Meet the 2008 Republican nominee

It was only a matter of time before John McCain’s support started cratering: his whole appeal was his independence, so when he sacrificed that, it figured to erode his standing. Combine that with his uber-hawkish position on Iraq, and it’s no surprise that he is rapidly losing popularity.

Who fills the gap? Not Mitt Romney: his flip-flopping on social issues will, I believe, seriously injure him both in Republican primaries and with the GOP elite. He’s damaged goods. Not Rudy Giuliani, who at least is more honest than Romney about his positions, but as Stuart Rothenberg persuasively argues, kills him with the Republican base.

Who does that leave?

Meet Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. He’s a Baptist minister, conservative enough for the base, outsider enough for the electorate, and he carries the argument that he can work across the aisle. He’s an outstanding politician, and will be able to make the outsider argument better than anyone else in the field. Put another way, he’s the George W. Bush of 2008. In fact, I think his whole argument will be about changing the tone in Washington.

Yes, I know: it was garbage when Bush said it, and it’s garbage when Huckabee says it. But that doesn’t matter.

The Republicans aren’t stupid, and they are still a tightly organized ship. They will look for someone who is right-wing but doesn’t really seem like it. That’s Huckabee, and given everyone else’s flaws, they will, I believe, turn to him. The key is whether he can get funding.

If it happens, you heard it here first. The 2008 Republican nominee will be Mike Huckabee, and he will be a formidable challenger. We’d better start the opposition research now.

The professional pol–Part One

Mark’s observation about McCain’s sudden non-appearance for Tom Reynolds shows Arizona’s senior senator at his most canny. The question is at what point he becomes too clever-by-half.

Remember that the only thing that McCain cares about is winning the Republican nomination. Under normal circumstances, that would mean pulling out all the stops. But two things counsel against that here:

1) McCain has an interest in a GOP bloodbath in November. The Republicans are likely to turn to him if they figure he is the only thing between them and a Democratic President. He thus must do nothing to help someone over the top.

2) He in unlikely to campaign for someone who is likely to lose, because then his selling-point as party savior gets tarnished.

Thus, it is unremarkable that he would shy away from Reynolds. The only trick here is not to make it too obvious: he has to be seen as pushing hard for the ticket. His calculation must be that he will campaign for someone who is likely to win–but not so likely to win as to not give him credit for pushing the candidate over the top, and not so close to defeat that his efforts would actually salvage a candidacy. He must thus be seen to be defending his party while simultaneously subverting it.

McCain’s a pretty loathsome hypocrite, but if he can pull this one off, then you have to give him credit for exquisite craftsmanship.

The irrepressible (scheduling) conflict

Tom Reynolds has a case of political leprosy. John McCain stands him up, but his spokesman can’t get the usual “scheduling conflict” fib straight, pleading a scheduling conflict yet to be determined.

Honest John McCain ducks out of a commitment to campaign for Foley-damaged Tom Reynolds:

WASHINGTON – Erie County Republicans on Tuesday quickly recruited White House power hitter Karl Rove to speak at their annual black-tie dinner Oct. 20 after the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain, dropped out unexpectedly.

In addition to speaking at the dinner, McCain was scheduled to lead a rally in Buffalo for embattled Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence. McCain’s office Tuesday scrubbed both events, claiming that the popular Arizona Republican had a scheduling conflict.

Rove is President Bush’s closest political and policy adviser. Carrying the title of deputy White House chief of staff, Rove is sometimes called “Bush’s brain” by friends and adversaries.

Rove is also a close friend of Reynolds, whose job of re-electing a GOP House majority and even his own return to the House are threatened by a steep downturn in Bush’s standing in the polls and the scandal that forced the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.

McCain, who weeks ago had promised to speak Oct. 20, backed out sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. The call conveying McCain’s regrets came to Reynolds, who was counting on McCain to showcase his influence in the capital.

It took Reynolds’ re-election team by surprise. Reynolds’ spokesman Lawrence D. Platt told reporters Monday that McCain would be coming to the dinner and the re-election rally.

Though McCain changed his schedule two days after a Buffalo News-commissioned Zogby poll showed Reynolds trailing in his race with his Democratic opponent, Jack Davis of Clarence, by 15 points, McCain’s office said the senator is still a strong Reynolds supporter.

“We definitely will come up for Tom Reynolds’ luncheon in Rochester” on Oct. 20, which includes a press availability afterward, said Craig Goldman, spokesman for Straight Talk America, McCain’s national political action committee.

Goldman acknowledged McCain’s speaking date was confirmed with the county Republican organization.

“But we had so many other requests for the senator to appear,” McCain couldn’t keep the engagement, he said.

Asked where McCain plans to be instead of Reynolds’ $250-a-plate dinner in the Statler Towers, Goldman said, “We haven’t figured that out yet.”

