, the elfin magic of Gary Bauer at the same time. Sweet!

The oddest thing about all this is that it seems like political suicide. The Religious Right has lots of other candidates they'll rally around this next election -- Brownback, Frist, Allen, etc. -- and they won't rush to McCain unless he first outflanks them elsewhere in the primaries and emerges as a front-runner. But if he's puckering up for Pat Robertson, his outsider image won't work, and he'll never get there. What gives?

(Thanks to Josh Marshall for the Liberty announcement.)

Update: I swear I hadn't seen this when I scribbled this post from my undisclosed location, but the excellent E. J. Dionne is sounding the same themes in his latest column:
it's a more dangerous strategy than it seems. McCain's central appeal, even to people who disagree with him, has always been his willingness to do the nonpolitical thing -- for example, to defend Kerry that day in 2004 simply because he thought the attacks on Kerry were wrong.

If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician. Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back.
Woohoo! I am so smart! S-M-R-T!


Anonymous said...

Great photo. You can see his soul and moral compass leaving his body.

TravisG said...

You crossed over and voted for McCain? Does your state have open primaries, or did you do the ol' registration switcheroo?

The religious right is throwing their weight (read: money) behind McCain. They don't even like Frist that much, and he stands no chance of winning the nomination, let alone the general election. I guess the ol' Maverick figured he needs the base more than the moderates.

teh l4m3 said...

Yes, but to many of the Freepi and Racist Staters (boom! Crash! bUrn!), McCain is a "RINO."

PS Liberty U. -- where I earned my Associates degree in Belly Fruit Advocacy.

Otto Man said...

I lived in an open primary state at the time, and Gore already had it wrapped up on the Demmycrat side. I thought of it as an intervention to save the Republicans (and the country) from Bush. Hey, I tried.

Thrillhous said...

I'm guessing McCain is still going to play the maverick, but it's now "Maverick Plus," which means he's a unifier at the same time he's being independent.

Well, I think Travis has it right. The religious right learned the hard way in the 80s and 90s that they're not going to get "their guy", because most people think that whoever their guy is is a nut (Brownback, Frist). I think McCain may have worked out the same deal Bush did: support me quietly during the campaign, and I'll give you whatever crazy crap you want once I'm elected.

Mr Furious said...

"support me quietly during the campaign, and I'll give you whatever crazy crap you want once I'm elected."

"Except I actually won't, I'll just bring it up as a wedge in the next election..."

Will the Righties ever tire of this carrot routine? I doubt it.

As far as McCain goes, his reputation is fairly secure I fear. Nobody pays attention to stuff like this Liberty U except people like us who are in no danger of supporting McCain. The press likes him too much to drag him down and he still pulls off his irreverent Daily Show shtick with aplomb.

I hope he gets cut off in the primaries, because he wins the general election...

Otto Man said...

Agreed, Mr. F. McCain will be lethal in the main election, especially if Hillary Clinton somehow pulls off the Democratic nomination.

Maybe the wingnut candidate -- one of the ones mentioned in the post, no telling who yet -- will follow the lessons of Bush from 2000 and pushes all the evil buttons.

grandpaboy said...

I voted for McCain in the Ohio primary, because I couldn't stomach the thought of candidate Bush. Five years later, and I think I have an ulcer.

I don't think Ohio has open primaries, tho I was awfully clueless at the time. I had to take the Republican ballot, which meant forsaking all the Dem primary races. This spring's primary provides a great Dem candidate in Subodh Chandra, who's going up against the Party's man for AG.

Pass the word for Chandra if you know any Buckeyes.

Oh, and fuck McCain. Thanks.

sideshow bob said...

Well done, OM! Feel free to burn that HS diploma.

Mr Furious said...

Speaking of S-M-R-T...


S.W. Anderson said...

All the right observations, but McCain's gambit isn't new. He's been shrinking from the "maverick" image ever since the '04 dustup. He's done everything but wipe, wash and powder Bush's butt, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear he's done that.

Yes, he held on the torture thing, for all the good it ended up doing. But even then, when Bush virtually reneged on McCain's anti-torture provisions at the bill signing, McCain didn't make a scene about it.

I suspect McCain detests Bush. What McCain wants is to be in a position where Bush & Co. has no grounds to openly urge the religious right/corporate base to oppose him. So, whatever happens, he must be seen as a loyal conservative Republican.

I look for George Allen to both try to run to the right of McCain and to present himself as the smiling, upbeat, Morning-in-America follow on to Ronald Reagan.