June 3, 2005
McCain's delusion: The rebirth of 'moderate' dominanceBy Christopher G. Adamo
Despite continuing outrage among conservatives over last week's sellout of Senate Republicans by seven 'moderates' in their midst, it is clear that Arizona Senator John McCain, the apparent leader of the effort, presumes himself to be a big winner.
While McCain has been positively deferential towards Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist when questioned directly, his actions dealt a severe setback to Frist's efforts to solidify Republican Senate clout. Appearing in front of network cameras (a place he clearly relishes), McCain nevertheless pronounced that the compromise had been undertaken 'in the finest traditions of the Senate.'
However, any presumed victories resulting from last week's treacherous act will be short—lived indeed. McCain's deal which, not surprisingly, mirrors the original plan presented by Minority Leader Harry and the Democrats, exemplifies the classic format of political strategizing by 'moderates.' Riding to power on the coattails of conservatism, they occasionally find themselves in a position to tip the scales on critical issues. Invariably, they do so in favor of the left.
In 2001, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords briefly gained a place in the spotlight by renouncing his Republican affiliation. With the Senate evenly divided, Jeffords officially switched to being an 'Independent' and vowed to support Democrats for Senate leadership, thereby negating the slight majority Republicans had held after the 2000 elections.
Thus Tom Daschle (D.—SD) ascended as Senate Majority leader until the 2002 elections reduced his party, once again, to the minority status.
But while Jeffords forfeited any trust he had shared with Republican colleagues, he eventually learned that he had never gained the respect of the Democrats. They had merely exploited his willingness to sell out his party.
Contrary to the misguided hopes of John McCain, such behavior does not constitute a significant force of 'centrism' that might seize the reins of power based on the superiority of its ideas. Rather, it indicates the worst sort of capricious opportunism, proving its adherents to be nothing more than self—seeking pragmatists.
Devoid of any loyalty, these so—called 'centrists' are only able to appear relevant on the political scene by virtue of their duplicity to the Republican leadership. Moreover, they have little influence on the Democrats, since they are unable to affect the makeup of legislation originated from that camp. Thus, their ability to betray and sell out is one—sided. In the long run, all of this will redound to McCain as neither principle nor leadership.
Some have claimed that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee has been politically wounded by McCain's treachery. But while it is true that Frist's clout in the Senate isn't what it was presumed to be prior to the betrayal, the blame will only be fixed on Frist to any degree that he acquiesces to the move.
Worse still for McCain, his grandiose plan of 'ruling from the center' is already coming unraveled. Before the week's end, Democrats had discredited the insipid promises of the seven turncoats that the Senate could 'get back to business.'
Debate over the nomination of John Bolton as UN Ambassador has now been stalled in somwhat similar manner as were the judicial nominees. In truth, McCain's only real accomplishment was to revert the Senate back to a place where Democrats could assume control. Such is hardly a principled or heroic feat.
Furthermore, public outrage has scared two of the seven, Mike Dewine of Ohio and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, into backtracking. Both are now attempting to deflect anger from the conservative grassroots with conciliatory, albeit empty, rhetoric. The notion that America could be inspired by such unprincipled and unstable characters now seems grimly comical.
In recent years the courts have become smug in their knowledge that the public has no redress to their activist decisions. But now conservatives have a target, which they can hold accountable to such anger. With each ensuing bad decision, Republican and conservative anger will be rekindled against the seven who perpetuated the outrage.
Conservative Republicans are often warned that inflexibility on their part towards the Party's 'moderate' wing might eventually alienate such noted individuals as Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. On the other hand, the Party's adherence to principle has historically attracted conservative Democrats, who will cross party lines if the GOP aspires to something higher, and not merely cheaper, than that peddled by the Democrats.
Former Georgia Senator (and Governor) Zell Miller is a good example. And to conservatives, that would be an excellent trade.
Christopher Adamo is a frequent contributor.