Reason Writers Around Town: Matt Welch in Politico on John McCain's "Maverick" Persona


As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fights off a primary challenge in a state convulsing over immigration and other concerns, commentators from Dana Milbank to The New York Times editorial board are expressing chagrin that the man they once admired is turning his back on the "maverick" label. But, as Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch explains in Politico, history has amply demonstrated that "John McCain will do or say, or undo or unsay, just about anything to win an election." Excerpt:

Carmelita! Hold me tighter! I think I'm sinking down.

In this comical flip-floppery he is absolutely no different than 95 percent of all politicians, from Barack Obama to McCain's clownish primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth (whose own political manifesto, after all, is entitled Whatever it Takes). The only reason we're even talking about it as a news story now is that the "maverick" appellation has been one of the most successful acts of political branding in modern history […]

I hope McCain beats Hayworth. But I hope much more that the press, at long last, starts covering McCain as he is, rather than the memory of what they mistakenly thought he was.

Read the whole thing here.


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  1. Translation from politico:
    “Maverick” = “Whatever my publicist can claim as not 100% what the polls say”

    Nixon made an entire career of claiming he ‘wasn’t taking the easy way out’ when he was doing exactly that. And hoping no one would notice.

  2. I agree with what Matt said except for the inclusion of ethanol, but I think it’s an important exception. McCain’s supposed “flip-flop” on ethanol was that in a speech in Iowa (when the price of oil was $100 a barrel) he said he wasn’t necessarily against ethanol if it could compete without subsidies and maybe it could against $150 a barrel oil, but he was still against the existing subsidies.

    Idiot journalists called this a flip-flop. But that’s because they have the idiotic statist mindset that you have to be either “for” or “against” a product, and use the power of government to support it or stop it.

    I’m “for” whatever wins in a fair market. I get really tired of people saying that libertarians are “against clean energy,” and I don’t like to see Matt falling into the same rhetorical trap.

    1. John — The ethanol flip flop was much more than you portray.

      There’s more than just a price point between saying “Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality” and then advocating “creating new markets for farmers by providing incentives to create low carbon auto fuels like ethanol.”

  3. John McCain is an opportunist. Next topic?

  4. I live in Maricopa county.

    Did I mention that I’ve upped my antidepressants recently?

    1. And are you, by and chance, small and brown?

  5. And remember, we’re all way better off with Obama than we ever would have been with McCain in the White House.

    I mean just don’t forget that.

    1. Way to not understand the article.

  6. LOL, John McCain is an idiot. PLain and simple.


  7. John McCain is NOT a hero. He is the very antithesis of honor and liberty and decency and productivity and intellectual inquiry.

  8. Why would Matt Welsh want a fraud like McCain to beat J.D. Hayworth? Who has been in the public sector his whole adult life and who has been a bigger fraud his whole life?

    Seriously, can Matt really think that McCain is a better friend to liberty than Hayworth?

    1. I think nativism, particularly in Arizona, is a bigger threat to liberty than whatever passes for McCainism nowadays. I do not wish to see its leading proponents rewarded.

      That said, I’m neither Arizonan nor Republican, so it’s not really my fight.

  9. I so hope Hayworth wins. McCain is the most statist Republican politician since his hero, Teddy Roosevelt.

  10. I voted for McCain in 2004, 2008 and I will again in 2010.

    i admire him. Do I see his faults, yes. Would I have rather voted for Barack Obama? No.

    Would I like to see JD Hayworth elected? Hell no.

  11. Keep in mind that McCain, along with Palin, was picked by the GOP brain trust because they did not want to win the 2008 election.

    The idea was to allow Obama/Clinton to win the WH and struggle to clean up all the Bush Administration’s messes, while the Pubs went back to being the opposition party for a while.

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