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Thread: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    COLLEGE STATION, Texas Six years ago, an angry George W. Bush told John McCain to quit accusing him of being untrustworthy. An even angrier McCain told Bush he should be ashamed of the presidential campaign he was running.
    It was four days before the South Carolina Republican primary, and the Texas governor and the Arizona senator were bitterly at odds.

    A McCain ad saying Bush "twists the truth like Bill Clinton" was a low blow, Bush said. McCain countered that Bush was distorting his record and went "over the line" when he appeared with a military veteran who said McCain had abandoned fellow veterans after his release from a Hanoi prison. "That really hurts," McCain told Bush.

    Cut to a week ago at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum here in this Texas college town. McCain and former president George H.W. Bush sat in the elder Bush's office, talking of long-ago wars and baseball stars. Later, McCain gave a lecture sponsored by the library, and George and Barbara Bush hosted him at a dinner salted with top Texas Republicans.

    As McCain prepares for a second presidential run, it is no surprise to find the onetime upstart in the heart of the Bush dynasty. McCain and prominent Republicans are embracing each other in ways unimaginable during his brutal 2000 contest with George W. Bush.

    McCain has grown closer to the current president and his family. He has voted to extend some Bush tax cuts he once opposed. He has reconciled with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he once called an "agent of intolerance."

    And he's provoked a chorus of denunciations and lamentations from liberals who once were smitten with him. Where, they ask, is the principled maverick of 2000?

    That man was on display at the lecture hall shortly after the chat in Bush's office. He was passionately promoting a plan opposed by most of his party: to let 12 million illegal immigrants in America pay fines and back taxes, learn English and get in line for citizenship.

    "I say, let them rise," McCain said of the immigrants. "We have always been a better country for it."

    It's complicated being John McCain.

    In 2000, McCain adviser John Weaver said the senator and his outsider team "showed up at the prom in Bermuda shorts." McCain's candor and willingness to defy GOP orthodoxy drew glowing media coverage and votes from Democrats and independents in Republican primaries but didn't go over so well with the GOP base. He won seven primaries to Bush's 11 before dropping out of the race March 9.

    Now McCain is a leading prospect for his party's 2008 nomination. He's busily cultivating the Bush family, Bush loyalists, religious conservatives, tax-cut devotees and others who spurned or attacked him in 2000.

    "It's almost like he wants to flip-flop grandly and quickly and get it out of the way," says liberal Joshua Micah Marshall, founder of talkingpointsmemo.com. He predicts "a bad breakup between McCain and his middle-of-the-road admirers."

    McCain says he's not changing, just trying to build bridges instead of burning them. "Fundamentally, I'm the same person I've been for the last 30 years," he told USA TODAY in an interview last week aboard his charter plane from Houston to College Station.

    As for his vote on the tax cuts, he says, it's consistent with his record: "If we repeal them, it has the effect of a tax increase. I have never voted to increase taxes." So will he vote to extend the rest of them? Yes.

    Betting on a winner

    McCain has one of the highest favorable ratings of any 2008 prospect in either party 61% in a Time poll last month, second only to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (64%). Several polls show McCain beating New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading Democrat, in a head-to-head contest.

    "Right now I'd have to say he's the front-runner" for the GOP nomination, says Emmett Tyrell, editor of the conservative American Spectator magazine.

    McCain's advantages over other prospects include his wrenching past as a Navy pilot who spent 1967-73 in a Vietnam prison, and a reformer image in a time of Washington scandals. He makes no secret of his priorities. At a recent GOP gathering in Memphis, others highlighted issues such as abortion and gay marriage. McCain talked soberly of Iraq, Iran and terrorism.

    "It's apparent to a lot of conservatives that ... post-9/11, the country has to be led by a leader who understands the military. John is certainly at the top of the list there," Tyrell says. It doesn't hurt, he adds, that McCain recently has "come around on taxes."

    McCain's age and health are potential liabilities. He has had three bouts of melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer, and if elected, he'd be the oldest first-term president 72. He says his health is good and his mother still globetrots at 94. His standard line: "I'm older than dirt, and I've got more scars than Frankenstein, but I've learned a few things along the way."

    Republicans appear more focused for now on McCain's strong poll numbers than his age or health. "He is our best prospect to be nominated and be president," says Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.

    McCain says he won't decide whether to run until after the November elections. He also says his wife, Cindy, is not yet "convinced that this is a good idea."

    However, he's already thought about how he'd do it just like 2000, lots of town meetings and wall-to-wall media availability on his Straight Talk Express bus. They were the most fun part of the race, he says, and "life has got to be fun."

    McCain is trying to have some, although he is perceived as a front-runner, and "people always shoot at the front-runner." He's had bit parts in the movie Wedding Crashers and the Fox TV show 24. He holds his own with late-night comics and jokes darkly that Don Imus, who loves him, "has a perfect record of backing nothing but losers."

    His cellphone has an up-to-the-minute funk-rap ring tone inflicted on him by one of his sons. His jokes are a lot older. When he follows other speakers at an event he cracks that he feels like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband "I know what to do, I just don't know how to make it interesting" and concludes by asking for "questions, comments and insults."

    But McCain is dead serious about making sure that if and when he runs for the GOP nomination, this time he'll win. He's lining up some of the people responsible for Bush's success among them Terry Nelson, who ran Bush's massive turnout organization in 2004; longtime Bush family fundraiser Tom Loeffler of Texas; and at least a dozen South Carolina activists and officials who were in the Bush camp and want to "get involved with McCain early," says McCain adviser Richard Quinn.

