Saturday, February 18, 2017


I have mixed feelings about this New York magazine cover story:

To some extent, it's the usual breathless worship of McCain:
It was not yet two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and McCain had already become the fiercest Republican critic of the new administration. While party leaders like Paul Ryan were contorting themselves to defend even Trump’s most ill-conceived executive orders, McCain had been, for a member of the president’s party, on fire: He had criticized Trump for banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, for his failed first mission in Yemen, for his suggestion that he might lift sanctions against Russia; he even took diplomacy into his own hands, reaching out to Australia to assure the country of our continued friendship after Trump had bizarrely confronted its prime minister in their introductory phone call.

... he has watched as allegations about Russian involvement in the election — and possibly in American foreign policy — picked up steam, and as Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national-security adviser after revelations that he improperly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador (and then lied to the vice-president about it). To McCain, these are red-line issues. No matter how much he likes the prospect of deregulation, the compromising of America’s sovereignty was pushing him closer to the barricades.
On the other hand, McCain is portrayed as a Republican first and foremost:
McCain is not a Republican in Name Only; he is a true believer, an elder of the tribe. He does not exactly relish being deemed the loyal opposition....

McCain shook his head at the notion that just because he had the temerity to criticize the president, congressional Democrats thought they could recruit him to their cause. “These are the same Democrats that shredded me in 2008,” he said. “I get along with the Democrats, but please, I’m not their hero. They’re trying to use us. We will work with them, but have no doubt, their agenda is not our agenda.” ...

“The Democrats are just off the reservation. They’re crazy the way they’re behaving,” McCain said to [Supreme Court nominee Neil] Gorsuch. “As for hearings, I’ve never seen anything like this. Just keep your flak jacket on. Steady as she goes.”
My first reaction to this was similar to Atrios's:

But that's how this works in the Beltway and the elite media: We as citizens can mount all the "resistance" we want, and we can hold congressional Democrats' feet to the fire until they're voting with us, but disgust with Trump doesn't become legitimate until it's endorsed by at least a few Republicans, because nothing becomes legitimate until it's endorsed by Republicans.

I don't think a focus on McCain necessarily "sucks all the air out of actual opposition" -- we have to keep fighting our fight until the Kewl Kidz are forced to take us seriously -- but in the meantime, if this is what it takes to make the Kidz believe that Trump is bad news, let's accept it and work with it, knowing full well that McCain will be a GOP loyalist at many, many key moments. We have to become a bigger movement than they're expecting. But for now this might help.

I've always felt that insider journalists lean culturally liberal -- they work in big Eastern cities, so they're cool with reproductive rights and LGBT rights and gun control and DREAMers and all that. These journalists occasionally become enamored of a progressive-seeming politician (e.g., Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign). But they turn up their noses as soon as a politician tries governing as a Democrat -- e.g., Barack Obama in 2009 and beyond -- even if, as in Obama's case, the politician isn't all that far to the left. As Josh Marshall says, D.C. is permanently "wired for Republicans."

The insiders never like Democrats in the actual act of presidenting or legislating. So they'll never respect the resisting Democrats in Congress as much as they respect the fitfully resistant McCain. I wish it were otherwise, but those are the rules.

So let's accept this and work with it. I suspect it won't amount to much -- McCain and sidekick Lindsey Graham will stand up for foreign policy traditionalism while all the other Republicans continue to suck up to Trump -- but if I'm wrong and McCain someday helps persuade enough Republicans to approve a serious investigation of Trump's fifth-columnism, there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, it won't be enough, and most of the time he won't be with us. But we have to just keep fighting our own battles.



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