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Jewish World Review March 10, 2000/ 3 Adar 2, 5760

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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The pouters bugging
a weary John McCain -- JOHN MCCAIN is caught in a place that is enemy territory for a fighting man.

He's getting a lot of advice, from hangers-on divided neatly into two camps: the pouters and the persuaders. This is a foolish argument that he will regret tolerating. Warriors don't cry or pout.

The pouters in short pants are those who don't understand politics, and think they can un-do the results of Super Tuesday's primaries if they throw a fit large enough and loud enough, like a 4-year-old who can't get an ice cream cone before supper.

The persuaders understand that politics is not a zero-sum game. When you lose you pick yourself up and look for another way to get your way. Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, a McCain pal who was also a hero of the war in Vietnam, gets right to the point: "John understands the consequences and the big stakes. The big stakes are defeating Al Gore."

John McCain deserves a few days to nurse the hangover on display Thursday, unless he tries to make a permanent entitlement of an indulgence. Bill Bradley left the Democratic race with considerably more grace, endorsing Al Gore and promising to work to keep the White House in Clinton-Gore hands in November.

But Mr. McCain came closer to winning the prize than Bill Bradley ever did, even if neither came close enough to get a whiff of the cigar. He stopped short of making it difficult for himself to come to the aid of his party later, once the hangover wears off.

"I will keep trying to force open doors where there are walls . . . ," he said, "be they walls of cynicism, or intolerance, or walls raised by self-interested elite who would exclude your voice from the highest councils of government. I hoped our campaign would be a force for change in the Republican Party. I believe we have set a course that will ultimately prevail in making our party as big as the country we serve."

That sounds to a lot of Republicans and other conservatives like one last bombing run on the Grand Old Party, but fighter pilots, and even fighter-bomber pilots, never outlive the flakiness that makes a man a good fighter pilot. George W. won't hold it against him, and neither should George W.'s friends.

The senator's instincts are often good ones, but his testing will come over
There, there poor sap
the next few days as the consultants, aides, advisers, pundits and punditresses who are high on combat and don't want to come down egg him on to a third-party suicide mission.

(If he crashes and burns on the Island of Lost Causes, joining Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, John Anderson and Harold Stassen in the nation's dark-black memory hole, well, that's just a risk the hangers-on are willing to take.)

"I can't conceive of John jumping from the Republican Party, but I certainly can conceive of John being pushed into it," says John Weaver, his suddenly unemployed political director and eager pusher.

The senator is also getting a lot of free advice from the drum beaters, tub thumpers and horn blowers who led his campaign in the long-running Pundit Primary. William Kristol, editor and publisher of the Weekly Standard, couldn't wait to throw the first stone. "Right now," he writes in a dispatch filed on the Internet, "absent an exogenous shock, I'd put the odds on Gore's beating Bush at least two to one, and the odds of a stultifying, negative and depressing campaign much higher. Which [sigh] leads us to McCain."

Looking about for a messiah, any old messiah, Mr. Kristol's eye lands on two well-worn matinee idols of yesteryear. "We have a couple of depressing months of Gore-Bush jousting," he writes. "Then Ross Perot shows up on Larry King and says the country deserves better than Bush-Gore, that Buchanan is of course unacceptable as the Reform nominee, and launches a draft-McCain movement." And so on and so on.

Arianna Huffington, the punditress who tried to marry her way to the White House when her ex-husband Michael blew $30 million of the family fortune on a Senate race in California, and who is determined now to prevent anyone from getting elected to office with the contributions of his friends, is telling the senator that party disloyalty is the only way he can be loyal to sorehead losers like herself: " . . . it was McCain who turned the campaign into a cause. If he meant anything he said these past six months, he can't go home again."

The senator, if he means all the straight talk, doesn't have to go home again because he's already home. He'll feel better after a few days of fresh air and sunshine in Arizona with that gorgeous wife. John McCain, unlike a lot of his friends and hangers-on, has been roughed up before. He didn't cry then, and tears won't become him now. He'll be a man.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden