Alert the presses, the Maverick is back! After spending the better part of this year cuddling up with the more (and I'm trying to be polite here) evangelical aspects of his base and marching in lockstep with Bush on most major issues, John McCain has dusted off his Maverick star and is proudly displaying it for anyone and everyone to see. From CNN:
The potential 2008 presidential candidate, who a day earlier had rejected calls for withdrawing U.S. forces, said the administration had failed to make clear the challenges facing the military.That's some tough talk from a guy who has been one of Bush's staunchest defenders in all things Iraq (think Lieberman, except ... older?). Hell, over the last year, McCain has been cowtowing to whatever Bush has been dishing out, no matter the subject. Port security? Yep, he's right there with Bush on that one. Warrantless wiretapping?" The president, I think, has a right to do this". So, to recap, on three of the most controversial subjects this nation has faced in just the past several months alone; port security, warrantless wiretapping and the Iraq War, McCain has been in lockstep with Bush. Add to this his transparent attempts at wooing the religious right at Liberty University back in May and you've got the makings of a politician looking to comfortably slide into Bush's chair in 27 months.
"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."
Yet, for all this unflagging support of Bush, coupled with his Falwell ring-kissing shenanigans, McCain certainly understands the allure of his Maverick image. Sensing that the media narrative was shifting from "McCain the Maverick" to "McCain the Bush Syncophant" (alright, I'm giving the media too much credit on that one)... how about "McCain the Opportunistic Politician", perhaps he felt that it was important to flex those Maverick Muscles and make a couple of fairly benign statements about some of Bush's gross miscalculations about the Iraq war in an effort to head off this evolving narrative. I can only hope that the mainstream media isn't fooled by this tough guy-independent bulljive (that's right, I'm bringing back 'bulljive'!) and that they'll see him as he really is - just another politician who just happens to swim the waters of Washington opinion better than most. Me? I choose not to put much stock in their collective ability to break through the finally honed sheen of the star on the Maverick as we approach the '08 presidential season.