Ever since Donald Trump said McCain wasn’t a war hero, there have been calls for McCain to repudiate Trump, since he represents the antithesis of McCain’s supposed values—honor, integrity, virtue—and the bastardization of his supposed strength, his beloved straight talk. The latest comes (big surprise here) from Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who is running against him (if he wins the upcoming Republican primary, which he will). Here she is, speaking to Politico:
“The fact that he continues to support Donald Trump in spite of the fact that Trump insulted him, in spite of the fact that Trump insulted a Gold Star family, shows that he’s changed. There was a day that he would have stood up for that family, would have stood up for himself. It’s baffling to me that he continues to support Trump in spite of the horrible racist, sexist, discriminating things that Trump said.”
Kirkpatrick is attacking McCain’s maverick status because 28 percent of likely Hillary Clinton voters say they’ll vote for McCain in the general election and she needs to tie McCain to Trump to have any hope of winning. And, to be sure, McCain’s cynical refusal to disavow Trump—he doesn’t want to alienate Trump voters—is not the kind of thing a maverick does.
But McCain hasn’t been a maverick for years, if he ever was one in the first place. Sure, once upon a time, he would occasionally break from his party. Most importantly, he talked constantly to reporters, who were not used to the level of attention McCain paid to them and went weak at the knees when they got it. Here, for instance, is David Foster Wallace absolutely losing his shit over McCain’s “authenticity”:
Who wouldn’t cheer, hearing stuff like this, especially from a guy we know chose to sit in a dark box for four years instead of violate a Code? Even in AD 2000, who among us is so cynical that he doesn’t have some good old corny American hope way down deep in his heart, lying dormant like a spinster’s ardor, not dead but just waiting for the right guy to give it to?
Sixteen years after McCain’s failed 2000 campaign ride on his trusty steed, the Straight Talk Express, the John McCain, Maverick of the Senate™ narrative is absurd. McCain’s gleeful needling of his own party dimmed after he got ratfucked by Karl Rove in South Carolina and then gave George W. Bush a big hug. And it died again after McCain repeatedly sold out his supposed Maverick credentials during his cynical 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama, and then it really died during his subsequent desperate campaign to hold his Senate seat in 2010. “I never considered myself a maverick,” he avowed in 2010.
People will keep saying that McCain is a maverick because he talked to reporters 16 years ago. That McCain is long gone: The new one just wants to keep his job, no matter the cost.