What Democrats Owe to John McCain

Now that our presidential nominees are set, the partisan battles in the media and online have shifted into general election mode. Even before the Democratic nomination was sealed, the DNC sent e-mails and press releases criticizing John McCain as running for Bush’s third term, accusing him of wanting to wage 100 years of war, being in the pocket of lobbyists, calling his campaign “sleazy” and so on. Exaggeration, spin and character attacks are clearly, from this year’s primary campaign, no longer the exclusive property of the right-wing (if they ever were). Of course in none of these salvos, or their counterparts from the RNC, are there any actual ideas, policies, or meaningful inferences; it’s 100% spin in both directions.

Just four short years ago, all of us who are fair-minded Democrats saw John McCain in a very different light. As a pre-emptive war lurched out of control with no hands on the wheel, John McCain’s voice was the loudest among Republicans who broke ranks and criticized the inept policies of Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration. McCain proved that he was not simply a Republican partisan to be herded by the immoral military opportunists that were in control and willing to wage war trivially and recklessly.

To be sure, McCain is a conservative on defense and a strong ideological believer in an American duty to bring the world toward democracy and intervene with force when necessary. Some moderate Democrats (including, by his voting record and 2000 platform, Al Gore) are not too far away from the same philosophy. So it shouldn’t be surprising – for those who weren’t paying attention then – to learn that McCain’s non-partisan courage was so well taken that many Kerry advisors were reported to have advocated offering John McCain the VP slot on the ’04 Democratic ticket. Though McCain and Kerry talked it’s reported that the offer was never actually made, but the notion should inform us about McCain’s level of integrity and respect among many Democrats at that time.

Then, the swift-boating happened, and again John McCain stood above the fray and publicly denounced the Swift Boat veterans and vigorously defended John Kerry’s service and honor.

While he votes with his party most of the time, McCain has often broken ranks on the Senate floor as well and helped Democrats on split votes, including votes related to better budgetary transparency and oversight of war, better equipment for soldiers and health care for veterans, transparency about interrogation techniques, and of course his signature domestic causes of immigration reform and ethics reform. Unlike many who use “non-partisan” as a slogan, McCain has reached across the aisle many times when it mattered, if (and apparently only if) his convictions led him to do so.

Those whose ideas of politics are to be rabidly partisan and demonize your adversary by any means necessary won’t agree, but for the rest of us – the rational, the pragmatic, the realistic, and the moderate – there’s a debt of goodwill that we owe to John McCain. In remembering those Senate votes where he broke ranks and stood with Democrats, in remembering him taking to task those in the Bush administration who caused greater loss of life through their inept prosecution of a reckless war, and in remembering his defense of John Kerry in 2004, let us acknowledge this. We may not owe him our vote – that is for each of us to decide – but we certainly owe him respect and decency, and even defense of his honor if it comes to that. He gave our 2004 candidate that much.

If the DNC (which is now, apparently, located in Chicago) and the aggressive style of the Obama camp maligns or mischaracterizes Senator McCain, we can and should insist on real “change” – taking the higher road as Obama promised (but did not deliver yet). As McCain took to task those lobbing abusive rhetoric from his party, we should, if we are just, defend him from similar smears, even if they come from the office of Howard Dean. We have seen through this primary campaign that the politics of “anything goes”, as Senator Obama described it in 2004, can in fact be issued from the leftist blogosphere, from the liberal media, and yes even from the campaign strategy of Plouffe, Axelrod, and Obama. Let’s make sure Senator McCain gets what he deserves – if not the Presidency, at least more respect than was given to Senator Clinton this past year.

[Cross-posted at Pan Metron.]

**Editors Note: The Democratic Daily is on record to support the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. As editor of The Democratic Daily, I am adding this note to explain, that writers here are entitled to their opinions as our disclaimer notes, however this is an opinion I strongly disagree with.

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