    McCain's travel schedule already is frenetic. In the past two weeks he has been to New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. He's now in the midst of a seven -day trip to New Hampshire, Florida, Arkansas, Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa.

    The immediate goal is to campaign and raise money for 2006 candidates. McCain is also making friends and collecting chits in states with key roles in fundraising, primaries and the general election.

    Solidarity with Bush

    While other Republicans fret about how far to run from a president with approval ratings in the 30s, McCain has never held Bush in a closer public embrace.

    "The president deserved better" than the bipartisan protests that killed an Arab company's takeover of some U.S. port operations, he said in Memphis. He praised Bush's handling of the nuclear threat from Iran. He even urged delegates to pick Bush in a straw poll of 2008 prospects, though Bush can't run.

    Above all, McCain is a forceful defender of the Iraq invasion. "That is the president's signature issue, and on that issue, there is no stronger supporter than John McCain," says Mark McKinnon, Bush's media strategist.

    The solidarity has helped McCain "make a lot of progress in our world," McKinnon says. He'll likely support McCain if Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sit out 2008 as planned.

    McCain says it's his "normal instinct" to help Bush when he's down. "I've always been the guy who fights for the underdog," he says and smiles. "I would feel much more comfortable disagreeing with him if he was at 60, not 38" in polls.

    But disagree with him he does. He is bucking Bush by pushing to reduce global warming. He pressured Bush into signing a ban on prisoner torture and now is pressing him on immigration. He has long said the United States did not have enough troops in Iraq. He's also said he has no confidence in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    He took on Bush and the GOP establishment over campaign spending limits and won. He now says Bush should be tougher with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    McCain's independence is at the core of his cross-party appeal. His decision to give a commencement address May 13 at Falwell's Liberty University led to this exchange with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show:

    Stewart: It strikes me as something you wouldn't normally do. Am I wrong about that? Are you freaking out on us?

    McCain: Just a little.

    Stewart: Are you going into crazy base world?

    McCain: I'm afraid so.

    McCain has a conservative record on social issues such as abortion, but he has never been a favorite of Christian conservatives. In 2000, the Rev. Pat Robertson sponsored automated phone calls against him, and attacks Falwell calls "ugly" circulated through religious networks. McCain made an inflammatory speech assailing Falwell and Robertson and joked later that they were "forces of evil."

    Falwell says he was not part of the 2000 offensive against McCain and decided last fall it was time to reconcile. He asked for a meeting and says it went well. Recently he invited McCain to speak at Liberty, the fundamentalist Baptist university he founded in Lynchburg, Va.

    McCain says he was happy to accept. Is he uncomfortable with Falwell's remark that "pagans," "abortionists," feminists, gays and civil libertarians helped bring on God's wrath and the 9/11 attacks?

    "No more so than it makes me uncomfortable to go to the New School, which is a very liberal school," he says. He gives an address May 19 at that New York City university, headed by former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey.

    There are several 2008 prospects with closer ties to religious conservatives, and interest in them is high. "I have not sensed any real enthusiasm for Sen. McCain among the conservatives that I know," says Don Racheter, a fiscal and Christian conservative active in Iowa politics.

    Falwell says McCain looks like a winner and he wants Christian conservatives to take another look. "The fact that he is coming here (Liberty) to speak gives the senator an opportunity to get a leg up on the other candidates inside the religious conservative camp," he says.

    Beyond the former Bush operatives and allies looking at McCain, there are the Bushes themselves.

    McCain is not the only GOP presidential prospect to get a lecture invitation here Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is on deck for October but he does have a special relationship with the Bush clan.

    Vice admiral J.S. McCain, McCain's grandfather, signed a 1944 citation giving George H.W. Bush a Distinguished Flying Cross after he was shot down in World War II. In 1991, as president, a tearful Bush commissioned the USS McCain named for the vice admiral.

    McCain and the former president have known each other for more than 20 years. The elder Bush introduced McCain at the lecture last week with remarks as warm as his son's 2000 campaign was hurtful.

    He called McCain "a true American hero" and "a wonderful human being" before closing with, "John, the floor is yours."

    usatoday.com

    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

  2. #2
    Elite Member miss_perfect's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    McCain is too old. In 2008 he will be 72, older than Reagan was when he was running for office.

    I'm always on the fence about this guy. He has some good ideas (nice to see a GOP member that cares about the environment) and he seems to be liked by both sides. Most of the time, he tends to be really fiesty and speak his mind (his SNL skit about Barbra Streisand was really funny), but when it comes down to the 11th hour, he supports the President. This and the age factor I think will hurt his chances.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    He does what he can to get ahead.. he pretends to be a 'maverick' Repug but he's pure GOP to the core. He says one thing, does another. Barf.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member miss_perfect's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    ^ Plus another thing that won't make him popular with everyone is that he's very pro-war.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    He's only pro-war because the Bushies are drunk with it. If Bush was against war, he'd be waving the biggest peace sign there ever was.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    McCain can't win his party's nomination, he's too moderate. He doesn't stand a chance of being prez.
    If you can't be a good example -- then you'll just have to be a horrible warning

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    moderate my ass.

    btw, the title of the thread should be "McCain CONTINUES sucking up to the bushies"
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    Default Re: Campaign 2008 kickoff: McCain sucks up to the bushies.

    Well McCain is conservative, but even though he kisses Bush's ass alot the GOP see him as more centrist than anything. In today's conservatie agenda, being conservative is not conservative enough.

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