Coffee House

McCain sounds his age, not like an elder statesman

30 August 2012

3:29 PM

30 August 2012

3:29 PM

John McCain cut rather a sad sight last night as he addressed the Republican National Convention on his 76th birthday. Four years ago, he would have envisaged spending the convention stepping up his campaign for a second presidential term. Now, he was reduced to a speech that attracted only polite interest from delegates, who were far more enthused by the offerings from Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. Few people are consigned to history more rapidly than nominees who lost a presidential election: none since Nixon, with his almost unique powers of resilience, have later campaigned seriously to reclaim the nomination.

At times it felt as though the only applause McCain was receiving was from his home state of Arizona, and even that sprang less from enthusiasm, and more from dutifulness. The strong foreign policy emphasis of his speech seemed almost incongruous: the concerns of his party, and the electorate-at-large, are overwhelmingly of the economic variety in this election. Harping on about Iran and Syria made McCain sound his age.


After his presidential aspirations were ended in 2008, McCain would have expected to become a respected elder statesman of the Republicans, and even a de facto leader of the party in the Senate. Plenty of US politicians, from Henry Clay to Ted Kennedy, have achieved greatness solely through their work in the Senate. But not, alas, McCain.

The rapid collapse of McCain’s standing in his own party was highlighted by the stiff primary challenge he faced in 2010, from a candidate strongly supported by the Tea Party. McCain won, but only through repudiating much of his record as a senator. The self-proclaimed ‘maverick’ image, of which McCain has once been so proud, has been destroyed.

Once an advocate of a moderate policy on immigration, McCain now supported the draconian Arizona SB 1070 law, considered one of the strongest anti-immigration measures in US history. Similarly, previous centrist positions on issues like gays serving in the military and the future of Guantanamo Bay were abandoned in favour of staunchly conservative ones. It all amounted to a ‘flip-flop’ at least as spectacular as anything Mitt Romney has managed.

Ultimately, his plight is a reminder that the ‘moderate Republican’ is a political being of the past. There appears sadly little room for politicians like the old McCain, for whom voting against their own party’s conventional thinking is a source of pride, and proof of fiercely individualistic thinking. And McCain also provides a grim reminder to Romney that, unless he is President at the 2016 Republican Convention, no one will be listening.

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  • Karen B

    John McCain gave an incredible speech! His Love of Country is unmatched! His character and integrity unrivaled in our country’s history. Sure wish he was the nominee! He’d beat Obama this time around! McCain is the Real Deal!

  • John Jefferson Burns

    McCain was always a dangerous liberal masquerading as a true Republican.
    Although Romney is wooden and has a Stepford wife Paul Ryan is a breath of fresh air.
    We pray to the good lord that our good folk will vote appropriately
    As for you folks our Mitt showed suitable contempt for your liberal leader, Mr Leader!

    • telemachus

      Labour Mr Burns
      But anyway you clearly know nothing about us
      The leader of our democrats is the Charismatic Mr Balls.

    • Hogspace

      America had the Libertarians and Ron Paul, having missed the opportunity hell awaits.

      • Richard Stanford Brown

        ^^^ Exactly what he said.

    • Daniel Maris

      Mitt Romney believes God is a material being and that if he works hard for the Mormon Church he too will become a kind of material god running his own planet somewhere in outer space.

      Not sure I would vote for someone like that. But I would give Ryan serious consideration.

    • Augustus

      “McCain was always a dangerous liberal masquerading as a true Republican.”
      And yet, in 2008 it was Obama who was shielded by the liberal-left media. He happened to be very lucky who he was, and the country was caught up in the concept. Today, of course, he now has a record from which he cannot run despite the same media’s effort to distract
      the public and smear his opponents.

  • Frank P

    Stuart Schneiderman has some good advice for the young voters on the US

    h/t Gerard Vanderleun (American Digest) q.v. it is currently a cornucopia of good posts.

  • CraigStrachan

    Yes, McCain’s had his chips.

  • Andy Barnes

    Isn’t it about now that journalists start pointing out that having appeared well right of centre, Presidential nominees will start to tack to centre come the election in November. Zzzzzzz

  • anyfool

    Nothing like kicking a man when he is down, especially if you don’t agree with him, you sad sack.

  • anyfool

    Nothing like kicking a man when he is down, especially if you don’t agree with him, you sad sack.

  • TomTom

    McCain is simply not up to the job. He may have stood a chance against George Bush Jr but failed. His ideas especially on Foreign Policy are erratic and he is not credible.

  • Yclept21