Monday, April 05, 2010

Scratch One Maverick

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) informs us that, contrary to popular perception, he's never been an independent voice for anything:
Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me. "I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities." Yet here was Palin, urging her fans four times in 15 minutes to send McCain the Maverick back to Washington.

I'll leave to others as to whether McCain has served the interests of Arizona, but I whole-heartedly agree that what others called maverickism, I call "principle-less support of whatever position is most politically expedient or ego-enhancing at the present moment" -- the abandonment of the decades-long "maverick" label because it was hurting him in a GOP primary being only the most recent example.

So at least we're on the same page there.


Tony Henke said...

Maybe I'm too cynical, but what you call a lack of principle and taste for political expediency I call "being a politician". It kind of comes with the turf doesn't it? There's this whole issue of, you know, getting elected by a massively uninformed and biased voting population.

In fact, absent some major differences in endowments (family connections, $$$$, lots of charisma) we should expect that the probability of someone who doesn't play such games getting elected will rapidly approach zero. Why? Well, for the same reason that people do them in the first place; they work. Yes? No? Yes? No?

David Schraub said...

Three things:

1) McCain possesses virtually all of those "extra" factors (family connections, $$$$, maybe not "charisma" but a compelling personal story).

2) I don't mind some degree of opportunism, though I think at some point it becomes circular: Acting opportunistically so you can maintain your seat, thus allowing you to pursue important policy objectives .... opportunistically. I might like a bit more of a few more Congresscritters took a more devil-may-care attitude towards re-election -- basically saying "I'm hear to do a job, I'm going to do it the best I can and sell myself to the voters, but if I lose re-election, at least I know I'll have accomplished some good stuff".

3) McCain is in a different boat because he's spent the last decade being so fucking self-righteous about how maverick-y he is, how he's not the typical opportunistic politician, how he'll stand up for what's right, etc. etc.. It was always a lie, the media still ate it up, and it frustrated me to know end. All politicians like to say they're independent, but few constructed as intricate (and yet content-less) an identity around it as did McCain.

joe said...

I agree this is in part being mad at McCain for being too successful, for being a more convincing liar than his peers. If he didn't trick the media into fellating him for the better part of a decade there's no way he'd have gotten a presidential nomination. The fact that said fellatio revolves directly around the falsehood that he's uniquely righteous is merely an irony that needles David, but that's understandable. It just seems more perverse to the analytical mind, much like smears against John Kerry's military record.

All that said, to me, the most interesting/disturbing thing is I think McCain has started to believe his own press. Some people prefer that to total self-aware, cynical deception of others, but to me the self-deception makes for a far more dangerous leader.

Tony Henke said...


The funny thing about #1 is that in my world that actually makes him less likely to be a pandering political hack since he can rely on his political assets to get reelected instead of relying on political gamesmanship.

Totally agree on #2 and #3, of course, though qualifying #3 with Joe's point that McCain is really only particularly irritating since it worked so well for him.

David Schraub said...

Tony, re: #1: Agreed, which is why it's yet more annoying that McCain has taken the hack route, and even more annoying that he's mostly successfully masked it.