The “late” John McCain presidential campaign provided considerable irony, particularly for me personally.
I’ve never disliked a Republican nominee more than McCain yet I’ve never invested more of my time and talent on behalf of any other presidential candidate. Since McCain became the de facto GOP candidate I penned a speech he delivered on WWE’s Monday Night Raw, served as a delegate to the national convention, traveled out of state for grassroots work and spent hours assembling and placing election day signs across my community.
And to top it off, I knelt on the sidewalk outside of a locked church on Tuesday evening and prayed a rosary for victory. All of this for a man whose self-serving political style offended me and campaign I despised.
Obviously, loathing for the opposition motivated me to engage in going above and beyond the norm of volunteerism for McCain. His admirable military service also compensated some for my differences with him, though it should be noted that the electorate for the fifth straight occasion broke against the candidate with the more distinguished personal war record.
With the election now in the history books in bold print, I no longer need to bite my tongue.
National Review Online featured a Byron York article that argued that McCain, or for that matter, any Republican could not win the presidency under the current circumstances. I think Mr. York was being awfully charitable in his evaluation chalking up the McCain disaster as something that would have happened to anybody. I respectfully disagree as McCain virtually had to work hard to lose that big.
In the early days of the 2008 election, I penned a column calling John McCain the second coming of Bob Dole. I later learned that the McCain campaign took great exception to public criticisms of their champion (I’ll return to this at the end). And in light of what has taken place, I suppose an apology is due.
Bob Dole deserves far better than to be so unfairly libeled.
John McCain has the distinction of being the worst Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. Though Dole won fewer electoral votes than McCain, at least the Kansan kept the GOP electoral base together.
McCain lost states that have been reliably Republican for decades until Tuesday. Indiana hadn’t gone Democrat since Goldwater, a fellow Arizonan. Ditto the Old Dominion state (Virginia). The last time North Carolina went Democrat was when a peanut farmer from the Deep South ran against the Midwesterner that pardoned Nixon.
I’ll concede the times would have been challenging for any individual seeking the White House under the GOP label, between the financial crisis and President George W. Bush’s abysmal approval ratings. But good candidates find ways to overcome. McCain was satisfied with simply frenzied posturing and heralding a brawny fellow that claimed to be interested in the plumbing trade as his own personal Obama/Messiah.
Knowing how tough things would be and Obama’s proven ability to make it rain greenbacks through documented sources and otherwise, McCain stubbornly and stupidly refused to abandon public financing and handed his Democratic opponent a strategic advantage in the face of severely biased media coverage that made Obama ubiquitous and simply ignored McCain on good days.
And it was the campaign finance issue that best summed up McCain’s candidacy. Having spent too much time in the beltway and chumming with reporters (his other base, being the one that actually abandoned him), McCain really thought the voters cared about campaign finance reform. They don’t. They care more about gas prices.
Another example of McCain pulling punches was his refusal to exploit Obama’s relationship to his one-time close family friend and spiritual leader, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
After what was the most remarkable Republican National Convention since the 1988 conclave, McCain miraculously jumped ahead of Obama. The Democrats were panicking and I believe the possibility of switching Joe Biden out with Hillary Clinton was on the table. And then the financial crisis hit and McCain flubbed on two counts.
While Obama shrewdly kept a low profile as congressional leaders and the White House were tackled the details of a bailout package, McCain overreached by trying to dominate the news cycle, engaging in histrionics, canceling public appearances and suspending his campaign. The safe and stable image the public had of McCain in contrast with the wet behind the ears Obama was shattered and his credibility as a fiscal conservative demolished by embracing a bailout the public opposed.
In the eyes of America, McCain appeared erratic and unable to multitask and his numbers, not helped by poor performances in the first two debates, never recovered.
While hobbling down the road to perdition, McCain also avoided delineating the social issue differences between himself and Obama in the same year California voters banned same-sex marriages and allowed his aides to throw Sarah Palin under the bus during the campaign’s waning days
To give you an idea of how small minded the McCain operation was, allow me to share with you now an internal communication that just so happened to fall into my hands a month before the election.
Without my knowledge, I learned that my name had been turned in as a participant in “Future Leaders for McCain”, basically an auxiliary caucus of young professionals that would help get the message out.
It turned out that the McCain staffers had better things to do with their time than campaign in swing states as they attempted to do cursory background checks on all of the names submitted. According to his e-mail, campaign aide Abraham Sisson opposed my association with the group due to unfavorable things I had written in columns about McCain back in 2007.
Here’s the exact text pertaining to me from the “vetting report”:
Below are two red flags for your review. Full report is attached withadditional flags. Caroline, these names conclude the people on thisspreadsheet. Thanks!Mike BayhamIn a blog posting from June of last year, Bayham referred to McCain as "theproud father of the bastard child that is campaign finance reform." In thesame post, Bayham said Sen. McCain has "all the sleekness of Bob Dolewithout his special blue pills."http://www.bayoubuzz.com/News/US/Politics/President_Race_2008/Fred_Thompson_Should_Run_For_President__3917.asp In a blog posting from November of last year, Bayham called Sen. McCain "theconductor of the Straight Talk Funeral Cortege," and "more passionate aboutlegitimizing illegals than he was at confirming conservative jurists."http://ncrepublicans.blogspot.com/2007_11_01_archive.html.
Initially, I found the report highly amusing as it recounted of my rhetorical “sins”, of which I stand by all of them. Unfortunately, Mr. Sisson, who should never have another job in politics, was irresponsibly sending out far more personal stuff about other rejected surrogates, including a reference to one person’s DWI and another’s bench warrant for failing to appear in court with the case number attached.
And thus the essence of John McCain the politician could be best summed up as someone who focused more of his energy on being sanctimonious than achieving victory. In McCain’s mind, this election had little to do with protecting capitalism and constitutional government. It was all about him.
Wrecking the party and endangering America’s future was but a small price to pay in order to give him the opportunity to further exorcise the demons that still haunt McCain from his association with the Keating 5 scandal. He’d rather keep his word to someone who had already broken his on a subject of little concern even if it meant losing the election.
Conservatives needed a fighter to stop the radical agenda of Obama & co. Instead we got stuck with a worn out tackling dummy that had no business running for president.
Mike Bayham is a political consultant in south Louisiana and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.