Cara from Shut Up Already has an interesting post up about John McCain’s sellout to George W. Bush after the vicious campaign that Bush ran against him in 2000. I tend not to post much on partisan politics because I just don’t really care about either party, but I was wondering if I was the only one who remembered the incredibly unethical campaign tactics that Bush used against McCain in the last election and I’m glad to see someone else remembers.
Karl Rove, Bush’s campaign manager and political adviser, is famous in political circles as the master of “push polling”. Push polling is a tactic for getting false and negative information out to potential voters without actually saying that the information is true. Here’s how it worked against John McCain. After McCain’s surprising defeat of Bush in the New Hampshire primary in 2000, the Bush campaign targeted South Carolina, the next big primary, and began calling voters, particularly elderly voters, to ostensibly take a poll. But rather than asking how they felt about an issue, they asked this question: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew that he had fathered a bi-racial child?”. Now, they didn’t actually say that he DID father a bi-racial child. But at campaign stops, you could see McCain and his wife Cindy with their dark-skinned daughter, Bridget. They adopted Bridget from an orphanage in Bangladesh. This is how you play dirty politics, folks. You plant seeds that push buttons, all with plausible deniability. But it’s vile as hell.
It didn’t stop there. They also put out “anonymous” pamphlets all over South Carolina telling people that McCain’s wife had a history of drug addiction (she apparently was addicted to prescription pain killers at one point). Again, plausible deniability while spreading vicious rumors to kill one’s political opponents. For a full report on the smear campaign, go here.
Even worse is Bush’s association with Ted Sampley, the absolutely loathsome former green beret and POW/MIA pimp who has claimed that John McCain is a traitor and even a communist spy that the Soviets had turned into a “Manchurian candidate”. He’s the same guy behind the attacks on John Kerry now, by the way.
After what the Bush campaign did to McCain in 2000, you’d think that McCain would be pretty pissed off, wouldn’t you? He said in 2000 that there was obviously no limit to how low Bush would go to win election after what they did to him, at one point even yelling at Bush when Bush grabbed his hand and telling him to “get your hands off me”. But this is politics and McCain is now lending his image and endorsement to Bush in 2004. Why? Because it’s his party and if he doesn’t go along, he doesn’t get party money and support when running for reelection to the senate.
In many ways, McCain is a brave man, both personally and politically. He survived the horror of being a POW and being tortured, obviously, and that’s something few of us could survive. And he has often bucked the party line on issues like campaign finance reform. But when push comes to shove, he sold out to preserve his place in the party, and all for a man whose campaign attacked his family to score political points only 4 years ago.
3 days ago was the 200th anniversary of the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, a duel that ended with Hamilton’s death. That duel was fought over slights and issues of honor far less compelling than what we have here. This is personal. Bush used McCain’s wife and daughter and appealed to basic racial hatred to sink McCain in South Carolina. That is simply as repulsive as dirty politics can get. And if McCain had any real sense of honor and political courage, he would sure as hell not be lending credibility to the man responsible for it for the sake of party unity. Some things are more important than whether you get reelected, John.