Senator John McCain now claims to have never been a maverick and has returned to his original self – a typical Republican obstructionist. I was amused during the campaign of 2008 when he was the Republican nominee for president and announced that he was for “country first.” Normally, it is just presumed that anyone who seeks an elected office is doing so to serve the people. If Sen. McCain had to tell us he was for “country first,” there had to be a reason – we probably wouldn’t notice it in his actions, and that’s certainly been true for the last three years.
I have written previously about something I call “Peck’s Law: If you have to tell someone who you are, you aren’t.” It comes from an incident when Gregory Peck and his guests were asked to wait for a table to be free and Mr. Peck declined to tell a maitre d’ that he was a famous actor. He presumed that if the maitre d’ had never heard of him, then he’d also never wittingly seen any of his movies; therefore, to him Gregory Peck was not a famous actor.
Many of us are well aware of the “country first” true patriotism that was displayed by John McCain during the Vietnam War. The man endured years of confinement and torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp. Do you know why someone else has to comb his hair? He was tortured so badly that he can’t raise his hands above his head.
Sadly, his political career has been another story. He was a fanatical Republican partisan in his early career. I recall a congressional committee incident in which he attempted to sabotage an irrigation project that was for his home state of Arizona. When a colleague reminded him that Arizona really needed that project, he replied that the bill was introduced by a Democrat and he would do anything to make any Democrat look bad.
He then became a shameless self-promoter in his “maverick” years. With an eye on the presidency, Sen. McCain began cultivating a “maverick” image within his Republican Party. His party almost always rejected environmental policies, so he occasionally supported them. His party was hostile to most human rights and minority rights issues, so he endorsed some of them. His party adamantly opposed campaign finance reform, but he worked with a Democrat to achieve it.
With that one major exception, his maverick posturing rarely led to anything meaningful. He was a maverick when he knew his fellow Republicans controlled the Congress and would never pass what he claimed to support. Or he was a maverick if there was a Republican president whom he knew would never sign into law any of the issues he sided with. His resolution that the Senate should act on the global warming crisis was approved by the Senate, but it was just that – a resolution with no force of law.
I always suspected that he got caught off guard when the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 became law. My suspicion was pretty well confirmed when the five Republicans on the U. S. Supreme Court overturned virtually all other campaign finance reform laws. In the 5 to 4 Citizens United v. FEC (2010) decision, the radical-reactionaries on the court effectively turned all our future elections over to the plutocracy and corporations. John McCain didn’t shed a tear or spout any protest.
Although he used his maverick image to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Sen. McCain had already dispensed with most of his maverick positions. In the last three years, he has reverted to his old partisan persona, opposes all things Democratic, and marches loyally in Republican promotion of selfishness and greed.
In the early 1970’s, Judge John Sirica realized that Republican Richard Nixon loved money more than he loved power, and that’s why he used a $25,000 a day fine to get Nixon to hand over the White House tapes that led to his resignation. The Republicans since then have realized that their love of money can assure their control of power whether or not they are in the majority.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently announced that all bills pending in the current lame duck session will be held hostage until those in the upper 2 % income bracket receive an extension of the Bush tax cuts that were set to expire on January 1. That means that those earning more than $250, 000 a year control the U. S. Congress. That’s a plutocracy. If they don’t get to keep their tax cuts, then the 98 % of the rest of us won’t either! This has been a rare moment of honesty in which the Republicans have shown who they truly represent.
Also, this was a candid admission that the Republican obstructionism for the past four years will be continued and virtually nothing will change. The annual record-setting and blatant Republican abuse of the Senate filibuster will continue to require a 60 % majority to get the country’s work done – no pretense of McCain’s “country first” here.
Among the many important issues the minority Republicans are filibustering are three bills that our military supports: (1) the New START Treaty which renews a Reagan initiative and further reduces the number of nuclear weapons; (2) the DREAM Act, which provides citizenship through military service for many who were illegally brought to this country by their parents when they were children; and (3) the repeal of the notorious Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which is the shameful law that discriminates against specific American citizens and requires many of our service men and women to be liars. Congressional Republicans usually rubber stamp anything the Pentagon wants for our national defense, but none of these are big spending programs that advance the military-industrial complex.
[Note: Since December 16, 2010, when the above was composed, the lame duck session of Congress has made some progress. The Obama tax cut compromise passed with a large bipartisan vote because it included the irresponsible tax cuts on the upper 2 %. Six Republicans broke ranks to end the filibuster of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the bill passed the Senate with two additional Republican votes – John McCain voted no. Eleven GOP senators broke from party loyalty to end the filibuster of the New START – John McCain voted no. The treaty was ratified with the mandatory 2/3 majority on Dec. 22 – John McCain again voted no. The compassionate DREAM Act was effectively killed for at least two more years! Senate Republicans stayed united and prevented the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster. Although it had easily passed the House and would have gotten 55 or more votes in the Senate and passed, the Dream Act is dead. The Republican-controlled House that will take over in January will never pass it again.]
The Fox “News”-Republican- TEA Party coalition that’s been merging over the last two years is essentially sociopathic. They really don’t wake up each day deciding what evil to commit or what good to prevent. Its only interest is the party and its plutocratic constituents – the super rich. Otherwise, it just doesn’t want to do anything that might help the country because it would also make President Obama look good.
We can always hope that in the wee hours of Christmas Day, Sen. McCain and the other present and future Republican senators and representatives will each be visited by three spirits. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. What Republican Theodore Roosevelt called his “lunatic fringe” will continue saying they are for “country first” while acting as though they are for the “plutocracy first.” It’s Peck’s Law.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published December 22, 2010, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.