At a dinner party in Los Angeles not long after the 2000 election, I was talking to a man and his wife, both prominent Republicans. The conversation soon turned to the new president. "I didn't vote for George Bush" the man confessed. "I didn't either," his wife added. Their names: John and Cindy McCain (Cindy told me she had cast a write-in vote for her husband).Mark Salter, a "longtime McCain aide," denied that McCain had ever said that, calling Huffington "a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva". Here is part of her response.
The fact that this man was so angry at what George Bush had done to him, and at what Bush represented for their party, that he did not even vote for him in 2000 shows just how far he has fallen since then in his hunger for the presidency. By abandoning his core principles and embracing Bush — both literally and metaphorically — he has morphed into an older and crankier version of the man he couldn't stomach voting for in 2000.
As you can see from the many, many newspaper columns I wrote singing his praises, John McCain was one of my political heroes.
Here's one column where I compared him to a modern day gladiator, inspired by his vow 'to have blood all over the floor of the Senate until we accede to the demands of the people' for meaningful reform. In the column, I credit Salter as McCain's 'fellow gladiator,' and include a quote he gave me... before I flaked out on him and started posing and seeking attention.
But hero-worship dies hard, which is why it took so long for me to see that the man who had been willing to take on his own party and redefine what it meant to be a 'loyal Republican,' who stood up for his beliefs in campaign finance reform and his opposition to unconscionable tax cuts and even more unconscionable torture, was no more.
It's why I described his fall as Shakespearean (and, speaking of the Bard, hearing the invective spewing from the McCain camp in response to my post, 'thou doth protest too much, methinks' leaps to mind).
This isn't Mitt Romney we're talking about, folks — a man for whom pandering and flip flopping fit like a perfectly tailored suit. This is John McCain, a man whose personal history, in the words of Newsweek in 2000, "makes the other presidential candidates look like pygmies" — and who, at one time, before he held a fire sale on his principles (Everything Must Go!), was ennobled by that history and had the chance to become that rarest of things — a real leader.