Our political Quote of the Day must provide definitive proof that Sen. John McCain is a RINO — at least from the standpoint of the GOP’s WHHF (“We Hope He Fails”) movement which includes some Republican politicians, talk show host Glen Beck and is lead by talk show and party powerhouse Rush Limbaugh:
After a losing presidential campaign in 2000, John McCain came back to the Senate and established himself as a force no White House could ignore. Eight years later, he’s home from defeat again, facing a very different landscape dominated by President Barack Obama and the collapsing American economy.
From Afghanistan and Iraq to military procurement reform, McCain tells POLITICO he is already working with Obama. Last week alone, he had breakfast with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appeared with the president at a White House press event and took a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden soliciting McCain’s input on how to crack down on pork barrel spending.
“These are terrible, perilous times, so I will seek ways to work with the president of the United States,” McCain says in an interview. “I don’t want him to fail in his mission of restoring our economy.”
But there’s the rub: On the central issue of the economy, the two men are so far apart it is difficult to see them collaborating effectively.
As McCain has himself noted, he is functioning as a traditional member of America’s loyal opposition with the emphasis on both words. He joins former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in making an important distinction –that you can greatly, passionately, even angrily debate specific policies and world views but still be solidly behind a President of a different party succeeding (and send that signal out to members of your party and others so there is no mistake about the national goal) since we’re all in the same boat.
Or, almost all: There some with private jets and microphones who have multi-million dollar contracts who aren’t in the same boat and don’t have to care. If the boat they can fly over sinks, they’ll still have their cigar supplies. To them, Ruth’s Chris Steak House is low-cost fast food.
QUESTION: Yesterday it was Rush versus Newt. Today will it be Rush versus McCain?
UPDATE: This Chicago Tribune’s Leonard Pitts says the GOP is in danger of becoming a regional party and adds this:
As many pundits and even party officials have noted, given the dramatic cultural and demographic changes under way in this country, the GOP faces a real possibility of being reduced to a regional party of limited national relevance unless it broadens its appeal beyond angry white men living primarily in the states of the old Confederacy. That being the case, why are they kissing the ring of the angry white man who broadcasts from West Palm Beach?
Why are they not in South L.A. talking about entrepreneurship? Or in the 9th Ward bearing proposals to encourage marriage and strengthen families? Or in Liberty City offering ideas to stem the violence? Why are they not competing for the votes they say they want?
To judge from the eagerness with which they prostrate themselves before Limbaugh, the answer is troublingly simple: They fear losing the votes they have. They are unable to disenthrall themselves from that culturally intolerant, intellectually incoherent, perpetually outraged and willfully ignorant cohort of the American demographic they call their base, i.e. extreme social conservatives.
The GOP has reliably been able to woo them by demonizing gays, people of color, Muslims, feminists and anyone else who did not fit their white picket fence fantasies. But the changes afoot in our country suggest that won’t work quite as well in the future as it has up till now. So it’s all well and good if the party feels a need to apologize.
But they’re facing the wrong way.
UPDATE II: Jules Crittenden thinks this has now jumped the shark:
There’s a bit of bizarre irony as Rush disparages people in the media who think they’re in politics, but he goes on to explain that his strength comes from his audience, not elections, so I guess that means he agrees with what Newt is saying: Rush is not politics. This thing is starting to bite its own tail. I know people love Rush … or love to hate him … but as long as everyone wants it to be about Rush, that’s what its going to be. About Rush. In fairness, though, what we are seeing is a leaderless, scattered movement flailing and attacking itself, and that probably needs to happen more before it settles, gets some focus and some leadership. Rush puts that out to the 2012 election. Maybe, though I’m hopeful some leadership plus actual behind-the-scenes political work could begin to show in time for 2010. Anything happening in the first 100 days, who cares? After that, pressure builds.
Indeed: I’m in the process of doing some extensive reading about Ronald Reagan. And it is instructive.
Conservatives need to remember that when Reagan won, and since then, pundits and historians consistently noted that he put an uplifting, positive, affirmative face on conservativism, which had not fared too well at the polls before then. Just lashing out will only made the already-on-the-same-page choir nod its head in delight. Not recruit new members of the choir. And it would seem that should be at least part of the goal of political discussion.
Liberals and moderates have also had their share of battles where some say if you don’t agree exactly with them you MUST not be a “real” liberal or a “real” moderate (which sounds nice except all liberals and all moderates don’t agree on everything). Inclusionary politics is a more solid foundation for exclusionary politics — particularly when it boils down to suggesting that people who don’t exactly agree with you in your own party should be excluded or disparaged. The current controversy of the day won’t help the GOP with many independent voters who aren’t impressed by those insisting upon ideological or partisan litmus tests (such as belonging to the WHHF faction).
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.