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Posted by on Dec 9, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Bush and McCain: The quid pro quo of shame

My new friend Marc Acriche alerts me to a perceptive post at his (highly recommended) blog State of the Day called “McCain’s Payoff for Kissing Ass” — click here to go right there (and then c’mon back).

What is this ass-kissing, you ask?
What is this payoff, you demand to know?

Consider (if I may boil the arrangement down to its basics):

The Bush crew, led by Dick the Veep, is pro-torture. They won’t say that — in fact, they’ll deny it vigorously — but they are. McCain, a war hero who knows a thing or two about the subject, is anti-torture. The Senate passed McCain’s anti-torture measure 90-9 (those cruel and unusual nine should suffer an atrocious torment or two, don’t you think?). Bush said America doesn’t torture (he lied), Cheney wants to allow torture (at least he’s honest, more or less), the CIA operates a rendition program and secret prisons, and Condi Rice is over in Europe leaping through rhetorical hoops with her non-denial denials.

A rift among Republicans? McCain the Maverick vs. Bush the Establishmentarian?

Yeah, you’d think so. But that would mean underestimating Republican electoral self-interest, not to mention the self-interest of McCain the Maverick and Bush the Establishmentarian.

For McCain goes on Meet the Press last Sunday to defend Bush and his mismanaged war effort (he’s been a tough critic, but let’s not go there, eh?) in a way that no one else can — and he can certainly defend Bush much better than Bush can defend himself (remember Bush on Meet the Press? — he was the deer in Russert’s headlights).

And how does Bush, helpless Bush, thank McCain? Well, by giving in to McCain on torture, of course. At least that’s how it looks. The House will likely support McCain’s anti-torture measure and the White House will likely back off.

Quid pro bleeping quo.

Here’s how SOTD puts it: “Bush definitely needed some credible support on Iraq. I mean how many times can you throw Cheney out there without making people a bit nauseous? So McCain gave Bush some political cover, and the White house gave him his anti-torture bill. It’s a good move by McCain. He has kissed ass before, and surely will again leading up to 2008, but there has got to be a better way than jumping in bed with Bush.”

Or isn’t that precisely the sacrifice that McCain must make if he is to win in ’08? I like McCain, don’t get me wrong. If I had to pick a favourite Republican, he’d be up near the top of my (admittedly short) list. But he’s been smiling his loyal, pride-swallowing, wince-inducing smile at Bush’s side for five years — and it’s all quite nauseating, isn’t it?

I do believe that McCain is a man of principle, a man who believes in the goodness and possibility of America in a dangerous and unjust world. I do believe that he prefers national-interest bipartisanship to the small-minded partisanship that plagues Washington (and the Bush crew). I do believe that he longs for the truth in opposition to the endless cycle of spin and re-spin that characterizes the Bush presidency. And — without endorsing him or anyone else, for I am generally on the Democratic side of things — I do believe that he wouldn’t be such a bad president — that, once in the White House, he would be the man of principle many of us believe him to be (albeit a man of mostly conservative principle).

But how much of his soul does he intend to sell in pursuit of the White House? Would the end justify these means? Or would there be nothing left once he took office?

(Originally posted at The Reaction.)

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