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Jewish World Review
Feb. 1, 2008
/ 24 Shevat 5768
Usually the guy who's ahead finds it within himself to be gracious to
his competitors whereas the desperate runner-up goes negative and
reaches for any stick. So it was peculiar to watch John McCain sneering
and slicing his way through the debate with Mitt Romney at the Reagan
Library. When McCain was given up for dead last summer, he was witty and
fun on the stump. Now that he is the front-runner, he is snarky and
obnoxious. Dr. Freud, call your office.
They say that McCain harbors a particular dislike for Romney. And why
would that be? Well, Romney is pretty much the only candidate in the
race who has had the temerity (aka cash) to run ads criticizing McCain.
The senator from Arizona has some fine qualities, but no one has ever
suggested that enduring criticism manfully is one of them. He tried his
best to make such effrontery illegal with the McCain/Feingold campaign
finance law. Romney found a loophole and McCain is irritated.
McCain lashed out at Romney for supposedly endorsing "timetables" for
withdrawal from Iraq last year, saying that Romney, like Hillary
Clinton, wanted to "wave the white flag" and "Timetables was [sic] the
buzzword for those that [sic] wanted to get out." The two tangled over
this question for many rounds during the debate. After vigorously
denying the lie, Romney, ever the gentleman, injected a note of
graciousness by saying, "He's a fine man and a man I respect, and I
particularly respect his service in the military and his integrity and
courage for our nation."
A few moments later, the audience no doubt leaned forward in their
seats, waiting for a correspondingly polite compliment from McCain about
Romney and instead heard, "Oh, I'm sure that, as I say, he's a fine man.
And I think he managed companies, and he bought, and he sold, and
sometimes people lost their jobs." Sucker punch.
Well, say McCain enthusiasts, the senator is simply offended by those
who lack the courage of their convictions. Remember his snide dig at
Romney ("Oh you're the candidate of change all right")? There are two
answers to that. In the first place, only a willful misreading of
Romney's timetable comment could yield the interpretation McCain
ascribed to it. Second, Senator Unswerving himself had unambiguously
talked of changing course in Iraq in January of 2007. Ed
Morrissey of The Captain's Quarters blog reports that McCain spoke of
benchmarks in a newspaper interview a year ago. "McCain said Thursday
that he hadn't yet decided on precise benchmarks. 'They'd have to be
specific, and they (Iraqi government officials) would have to meet
them,' he said. Asked what penalty would be imposed if Iraq failed to
meet his benchmarks, he said: 'I think everybody knows the consequences.
Haven't met the benchmarks? Obviously, then, we're not able to complete
the mission. Then you have to examine your options.'"
"I don't change my positions depending on what year it is or what office
I'm seeking" McCain has boasted. Yet in the California debate, he was
forced to admit that he no longer supports the immigration legislation
he himself proposed last year.
He was asked, would you vote for the bill if it came to the floor? "No,
it [the bill] would not, because we know what the situation is today.
The people want the border secured first." Oh. So McCain has (whisper)
changed his position? While we're on the subject of political
flexibility, let's recall that McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts
(thought they were too nice to the rich) but now wishes to make them
It's no crime to change one's views, of course, and it would certainly
be welcome if McCain were to reexamine a few more of his positions; for
example, on detainee interrogations, drug reimportation from Canada, or
suitable Supreme Court picks (he confided that he found Alito too
conservative). And he could stand a little refresher course on Economics
101, particularly the part about where the wealth of this nation comes
from. (Hint: Not from senators.) But his own flip-flops leave him with a
huge H (for hypocrite) on his forehead when he singes Romney for
McCain's phosphorescent patriotism is his most appealing trait. But in
the past few weeks, as he has been winning, his love of country has been
riding in tandem with a signally unattractive love of self.
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© 2006, Creators Syndicate