Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 18, 2000 / 12 Adar I, 5760

Chris Matthews

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard



McCain faces fury of GOP establishment -- GREENVILLE, S.C. - John McCain stands at the eye of the hurricane.

"We're going to take the influence of big money and special interests out of Washington," he said here at Clemson University on Wednesday.

"We're going to break the iron triangle of money, lobbyists and legislation, and give the government back to these young people. They're the ones that deserve it, and they're going to get it when I'm president of the United States."

Surrounding the bantam senator and former Vietnam POW on the TV-lit stage were hundreds of applauding, gung-ho students.

But they are not the hurricane, merely the voices trying their damnedest to rise above it.

A more menacing storm of anger belts through South Carolina these days before the Feb. 19 primary. It's the wild and angry forces of the GOP establishment. It's the Republicans McCain's insurgent campaign has threatened and aroused. It's composed of the Republican big shots from the U.S. Senate and every state capital. It's the corporate power boys who don't mind paying the toll in D.C. as long as they get value for it. It's the country-club types Mommy and Daddy taught from birth to bar the door to mavericks like McCain.

This battle, the lonely rebel against the long-powerful party establishment, is the high drama of the South Carolina primary. The story line is worthy of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Just as in the old movie, the machine is fighting back. Each day down here the newspapers and airwaves carry the Republican power boys' continuing fusillade: "McCain's no better than us," cry the Bush loyalists. "He's chairman of a Senate committee. He, too, is a Washingtonian!"

But McCain's great edge in this fight for the Republican presidential nomination is that he looks nothing like the fellow his rivals describe. A Navy pilot in Vietnam, he endured 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war and returned with honor. A U.S. senator from Arizona, he is best known for his fights against big tobacco and his championship of campaign finance reform.

McCain's best advertisement for his relative cleanliness is, of course, the cotillion of enemies he has recruited:

  • The tobacco companies now running TV ads to defeat him in the primary here Feb. 19.

  • The Senate leaders and fund-raisers who fight any attempt to drain the sewer money from American elections.

  • The D.C. lobbyists who denounce the challenger on Sunday television.

  • The country-club types who embrace George W. Bush for no better reason than his breeding.

Against these forces, McCain has formed a new legion of political independents: reform-minded, romantic-hearted Republicans, political independents, and, yes, Democrats too desperate for a hero to let political correctitude detain them.

Being a real-life figure rather than one confected by Hollywood, this hero has his flaws. Citing states' rights, he refuses to attack the Confederate battle flag flying over the South Carolina capitol, though he is willing to call "crazy" a recent Vermont decision saying laws cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.

A man of no recognizable prejudice, he nonetheless defends the "don't ask, don't tell" rule for military service by gays.

Despite his tone of conciliation and moderation on abortion rights, he still gives lip-service to its abolition.

Even on the issue upon which he has founded his campaign, McCain stands a tad tainted. He rightly condemns the "iron triangle" of lobbyists who raise money for politicians, then return with clients asking for special consideration. Yet he wrongly continues to raise money from the same chauffeur-driven, car-phoning motorcade of tanned, slicked-back operators who roam Washington's infamous "Gucci gulch."

"If they want to give me money, that's fine," he confesses to the charge of taking lobbyist money, "but that doesn't mean that I'm doing anything for them. My message is clear. If they don't get it, they've been on Mars!"

Like young Jefferson Smith of movie lore, he now feels the white heat reserved for those to dare to challenge a political machine. Watching to see who buckles first, this man McCain or the Republican electoral machine, has given us the highest political drama since the 1960s.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

© 2000, NEA