After every failed campaign, the losers analyze the defeat with the hope of discovering What Went Wrong so the mistakes aren’t repeated. It’s a process that is absolutely necessary in order to learn and succeed in the future.
When the controversy started swirling before the voting had even commenced, mostly from moderate, ostensibly intellectual corners, the criticism seemed self-serving at worst and ill-timed at best. Many writers discredited themselves. Far from being foresighted (a blind man could see the direction the McCain campaign was going), they showed themselves to be opportunists with little restraint or moral courage in the face of almost certain defeat. Rather than do what they could to possibly stop the stampede, they spooked the horses.
That was two weeks ago. Today, it’s time for rigorous examination and assessment. And boy, are the McCain staffers, unchecked by John McCain, assessing. Here are some of their conclusions: They have decided that rather than specific failed policies (can anyone, anywhere, to this day articulate McCain’s plans for the economy?) or strategies (Mr. Nice Guy) or leadership (running around like a headless chicken and suspending the campaign to participate in doomed negotiations), the real problem was Sarah Palin. No rigorous self-examination. Instead, they did what the least savory sorts do: find a scapegoat.
The stupid staffers aren’t the problem. The problem, in this case, as it has been this whole campaign, is John McCain.
The silence from John McCain regarding campaign staffers savaging Sarah Palin is deafening — including his refusal to directly address the charges during his appearance on the Tonight Show. What rock is Senator McCain hiding under and why can’t he show himself for a moment to defend his running mate?
Welcome to being a friend of John McCain, Sarah. Don’t worry! The stab wounds will heal.
Once again, John McCain’s actions betray the character traits conservatives abhorred about the man during his years in the Senate: He would spit in a friend’s eye to win the favor of an enemy. Legislatively, that meant ultimately self-defeating garbage like McCain-Feingold, and most recently, the Wall Street bailout. Far from being a courageous Maverick reformer, McCain has been a self-aggrandizing, expedient hack.
For McCain, it has always been, and continues to be, what is best for me? In April, I wrote this:
Does anyone love John McCain besides his family and Joe Lieberman and certain segments of the press? I’ve pondered before that moderates get no love because they tend to piss everyone off–kinda like countries claiming to be neutral. Pick a side and stay on it. McCain claims to transcend politics, to be motivated to do what is “right” no matter the issue. He isn’t political, he’s principled.
John McCain’s overarching principle is John McCain. As far as I can tell, he’s the only one he’s interested in serving. And that makes him different from other politicians, how? What is unique about John McCain is that he doesn’t go to the trouble of even attempting to pander to his constituents. He’s balls off about making it clear that he will do things his own damn way. North Carolina can suck his butt. Conservatives can bite his hiney. He just doesn’t care.
And his latest mountain of contempt is heaped upon Sarah Palin. But this one is going to bite him in the rear. Sarah Palin did everything in her power to get John McCain elected. That the election was even close was a testament to her connection with the voters despite the press treatment.
By either 1) allowing his people to tear her down and do nothing to stop it or 2) encouraging her demise because it gives his failed campaign a scapegoat, he demonstrates either an incredible lack of discipline and leadership or a huge deficit of character. In short, this episode confirms the conservatives’ initial reservations about him.
And what will he do in the Senate? Will John McCain turn against those who supported him yet again? Or does he finally see the press and the Left for who they are? You can bet the Left is hoping the Maverick is back. I heard the Newsweek editor blowing kisses at McCain for running an “honorable campaign” on Meet the Press Sunday morning and nearly punched the TV. These guys are without remorse.
It’s expected that the press will be shameless. More than ever, they’ve abandoned their principles in the service of one candidate. They will continue to do so.
It is also expected that the Democrats will want to hand-deliver healing balm after delivering McCain a bruising defeat. They need him after all, and in the past, they knew that they could count on him to need their approval, all in the greater service to his own self-reverential view. He’s a Maverick. He’s a troublemaker. He’s “principled.”
Unfortunately, it is to be expected that John McCain will not have learned anything this election season. He will, as evidenced by his non-response to the unfounded Palin criticism, revert to type.
Business as usual will mean palling around with Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham and feeling superior to the conservative “extremists.” He will continue to have some power to thwart and frustrate, but not the gumption to lead with loyalty. And he will continue to be mystified by the anger he gets from his own.
It’s called respect and honor for those who have your back. Sarah Palin continues to give her all to defend John McCain and his candidacy. It is honorable and makes her look like a leader. It also puts John McCain’s stubborn, self-serving silence in stark contrast. It’s a shameful conclusion to a failed candidacy.