I once had grudging respect for Senator John McCain, but no more. McCain's speech yesterday at the Virginia Military Institute was crass political opportunism of the worst kind.
McCain offered a vigorous defense of the Bush administration's failed conduct of the Iraq war and accused Democrats of playing "small politics" on the issue.
No doubt, McCain is hoping that he will come off as taking a principled stand in the face of overwhelming contrary public opinion--and some in the media may fall for it, but the matter deserves a closer look.
I've always believed that the best way to know what a Republican is up to is to listen to what they accuse the Democrats of doing. Yesterday, McCain reinforced that notion because he was playing "small politics" of the worst kind.
Keep in mind, Senator McCain isn't yet running for President of the United States. Right now he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
By giving a speech in which he embraced the war in Iraq, attacked Democrats as political and even managed to take a shot at the GOP's favorite bogeyman--the "liberal press"--he was playing to his base.
It's classic Republican strategy: Tell your supporters what they already believe and give them someone else to be angry with.
In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, 67% of Republicans report that they believe "the situation in Iraq is going well." (No, that's not a typo. More than two thirds of Republicans apparently believe things are going swimmingly in Iraq.)
So when Senator McCain stands in front of a bank of cameras and recounts his undying devotion to the Bush administration's policies on Iraq, he is acting in 100% alignment with his immediate political interests.
No doubt, some in the media will be going on about how John McCain the maverick is back. Sadly, the opposite is true. We're now hearing from John McCain the panderer--pandering to that 67% of Republicans who believe the situation in Iraq is going well.
So please forgive me if I'm not very inclined to join those who will be tossing bouquets of roses at Senator McCain's feet for his "political courage."