McCain’s Machiavellian Miscalculation

August 24, 2006

Liberals claim to hold Sen. John McCain in high regard because he is supposedly a straight talker. He tells it like it is. Wednesday evening, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked on “Hardball,” “Is John McCain back on that straight talk express? We actually like him there.”

Whether or not Matthews intended this, his question reveals his opinion that McCain, at best, only talks straight part of the time. If he had to come “back” to the truth, he must have been dwelling before in “untruth,” which means he is hardly to be revered as a reliably honest person. But liberals are so ends-oriented they apparently miss the self-defeating nature of their praise for McCain.

Liberals are obviously also clueless that McCain is not talking straight on the very occasions they say he is. They laud him for accusing Bush of not leveling with Americans about the difficulties we would face in Iraq. But despite daily opportunities for more than three years, McCain has never made this bogus charge before. The smell of the presidential roses, though, must have overpowered him this week and compelled him to kick the president when he is down.

McCain said, “It grieves me so much that we have not told the American people how tough and difficult this task [Iraq] would be. … It has contributed enormously to the frustration that Americans feel today, because they were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach, which many of us fully understood from the beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking.”

What? This is straight talk? Instead of falling all over themselves in awe of McCain, Matthews and his fellow liberals should be registering utter disgust with McCain for his patent opportunism in concocting this canard.

Matthews could just as easily have phrased his opening question: “Is John McCain, the fair-weather conservative, back on board for now, promoting liberal ideas and trashing President Bush again? We like him there.”

Matthews and his Old Media colleagues swoon over Sen. McCain every time he says something pleasing to the liberal ear, whether it’s criticism of President Bush, denigration of Christian conservatives or praise of campaign finance reform. To liberals, straight talk from Republicans is not telling the truth, but touting the liberal line.

McCain has won the hearts of liberals everywhere by attacking conservatives and Republicans because they believe he does so with particular credibility — as a Republican, a war hero and war hawk — and thus with particular effectiveness. McCain’s betrayal of Republicans is so delicious to liberals that they’re willing to forgive him for his frequent transgressions, such as his sometimes vocal support for President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War.

If they weren’t self-deluded, liberals would understand that it isn’t just McCain’s failure to make this criticism before that reveals his dishonesty on the subject. His gratuitous, convenient Bush-bashing statement also doesn’t square with the truth.

From the very beginning President Bush has warned that the hurdles in Iraq would be difficult and burdensome. He never promised a quick ending for this global war, or for the struggle in Iraq, but precisely the opposite.

Likewise, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld incurred the everlasting enmity of the press for refusing to fall into its trap of providing concrete answers on the projected costs and duration of the war. These things, he said defiantly, are “unknowable.”

He told one reporter, “There’s never been a war that was predictable as to length, casualty, or cost in the history of mankind.”

It appears McCain is “back” on the forked-tongue express, claiming the administration didn’t level with the American people on the difficulties in Iraq, when it most certainly did — in explicit terms.

Regardless of whether liberals are willing to jump back in bed with McCain, it’s doubtful sufficient Republicans will fall for his act again. He was always at best a long shot for the GOP presidential nomination because of his regrettable advocacy of campaign finance reform, his unpredictable temperament, his social liberalism and his pronounced disdain for Christian conservatives, which he reaffirmed quite recently.

The only chance he had hinged on his steadfast support for the war effort and his refusal to side with partisan Democrats who have born false witness against President Bush in saying he lied about Iraq. With his latest shameless utterance, McCain has virtually sabotaged his already dim chances for the Republican nomination — and rightly so.