McCain's Loving Embrace

Sometimes I don’t even need to show The Picture:

No one stole the show at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here this weekend, but Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) demonstrated why every other prospective 2008 presidential candidate must figure out how to get around him.

More than any of his potential rivals, McCain found a way to balance embracing a weakened President Bush -- at a time when many Republicans are running away from the president -- while appealing to those in and out of his party who believe Bush and other Washington Republicans have lost their way. No other candidate could claim to offer continuity and change almost simultaneously.
And even though that’s amusing for all the reasons Shakers know and love, it scares me to the very depths of my soul to think that after all the millions of times McCain has “embraced” the president’s policies, and all the times he’s shown himself to be an inveterate panderer to ultra-conservatism, and all the times he’s turned his back on his own reform issues, he still manages to retain the reputation for being someone who is both quantitatively and qualitatively different than George W. Bush.

And while I can certainly acknowledge that things might be very different (better) if McCain had secured the 2000 GOP nomination and won the presidency, his responses to the messes that Bush has made have been decidedly underwhelming. He has made the choices to pander to social conservatives, back off his own hardlines on torture and campaign finance reform, and ever more cautiously silence his own previously vocal criticisms of the administration. Bush altered the American landscape, and we need someone who can put it right again—not someone who’s simply learned to traverse the new terrain.

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