I've written about McCain's ventures into right-wing nutter territory; a trip he makes at his own peril. Sure, there are sacrifices and compromises to make in the primary season (or the pre-pre primary season as we're in now), but I think it's wise for politicians to set their price before the go in. How much are you willing to give up in order to grease the skids enough to get out of Iowa or New Hampshire with your ass?
McCain is clearly struggling with setting his price. After enduring unconscionable smears in a brutal primary run against Bush for the 2000 nomination, McCain has just called George W. Bush "one of the great presidents of the United States." No, this is not a Colbert joke, he actually said that about a President who is now polling in the mid-30s for job approval; a president who has taken this country in to a bumbling mess of a war; a president who is completely losing grip on Iran and North Korea; a president who has to show ID to write a check his credibility is so damaged.
What could possess McCain, a man who has built his career on brilliant, bold political maneuvers and true maverick status, to hitch his wagon to a profoundly unpopular, thoroughly establishment president? The answer may be right in the text this Chicago Tribune article that says very simply, "his effort to be seen as the most electable Republican hinges on at least one unresolved item: convincing conservatives he is one of them." The irony being that McCain will likely NEVER convince that lot of his credentials, despite a thoroughly conservative voting record.
Hooking up with Bush is particularly perplexing. He's not just unpopular with the independents that have always admired McCain, he's fast losing support among conservatives who are put off by the President's inability to veto porked up budgets served up by his Republican congress. They're also not keen on his expansion of the federal government, including the federalization of public education via No Child Left Behind. We won't even get into Iraq, which is an unpopular war with nearly everyone except those who cling to the belief that the US can "reshape" an entire region without regard to religious, cultural, or historical barriers—but I digress.
It'll be fascinating to watch McCain navigate through these waters, a passage made much rougher by Bush and Rove's pandering to a group that will not be satisfied until we're all living under a Christian Reconstructionist regime. In God We trust, indeed.