ALTER (11/8/99): What we all like about McCain is that he might actually govern on principle, and what a strange sight that would be, says Bruce Morton of CNN. Even if he loses, McCain could have an important impact on the Republicans. It's been 75 years since the GOP boasted any major figure who described himself as a reformer.
That reformist impulse, however atrophied from the original muckrakers of a century ago, also animates many journalists, thus further explaining their affinity for McCain. Liberal reporters may disagree with him on abortion, guns and opposition to the test-ban treaty (stands that he softens when talking to them). They know that his voting record would probably appall them if they looked too closely. But they are increasingly comfortable with his hawkish foreign policy and almost unanimously supportive of his core issue, campaign-finance reform.
What I find fascinating about this little blurb is this - it could be written by a woman falling under the spell of a predatory abuser. Such men are usually adept at romancing women; they are dapper and congenial, promising so much, giving so much, seeming to offer exactly what a woman needs. Until, of course, the courtship is over, the deal sealed, and the relationship in full flower. Only then do the anger, the trend toward dominance, and the potential for violence become more clear. Yet, since the spell of love is cast, it becomes far more hard to simply "walk away" because the woman in question is "in love".
Just like the press corps has had a decade long love for the John McCain they created in their mind.
Like serial abusers, the actual facts concerning John McCain - his adherence to right-wing shibboleths, his corruption, his ruthless opportunism, even his unpopularity with colleagues due less to his "maverick" status and more to his volatile temper and more than occasional verbal abuse - were available for them to consider. This availability is mentioned by Alter, then dismissed just as casually as the history of violence of a serial abuser is dismissed by their latest victim. All the restraining orders, the court dates and appearances by police for "domestic disturbances", even the testimony of former girlfriends to beatings and psychological torture become irrelevant because the guy seems so wonderful. Except, of course, he isn't.
While it is nice the press corps is realizing McCain's oft-stated devotion to "honor" and "principle" is nonsense, under the pressure of one of the most dishonest and trivial campaigns in recent memories (quite a feat considering the history of political campaigns over the past quarter century), it should be noted there has been abundant evidence that McCain would not run a campaign any differently than he has. He surrounds himself with Rove proteges. His campaign manager signaled, during the Republican convention, that the campaign would not be about issues, then proceeded to lie about Obama, his person, his personal history, and his record with a relentlessness and thoroughness that was breathtaking. All those folks who "liked" McCain realized he was and is nothing more than a ruthless politician guided by no principle save the continuance of his own grip on power. While Obama is, like most politicians, little different, he at least has the virtue of being honest enough not to cloak his campaign in the nonsensical drivel of "honor", "integrity", and the constant invocation of a non-existent history of "straight talk". Indeed, one of the attractions of Obama, at least for this voter, is that he is pretty transparent about his own status as a run-of-the-mill politician, with all the warts such a specimen usually has.
I do feel bad for the press corps, but only in the same way I feel bad for a woman who is emerging from the shadow of a violent abuser who has a history of such relationships. Yes, she should have known. Just as the press corps should have paid more attention to those things that might have "appalled" them had they not been so heart-struck.