One of today’s interesting moments on Capitol Hill occurred when John McCain walked into a meeting taking place between prominent congressional Democrats and President Obama. The meeting was being held in a room where the Republicans typically hold meetings, yet the irony of the gaffe is interesting in that McCain has been steadily aligning himself with Democrats on key issues in recent weeks and distancing himself from conservative Republicans. In fact, McCain was quoted in an interview with the New Republic today that an election between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton would be a difficult choice, although McCain then laughed and said “Let me just clarify that. I think that Rand Paul represents a segment of the GOP, just like his father. And I think he is trying to expand that, intelligently, to make it larger.” Of course, this statement is timid compared to some of the other things that McCain has said about Paul and other conservatives (wacko birds comes to mind.)
That McCain accidentally walked into a meeting of Democrats today holds powerful symbolic significance, and the fact that Democrats in the room “erupted in applause and laughter as the former Republican presidential candidate made his entrance” reflects a very real sense of camaraderie and approval that Rand Paul or Ted Cruz would have found absent had they walked into the meeting. McCain is a pure ideologue driven by whatever is popular, or whatever he thinks will garner him the most love from the public. And this includes aligning his political views with Democrats, making him welcome at their most private meetings. Sifting through the New Republic interview of McCain leaves readers feeling unfulfilled in terms of narrowing down anything specific that the Arizona senator believes in, other than himself, and his desire to maintain a foreign policy driven by an endless thirst for nation-building and “Americanizing” the world is only matched by his desire for pleasing the other side. Of Obama, McCain said that “I think he has grown to appreciate bipartisanship.” No, the president has grown to appreciate any Republican who is willing to sacrifice principles and John McCain fits the bill perfectly.
In reality, there’s no concern that Senator McCain will jump ship and change his party affiliation (at least while the neoconservatives control the party), but he need not become a Democrat to inflict tremendous damage to the cause of limited government and individual liberty. McCain is already publicly criticizing fellow Republican senators and members of Congress and casting aspersions on their character and ideas. The very man who prides himself for reaching out and building consensus among Democrats and Republicans has made no effort to build bridges to conservatives in his own party. McCain is insistent on marginalizing Tea Party conservatives and destroying whatever political capital they have accumulated. He is the antithesis of the John McCain in the New Republic interview.
Perhaps if McCain would spend less time advancing the interests of Democrats, and ensuring that they hold onto the Senate in 2014, he should listen to members of his own party. Of course, aligning himself with conservatives would bring about a swift end to the warm relationship that McCain has with the liberal media, Hollywood, and Democrats on Capitol Hill. In the end, the man once known as a maverick for bucking the establishment has expended years of political capital and energy in order to ensure the continuation of the status quo. And make no mistake, John McCain has not stopped holding on to his dream of occupying the White House. He’s like Jay Gatsby believing that one can repeat the past, or in McCain’s case, that he can turn back the clock and find the path to the presidency. His fear of becoming irrelevant is central to his burgeoning relationship with President Obama and the Democrats and his fear of losing their approval is what drives a wedge between he and his fellow Republicans.