When the chips are down, 'Mav­er­ick' McCain shoots blanks

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion - Dick Pol­man is the na­tional po­lit­i­cal colum­nist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadel­phia (newsworks.org/pol­man) and a "Writer in Res­i­dence" at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. Email him at dick­pol­man7@gmail.com.

Igot tired of John McCain's phony "mav­er­ick" act a long time ago, and his hyp­o­crit­i­cal per­for­mance on the Se­nate floor this week re­minded me why. McCain is a ver­i­ta­ble

Potemkin vil­lage, a con­ven­tional Repub­li­can pol mask­ing as a truth-telling, straight-talk­ing rebel.

Hav­ing risen from his sickbed, where he was en­joy­ing Cadil­lac gov­ern­ment health care, he flew across the coun­try to de­liver a floor speech lament­ing the

Se­nate's toxic par­ti­san­ship

- scant min­utes af­ter he cast a piv­otal vote to open the GOP's toxic par­ti­san quest to strip 20 mil­lion peo­ple of their health care.

Clas­sic McCain. All talk, no ac­tion.

He com­plained that the to­day's Se­nate is "more par­ti­san, more tribal more of the time than any time I re­mem­ber." That was min­utes af­ter he voted Yes on the par­ti­san, tribal mis­sion to de­stroy peo­ple's health care. He com­plained that the GOP's kill-Oba­macare quest has been con­ducted "be­hind closed doors ... then spring­ing it on skep­ti­cal mem­bers, try­ing to con­vince them that [any re­place­ment bill] is bet­ter than noth­ing, ask­ing us to swal­low our doubts." Min­utes ear­lier, he could've stopped the se­cre­tive farce in its tracks by cast­ing the piv­otal No, but in­stead he voted Yes to abet the farce.

Yet the myth of McCain lives on. Paeans were writ­ten about how the Se­nate will be di­min­ished when McCain leaves. His floor rhetoric was posted in its en­tirety. But it's no mys­tery why the Wash­ing­ton press corps has long been in love with the guy. It's sim­ple, re­ally. He talks to them. He gives good quote. Ac­cess is of­ten the best aphro­disiac.

When he ran for pres­i­dent in 2000, he sat up front on his Straight Talk Ex­press bus, talk­ing with re­porters for hours on end. I did it once, and he was very en­ter­tain­ing. He con­fessed that the health care is­sue bored him, he gos­siped about peo­ple he didn't like (sig­nal­ing his dis­taste by rolling his eyes), and he rem­i­nisced about his hi­jinks as a Navy fly­boy (he said he dated an ex­otic dancer named "Marie the Flame Thrower of Florida"). But I begged off af­ter that. I didn't want to be a bit player on his laugh track, es­pe­cially af­ter I heard that he in­voked Marie the Flame Thrower on every ride.

Most im­por­tantly, McCain has thrown his "mav­er­ick" act un­der the bus so many times, I've lost count. Since Jan­uary, he has voted in ac­cor­dance with Don­ald Trump's wishes 90 per­cent of the time. Dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, he voted the Bush po­si­tion 95 per­cent of the time, in­clud­ing be­ing a key vote for the dis­as­trous war in Iraq that desta­bi­lized the re­gion and planted the seeds of ISIS.

He did vote against Bush's tax cuts for the rich in 2001, but he switched sides a year later and ex­tended them. He also led the Bush-era fight for cam­paign fi­nance re­form - then pro­ceeded to vote for all the Repub­li­can Supreme Court nom­i­nees who've dis­man­tled his work.

And the flip-flops ... good grief. There's no time to list them all, so here's a quick ride on the Dou­ble Talk Ex­press:

In 2000, he as­sailed re­li­gious-right zealot Jerry Fal­well as an "agent of in­tol­er­ance," but by 2006 he was speak­ing at Fal­well's univer­sity (his de­fense: "I love to travel around this coun­try and speak at col­leges and univer­si­ties"). In 1999, de­spite a solid anti-abor­tion vot­ing record, he said that Roe v. Wade should re­main law of the land be­cause oth­er­wise, "thou­sands of young

Amer­i­can women would be per­form­ing il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous oper­a­tions," but in 2006 he called for Roe's over­throw be­cause "I don't be­lieve the Supreme Court should be leg­is­lat­ing in the way they did Roe v. Wade." He used to op­pose teach­ing cre­ation­ism in the pub­lic schools, then he en­dorsed it. And in 2008, of course, de­spite his high-minded talk about putting "the coun­try first," he chose, as his run­ning mate, an un­qual­i­fied ding­bat who couldn't even name the news­pa­pers she read.

So let us as­sess John McCain with­out tears. May we never again see the press corps' li­on­iz­ing

drivel (Time mag­a­zine, 2008: "When he sits on his cam­paign bus, we re­porters gather like kids in the cafe­te­ria hud­dling around the star quar­ter­back.") May we never again see the word mav­er­ick un­less it's caveated by quo­ta­tion marks.

And may we al­ways re­mind our­selves that

when the mo­ment to make his­tory truly ar­rived, when the al­leged rebel could've stopped Mitch McCon­nell's tribal army from kick­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to the curb, John McCain did noth­ing. Ex­cept talk the talk.

It was worse than a missed op­por­tu­nity. It was - oh so pre­dictably a dis­grace.

Dick Pol­man

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