by Tula Connell
Somewhere along the road from the 2000 presidential campaign to this year’s elections, Sen. John McCaintransformed from a lawmaker willing to challenge extremist Republicans like George W. Bush to just another politician begging to kiss the ring of the Great Leader and win Bush’s blessing as inheritor of the White House mantle.
This description of the McCain metamorphosis is not idle speculation from afar. It’s based on the personal experience of political analyst Arianna Huffington, who supported McCain a few years ago to the point of throwing a fundraiser for him. Now, she devotes a large section of her new book to show how McCain has abandoned any modicum of moderation and has fully embraced the extremist agenda of Bush and his clones.
In Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made Us All Less Safe, Huffington, editor of the popular Huffington Post blog, points out that after twice voting against making permanent Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, McCain now supports this boondoogle for the rich. Further, he moved from being a campaign finance reformer to a candidate whose campaign is run by lobbyists and who has flip-flopped from opposing torture to voting to allow water boarding.
And as we’ve pointed out, McCain, like Bush, supports tax hikes on our health insurance, supports pay discrimination, backs bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pushes economic policies to help millionaires, not working families.
Stumping for her new book in Washington, D.C., yesterday, Huffington joined economist Jared Bernstein at a book talk sponsored by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), where she attributed the public’s misunderstanding of the real John McCain in large part to the media’s portrayal of him.
The John McCain the media fell in love with in 2000 isn’t on the ballot in 2008.
Many Americans still believe the image of McCain in 2000 is the same McCain today because of the complicity of the corporate media in perpetuating the image of “straight talker” and “maverick.” And while Bush’s approval rating is a low 28 percent, Huffington points out that 48 percent say they support McCain, which makes him so dangerous this election year—in her words:
A Trojan horse of the right.
Chief among the corporate media enablers of the McCain myth is NBC’s Tim Russert, whose Sunday “Meet the Press” show has hosted McCain so many times over the past two years it’s become a joke among progressive pundits. Huffington Post has featured a “Russert Watch” for months, and in Right is Wrong, Huffington shows just how Russert’s image as a “tough interviewer” falls apart when examined. Russert, or his handlers at the General Electric-owned MSNBC, has not taken kindly to the portrayal—Huffington says after appearing on the network 33 times in the past year, half of the times MSNBC requested she appear, MSNBC has shut her out of appearing on any programs to promote her book.
But MSNBC can’t challenge the validity of “Russert Watch”: The prestigious Columbia Journalism Review is so impressed with it, its online journal plans to carry it.
As Huffington traveled around Washington, D.C., yesterday, she made news with her statement that McCain once confided to her that he didn’t vote for Bush in 2000. A McCain spokesman naturally denys his candidate ever told her that.
Really, it doesn’t matter who McCain voted for eight years has ago. Because the John McCain running for president today on the Bush extremist ticket is not the same as the one who challenged Bush in 2000.