Now that’s what I call “straight talk.”

Footnote: This reminds me of the story of a conservative Democratic Congressman from Ohio (it might have been Wayne Hayes) invited to make an appearance in his district with George McGovern in 1972. When the Congressman said he was going to be in Brazil on the proposed date, the McGovern folks asked about alternative dates. The Congressman’s office replied, “The Congressman is going to be in Brazil anytime the Senator comes to town.”

Hat tip: The Plank

Not qualified to lead

Democrats attack al-Maliki for not condemning Hezbollah’s attack on Israel. McCain says al-Maliki has condemned Hezbollah, and that the Democrats criticizing him are “not qualified to lead.”
One small problem: McCain is lying.

Progress Report catches Mr. Straight Talk in another flat-out lie.

Now of course al-Maliki would have to be out of his mind to condemn Hezbollah; the main beneficiary of such a move would be Moqtada al-Sadr. That’s the problem with democracy; if the population hates Israel, a government that faces elections can’t make nice to Israel. But we shouldn’t let the neocons forget how they pretended to believe Chalabi’s b.s. about the new Iraqi government not only recognizing Israel but opening an oil pipeline to Haifa.

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?

The mainstream press decided that John McCain’s nasty homophobic joke about Chelsea Clinton was “too vicious to print.” But it tells you all you need to know about the temperament of the one Republican most likely to be elected President in 2008.

Because her father was Janet Reno.

That joke &#8212 I hope you’ve stopped laughing by now &#8212 was brought to you courtesy of the man of honor and integrity, Senator Straight Talk himself. He told it at a Republican fund-raiser in 1998. Apparently the mainstream press mostly referred to it only indirectly; it was “too vicious to print,” according to the Washington Post.

I only learned of it from this hit-piece about McCain by Ronald Kessler on NewsMax, the wingnut news service. The Chelsea Clinton story seems to be well documented elsewhere; I can’t vouch for any of Kessler’s other allegations. But Kessler provides some good leads for anyone starting out doing oppo research on McCain.

The joke alone, it seems to me, should be enough to convince you that McCain is a fundamentally bad human being. It would be hard to work more viciousness and bigotry into two sentences.

John McCain, pander bear

Perhaps McCain now thinks he was wrong to class Jerry Falwell with Louis Farrakhan. If so, he should say so, and tell us why. If not, we’re left to draw our own conclusions about why he’s the commencement speaker at Falwell’s madrassa.

In 2000, when John McCain was running for President and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were working for George W. Bush, McCain laid some of his famous”straight talk” on Robertson and Falwell:

Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right,

adding,

…we embrace the fine members of the religious conservative community. But that does not mean that we will pander to their self-appointed leaders.

That was then. This is now.

Now, McCain would like to have some of the fundamentalist vote, to go along with the neo-Confederate vote he’s still paying Richard Quinn of Southern Partisan magazine to round up for him.

So McCain is pandering as hard as he can. He’s agreed to be the commencement speaker at Liberty University, the Bible-college-on-steroids Falwell founded and still runs: a “university” which, as a matter of stated policy, hires only “born-agains” as faculty members.

Perhaps McCain now thinks he was wrong to class Falwell with Farrakhan. If so, he should say so, and tell us why. If not, we’re left to draw our own conclusions about why he’s speaking at Falwell’s madrassa.

McCain lies down with another dog,
    gets up with more fleas

He’s just hired a campaign consultant knee-deep in the DeLay money laundering affair and the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal.

Josh Marshall has more “straight talk” from St. John McCain.

How much longer are the mass media going to give McCain the same sort of free pass they gave St. Ralph Nader in 2000? It looks as if someone needs to organize a “truth squad” to stalk McCain’s talk-show appearances and ask him pointed questions.

McCain and Lott

McCain continues to kowtow to the Confederate wing of the GOP.

If you wondered how low John McCain would go in his pandering to the radical right, consider that McCain has sought and gained Trent Lott’s support in his campaign for President. Of course, McCain is in the habit of abandoning his “straight talk” principles whenever he needs racist votes, for example waffling on the Confederate flag issue during the South Carolina primary or endorsing George Wallace Jr. despite Wallace’s ties to the Conservative Citizens’ Councils (successor-in-business to the terrorist White Citizens’ Councils of Civil Rights Movement Days) or emplying the editor of the white supremacist Southern Partisan magazine as his spokesman, not just in 2000 but currently as well.

But I hope some reporter will ask Sen. McCain what promises he has made to Sen. Lott, and whether he thinks the Gentleman from Mississippi ought to be considered eligible to return to the leadership ranks of the Senate Republicans.

For more on McCain’s rather dubious character, see the Stop John McCain blog.