Last week, Politico ran yet another fawning profile of John McCain, declaring him "critic-in-chief." But whether the ersatz Maverick's motivation runs the gamut from "unresolved anger to concern for his right flank as he seeks re-election to genuine dismay about Obama's agenda," McCain has been at or near the center of almost every domestic political news story over the past week. Call it the Six Degrees of John McCain.
Or, perhaps more accurately, the First Degree of John McCain. In each of the six developments this week described below, McCain's involvement was usually direct - and a source of embarrassment.
Consider, for example, health care reform (1). This morning, McCain delivered the Republican response to President Obama's Saturday radio address. Echoing his recent condemnation of the bill on the floor of the Senate, McCain warned that "half a trillion dollars in so-called 'savings' will come from cutting Medicare." (As of this writing, the home page of McCain's Senate web site features a video of him titled "McCain continues fight to preserve Medicare.") Yet during the 2008 campaign, as ThinkProgress recalled:
McCain was for far more drastic Medicare cuts before he was against them. In October 2008, the McCain campaign announced that the Senator would pay for his health plan "with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid...in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs." Those cuts would have reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending by as much as 20% over 10 years and cut into benefits.
McCain's duplicity may also have been behind the bogus charge that the Obama administration tried to pressure Democratic Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson by threatening to close Offutt Air Force Base (2) in his home state if he opposed the Senate health care reform bill. But as Greg Sargent reported, "John McCain is staying mum on right wing calls for his Senate committee to probe" the claims. Why? Perhaps because, as Media Matters suggested, his former staffers David Merritt and Michael Goldfarb are behind the libels:
Merritt was "a health policy adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain," according to his official bio. Goldfarb was the campaign's deputy communications director.
To be sure, John McCain wasn't mum when Al Franken shut down Joe Lieberman (3) during Senate debate this week. As Steve Benen noted, a furious McCain "made it seem as if Franken was the first to presiding officer to deny a senator additional time when other senators had also been denied additional time earlier that same day":
"I've been around here 20-some years. First time I've ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks...I just haven't seen it before myself."
As it turned out, of course, McCain had literally seen it before. As the Congressional Record reveals, he had done precisely the same thing during the October 10, 2002 debate over granting President Bush the authorization to use military force against Iraq:
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.
Mr. McCAIN. I object.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Hawaii, John McCain was shamed again, this time by Sarah Palin's VisorGate (4). Vacationing in the state ABC's Cokie Roberts deemed a "foreign, exotic place" when Barack Obama returned home for a visit in August 2008, Palin used a magic marker to cross out McCain's name on the campaign visor she was wearing. Despite once again going rogue, Palin nevertheless insisted "I adore John McCain."
Palin's hat and his hypocrisy over Medicare weren't the only instance this week when John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign came back to bite him in the ass. To great fanfare, McCain this week joined Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in co-sponsoring legislation to resurrect the Glass Steagall Act (5) and its Depression-era wall between commercial and investment banks.
Of course, the demolition of that wall was in large part the handiwork of John McCain's close friend and economic adviser, Phil Gramm. In 1996, McCain chaired Gramm's aborted presidential campaign. 12 years later, McCain suggested Gramm would be an excellent choice for his Treasury Secretary. But after Gramm in July 2008 denounced Americans as a "nation of whiners" experiencing a "mental recession," McCain was forced to maintain a healthier distance from the man who in the 1990's helped gut the IRS and laid the groundwork for the Wall Street meltdown in 2008.
And speaking of Americans who helped to both deprive the U.S. Treasury of billions in tax revenue from wealthy Americans and manufacture the subprime mortgage crisis, there's Alan Greenspan (6). On Thursday, the former Fed Chairman told a Senate hearing that "that the need to curb the American budget deficits "is more urgent than at any time in our history." Of course, nine years ago Greenspan was cheerleading the reckless Bush tax cuts which are in large part responsible for the ocean of red ink now drowning the federal government.
And here, too, John McCain has a link. As it turned, during the 1980's then consultant Alan Greenspan reaped huge fees from his work for Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan, an institution later at the heart of the S&L debacle. Greenspan later lamented:
"Of course I'm embarrassed by my failure to foresee what eventually transpired," he said later. I was wrong about Lincoln. I was wrong about what they would ultimately do and the problems they would ultimately create.''
If that sounds familiar, it should. That would be the same Charles Keating John McCain assisted in the 1980's. That assistance cutting through government red tape for Lincoln Financial not only brought McCain campaign contributions and family trips to the Caribbean, it also earned him an ethics reprimand from Congress. As he launched his first run the presidency in late 1999, John McCain like his economic mentor Alan Greenspan acknowledged the taint of the Keating Five scandal on his legacy:
"The fact is, it was the wrong thing to do, and it will be on my tombstone and deservedly so."
Not, however, according to Jonathan Martin and Mau Raju of Politico. McCain's Keating Five disgrace is never mentioned in their profile. As for the Maverick's epitaph, Politic turned to McCains' long-time friend and adviser John Weaver to help rewrite it:
"His political epitaph is going to be dictated by how he conducts himself in next six or 13 years," Weaver said. "Will he be seen as a giant of the Senate who came back from a presidential loss like Scoop Jackson, Robert Taft or Ted Kennedy, or will he go down a different path? Only he can decide it."