As John McCain’s candidacy fades, it’s saddening to see the decline of an honorable man whose chances for the presidency in 2000 were destroyed by the Bush slime machine that has been defacing all of America ever since.
Yesterday was particularly poignant. Here was McCain in what was once his boyhood home, a block from the Capitol, now a lobbyists’ club, with his begging bowl out to take contributions from the people his campaign-finance reforms were intended to get out of Presidential politics.
Back in Phoenix his wife, Cindy, was giving a rueful interview to the New York Times. “I’m angry at them,” she said, ostensibly about the Bush Administration’s mishandling of the war in Iraq, where one of her sons is about to be deployed.
But under the veneer of a tactful political wife, there was more. In the 2000 campaign, after McCain defeated Bush in the New Hampshire primary, Karl Rove and his merry men destroyed her husband in South Carolina with slanders and push polls about everything from her one-time addiction to pain killers to rumors that their adopted daughter from Bangladesh was a black child McCain had fathered.
Last year, Bridget, who is now 15, learned about that while doing a Google search of her name and went to her mother in tears.
“She wanted to know why President Bush hated her,” Mrs. McCain said. “And I had to explain to her...how nasty campaigns can be.”
Now McCain, who withstood years in a Vietnamese prison camp only to be shut out of the White House by ruthless political thugs who had never heard a shot fired in anger, is fading into history. Those of us who differ with him about Iraq and regret his futile catch-up attempts to win over the Radical Right can nonetheless find him more admirable than the poseurs and phonies still standing in the Republican race.
The only hope for eventual justice to McCain’s memory is that the evil men do, in the case of Karl Rove, lives on and will come to light in the investigations that can’t remain mired forever in squabbles over subpoenas and executive privilege.
McCain won’t ever inhabit the White House, but his Congressional colleagues may yet fumigate it of the termites who kept him from getting there.