Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times has taken up her familiar subject of John McCain’s courtship of John Kerry and the Democrats. In an article today under the headline “Two McCain Moments Rarely Mentioned,” Bumiller, with whom the Republican nominee not long ago had a publicized on-camera exchange that resulted in Bumiller’s calling him “testy,” reminds readers again that the maverick wasn’t always calling himself a “conservative Republican” and, apart from sounding out Kerry for the vice presidential position in 2004, he had long harbored interest in joining the Democratic Party as a way of getting back at Bush’s scurrilous torpedoing of his presidential run in 2000:
Mr. McCain had begun to ally himself with the Democrats on a number of issues, and had told Mr. Daschle that he planned to vote against the Bush tax cuts, a centerpiece of the new president’s domestic agenda. Mr. McCain often made “disparaging comments” about Mr. Bush on the floor of the Senate, Mr. Daschle recalled.
Which might have gone a distance in embarrassing McCain before the conservative base save for two important facts: 1. It isn’t news. CNN hinted at the Daschle-McCain summit and its GOP-jumping implications for the Arizona senator way back in 2001; 2. That base was so galvanized by the Times‘s previous effort to cause McCain embarrassment that the net effect of this article may be seen as, once again, favorable to him. (Democrats learn they’ve got a sympathetic ear in both candidates for the White House; Republicans rejoice in McCain’s further alienation from his beloved liberal media.)
Matt Yglesias writes: “I’m not really sure what the point is, myself. On the one hand, to some extent it highlights McCain’s unseriousness about the bulk of domestic policy issues that he’s drifted around so much on those topics and was willing to consider basically jettisoning his entire record. But at the end of the day, he didn’t do it and (especially in 2001) domestic issues were presumably at the center of that. He really does have a conservative record and a conservative self-conception, and wanted to stick with that.”
Eric Kleefield at TPM Cafe is mild-mannered about this embarrassing recount of McCain’s flirtation with the other side: “McCain already has the Republican nomination sewn up, so there may be a limit to just how much damage these allegations could do — but it can’t be good for getting the activists jazzed up about supporting their nominee.”
Hugh Hewitt, once Romney’s main man, is unimpressed: “What’s amusing about this is that the New York Times thinks this matters to Republicans. John McCain is the GOP nominee, so all that matters is that both the Democrats and their entire party are committed to defeat in Iraq and retreat in the broader war. How much simpler can this choice be?”
Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind disagrees: “A possible McCain defection does matter so Republicans and conservatives. They question McCain’s loyalty to the party and conservative ideas. McCain’s maverick posture over the years ingratiated him well with reporters and independents, but many in the conservative base how he would lead as President.
Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of Pajamas Media. His blog is Snarksmith.