When John McCain famously said that the press was part of his political base, he was right, but also setting his own trap. The press has been in love with John McCain for years and McCain has benefited from the adoration and friendly bias of the press for a career.
The problem is, what McCain had was a great act — in fact, many great acts. He was the Reagan-style Republican, then the Republican maverick, then the Republican who thought about leaving the Republican Party and turning a Republican Senate to Democrats, then the Republican who thought about running with Kerry, then the Republican who became the Bush acolyte and buddy when Bush was up, then the Republican who pretends he never supported Bush, between acts as the champion against negative campaigning and then the leading negative campaigner and smear artist in presidential campaign history.
My colleague at The Hill, A.B. Stoddard, said on MSNBC that McCain was unlucky. No, A.B., it was not bad luck that did McCain in, it was miserable judgment, bad decisions, bad policies, an angry demeanor. It was not bad luck that led McCain to say the economy was strong and sound while it collapsed; it was that McCain was on another planet than most Americans. It was not bad luck that led McCain to pick Palin, it was bad, miserable, small-minded judgment to pick a right-wing know-nothing, which I and others immediately wrote would be a total disaster. It was not bad luck that led McCain to be confused about economic policy, to have a ridiculous airlift into urgent negotiations over the bailout that made him look like the Keystone Cops.
McCain has gotten a free ride from an adoring press for years, with one act after another, one new McCain after another, one shape-shifting image after another, each one tailored to the public opinion of its time, each one adored and excused and admired by a worshipful press that McCain said, for years, correctly, was part of his political base.
Picking Sarah Palin was a farce destined to fail, a farce by a McCain who did not know or vet the person he chose, a farce that put a shallow, vindictive and often ignorant person who has no business being a heartbeat away from the presidency in precisely that position. It wasn't bad luck, it was a small-minded decision done in the most incompetent manner with the most predictable result.
This was a decision that McCain had months to plan for. This was the only presidential decision that a nominee will ever make. Barack Obama may have chosen someone who talks too much, but he chose a president. John McCain chose someone who is a joke.
Remember the adoring pundits who said what a brilliant choice Sarah Palin was? The pundits who heaped praise on Palin, and on McCain for choosing her, should be on “Saturday Night Live.”
The litany of lies from the mouth of McCain is astounding by the standards of even Nixon and Bush. The slanders, the smears, the falsehoods offer a long and winding road of contempt for truth. His economic policies were confused, incompetent, shifting with the winds — like his positions on tax cuts, where until recently he agreed with Obama. Now he attacks Obama for what he once stood for; now he stands on taxes with Bush, while he pretends he is not like Bush, in his latest tax policy based on his latest act in his greatest time of despair when his Bush aides say he cannot talk about the economy because be will lose, so he talks trash about Obama, falling further behind.
The reason the pundits fell in love with McCain and missed the fall of McCain is that he is a fixture in their Washington firmament, a beneficiary of their long-term adoration, who gave them great access while he peddled his latest acts, who praised them while they did his bidding, and who now whines and moans about the unfairness of it all.
The problem with McCain is not that he was unlucky, it was that he was insincere. In the white-hot glare of presidential politics, his various acts melted like butter on a hot stove in a collapsing economy while John McCain has nothing to say except smears, lies and personal attacks against his opponent.
The nation wants Franklin Roosevelt, and McCain gives them Joe McCarthy. It is not a matter of luck; it is a failure of temperament and presidential character and judgment.
Author's Bio: From the mid-1970's to 1990 Brent Budowsky served in senior Congressional Staff positions including Legislative Assistant to former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, and Legislative Director to Representative Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Majority Whip. He now informally advises both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Budowsky deplores the partisanship and divisions in American politics today and calls for a renewal of bipartisanship for a united America.