Seven years ago, I stood behind a table for hours and pleaded with skeptical voters on behalf of Senator John McCain. McCain’s 2000 run for the presidency was finished, but he was still on the ballot in the Utah primary. It was the last chance to vote for a real Republican hero, a solid conservative who wasn’t afraid to take on the Religious Right. He called Jerry Falwell an “agent of intolerance.” He favored environmental protection, campaign finance reform, fiscal responsibility, lots of good ideas. McCain would have made a great commander in chief– imagine if he had been in the White House on September 11, 2001.
That was then, and this is now. McCain has been dubbed the war candidate after becoming a spokesman for Bush’s “stay the course” Iraq policy. It was embarrassing when he claimed the streets of Baghdad were safe and then left the Green Zone with a company of infantry for a photo op on “60 Minutes.” His talking points were thoroughly debunked by Jon Stewart last night (catch the rerun tonight if you missed it). He recently joked about bombing Iran. Today McCain formally anounced his candidacy for President of the United States.
I’m not running for president to be somebody, but to do something; to do the hard but necessary things not the easy and needless things… I’m not running to leave our biggest problems to an unluckier generation of leaders, but to fix them now, and fix them well.
It’s too late. McCain will be 72 years old on Inauguration Day, which is too old for the job. His support for the Bush administration’s irresponsible trashing of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions has destroyed his reputation for “straight talk.” John McCain was a hero when he spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison and suffered agonizing torture. He lost my respect when he voted for the Military Commissions Act, legalizing torture in America and denying the right of habeas corpus.
“For my part, I would rather lose a campaign than a war,” McCain said in a recent speech about Iraq at the Virginia Military Institute. His poll numbers are worse than Bush’s. He probably won’t have to choose.
UPDATE: From Think Progress: Senator McCain vehemently opposes a “date certain” for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. However, in 1993 he advocated a date certain and a cutoff of funds to end U.S. intervention in Somalia.