John McCain in the Republican corridors of power is like Rodney Dangerfield, he doesn’t get any respect. He has become the RNC-reformed maverick as seen here on the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. In brief summary, John McCain has been forced to reverse himeself by Republican elites on many critical positions. This includes on the role and influence that evangelicals should have on politics; the desirability and support for alternative paths to Energy independence and controlling Global Warming; on whether the Bush “Trickle Down” tax cuts (which benefit the wealthy the most) should be made permamanent; and most recently, on his first choice for vice-president, Senator Joe Lieberman. And the tragedy is that this is just a brief summary of John McCain having to stomach vaunted Republican Party Discipline rather than, as leader, set it. This vice presidential reversal, must be super-galling.His first choice for running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, would have been proof positive that his desire for change, reform of Congressional excesses, and reduction in raw bi-partisanship that is wrecking the US federal policy making was serious. He would have had a real chance at upstaging Barack Obama. But his personal choice was rejected by the Republican power elites. Supposedly there were “focus group tests”. But adamant rejection from party voices like Rush Limbaugh and many Evangelical “influencers” killed John’s first choice and left Joe Lieberman in the position of having to deliver a surreal RNC vetted primetime testimonial for his friend John McCain.
So then John McCain extracted one ounce of his pound of flesh – a reformer VP in Governor Sarah Palin. In the process, John McCain switched his branding from “long experience you can trust” to “maverick reformer going to change Washington”. And the Republican brokers conceded. I would have liked to been a fly on the wall during those meetings.
So there was no VP Dick Cheney speech at the convention, no homily to the current President and only an 8 minute video “presence” by Still President Bush. Instead, the new McCain message is that earmarks and the corruptors of Washington beware, the new reformers are coming to town as so well depicted in the cartoon above. The cartoonist, Dwane Powell of the Raleigh News Observer, has caught the bravura and irony of the message brilliantly:Long in tooth nameless republicans wooly mammoths (they are extinct). Great strident Sara Palin as sheriff’s deputy. George Bush at the bar drinking Milk. John McCain still having to play second fiddle to the Republican Elephant in the middle. Now this is a cartoon that Fitzpatrick, Hogarth, Mauldin and Czep would appreciate.
But humour aside, there is a potential deeper meaning here. In his acceptance speech, John McCain warned with vengeance in his voice – I am coming to get the earmarkers (eeks, his own deputy VP was a big time earmark solicitor while Alaskan Mayor and then Governor) and corruptors of Washington politics. Can you imagine what is going to happen on Meet the Press, This Week , and other Press interview shows let alone the debates? John McCain is going to be on the line for naming names and the Republicans have been in power in Congress for 6 of the past 8 years- and all of the time in the White House.This will be a hard examination of conscience for Republican elites to spin out of. But John McCain has made it his Hanoi Hilton survival oath as one could hear in his voice during his acceptance speech. The RNC power brokers must have quavered just a little. And if the RNC tries again to rein in if not downright muzzle McCain I suspect he will be in no mood to tolerate such abuse as the leader of the party that is dedicated to Service and Country First. In short this Presidential campaign will be of interest as much for the turmoil of John McCain’s attempts to take-over true control of his own party – as for the the tangle between two often under-estimated, but actually very astute politicians that both want some measure of reform in a Washington that has gone Rovian dysfunctional.