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Jewish World Review June 14, 2001/ 25 Sivan, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NO general is a hero to his valet. John McCain does not enjoy the star-struck fan base here in Arizona that he has found in the national media. Chris Matthews waxes rhapsodic about our not-so-native son. Mr. Matthews has never connected McCain's draw on the Hardball college tour and popularity among America's studying youth with Cindy McCain's father, the beer distributor. If you liquor them up, they will come.

But our "maverick senator," as he is called by Katie Couric, Cokie Roberts and other perkily named media stars, does not meet Arizona minimum standards for "maverick." We grow 'em feisty. Barry Goldwater was beloved here whilst still a kook to Huntley and Brinkley. Legend has it that once, in the wee hours, the current mayor of Prescott painted a crosswalk near town bars while three sheets to the wind. We've had two governors indicted, one convicted, and one with bad hair (Gov. Rose Mofford's white beehive, not Evan Mecham).

McCain is tolerated here, not beloved. He is a gunfighter who rides into town, shots flying in the air. He makes a ruckus, draws attention, and plays hero, the cowboy come to save us all. We have just let McCain do his little show so long as he understood not to hit anything. One of his random shots hit when he voted against the Bush tax plan. During President Bush's Memorial Day visit here, Senator Jon Kyl's mention of McCain's name drew booing. The president's listing of political Poobahs brought applause until the deafening silence on McCain's name. We hicks are not Yale-trained and opted not to boo the Prez.

We define "maverick" by an obstinacy born of principle. McCain can't have the maverick mantle until we can decipher what his principles are. He is a flirt. His constant eye-blinking and forced smile are those of a tart who teases, but never dates. He is like former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (except without the brains, having finished fifth from the bottom at the Naval Academy) who duped everyone with his moral hand wringing, only to end up voting a party line, defecting only when the party has the votes.

One minute McCain releases a statement of party loyalty, and as the ink dries, Tom Daschle moseys to the McCain spread in Cottonwood on the eve of Daschle's rise to power. McCain scolded on Jeffords' defection, "Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party, and it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up." Then he demanded that the ASU College Republicans take down their critical Web site on him.

The media have selective amnesia when it comes to McCain's Joan-of-Arc act on campaign finance reform. He is John-come-lately there, having been one of the Keating Five. Charles Keating sent out the kind of vibes that would send Vito Corleone packing, as it were. But McCain wined, dined, flew and cashed in with Keating, professing ignorance when Keating's shenanigans saw daylight. Either McCain lied or he was monumentally na´ve. Neither trait is maverick material.

So smitten are the media that they also ignore McCain's voting record. Comparing his rhetoric with his votes shows McCain to be either a hypocrite or politically schizophrenic.

When asked whether his daughter would ever have an abortion, McCain referred to it as her choice or a "family choice." When confronted again, he touted a 100% right-to-life voting record. He has a 60% approval rating from National Right to Life.

He preaches reducing government size but favored the tobacco settlements, an airline passengers' bill of rights and no deregulation of telecommunications (AT&T, Bell South, Qwest are all big McCain donors). Squelching competition reduces government size? He has voted consistently for military spending cuts, one way of reducing size.

McCain is not too often at odds with Jesse Helms. He'll work with Lieberman on gun registration legislation but votes 100% with the NRA. (Helms 100%) He has a 60% approval rating from the John Birch Society (Helms 84%) and a big 0% from the National Hispanic Leadership Program (Helms 0%). Animal rights group give him a 0-20% (Helms 20-25%) and the ACLU gives him 0% (Helms - same). Teachers' unions give him a 0-25% (Helms is 0-10%) and labor puts him at 16% (Helms 14%). Business entrepreneurs put him at almost 100% (Helms is 100%). NOW gives McCain a 15% and Helms a 0%. Tax reform groups put McCain at 65-87% and Helms at 85-95%. By his voting record, this is one conservative guy.

Mr. McCain is an enigma. His valor as a Vietnam POW for five years deserves respect. Yet, Mr. McCain is a twit. He called a large retirement community here, Leisure World (his base), "Seizure World." He mocked Chelsea Clinton's looks when the Clintons first began their 8 years of pilferage.

John McCain and his coquettish blinks are part of Arizona folklore. He is all hat and no cattle. If he starts voting as he talks, firing off shots that hurt, we'll give him the boot, and I don't mean a pair of Justins.


JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings