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"High Horse, Low Road": Bush Was Right About McCain

July 31, 2008

As the events of the past few days demonstrate, George W. Bush was right all along about John McCain. McCain, the so-called maverick who promised to run a "respectful" campaign, has turned to the gutter politics of sleazy ads, baseless attacks and outright lies in his desperate effort to beat Barack Obama. And as Bush said of McCain in 2000, "he can't take the high horse and then claim the low road."
Which is exactly the road John McCain is traveling in his quest for the White House. On Wednesday, his campaign ridiculed Obama as a "celebrity" in a spot featuring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. (In a redux of the 2006 "Call Me" ad which helped defeat Harold Ford in Tennessee, the clip's association of Obama with the two white women let McCain play the race card.) It's no wonder long-time McCain adviser John Weaver called the ad "childish," a part of a negative strategy which he claimed "diminishes John McCain." With friends like that, who needs enemies?
And that was just Wednesday afternoon. That morning, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Politico all blasted the McCain camp over its blatant lie that Barack Obama skipped a visit to U.S. troops in Germany because "the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." Even NBC's Andrea Mitchell (a.k.a. Mrs. Alan Greenspan), who happened to have been with Obama in Europe, protested that the McCain ad was "literally not true."
The New York Times, which endorsed John McCain during the Empire State primary, showed buyer's remorse on Wednesday morning. In an editorial simply titled "Low Road Express," the Times denounced McCain's puerile politics. Pointing the finger at the "low-minded and uncivil playbook" adopted from Karl Rove, the editorial criticized McCain's slash and burn strategy:

"In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to "lose" in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers).
Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid."

The New York Times is surely correct that John McCain, of all people, knows about being on the receiving end of "this ugly brand of politics." As I've documented before, McCain in the wake of his surprise victory in the 2000 New Hampshire primary was brutalized by the campaign of George W. Bush. The character assassinations, smears and lies the Bush camp dished out in South Carolina included push polls implying McCain was anti-Catholic, his wife Cindy a drug addict, and that he had fathered an illegitimate black child with a prostitute. And all of these slurs came as candidate Bush chastised McCain that he couldn't "take the high horse and then claim the low road."
In January 2000, the future President Bush confided in a friend about John McCain:

"There's a reason all those colleagues of his in the Senate support me and not him. They think he's sanctimonious, and they're right."

As it turns out, George W. Bush, a man who was wrong about virtually everything else, was right about John McCain. And myriad other Republicans, including several Senate colleagues and even VP hopeful Mitt Romney, agree. Hopefully, it's not too late for the American people to learn the truth about the ever-sanctimonious and increasingly dirty-dealing John McCain.
UPDATE: As the New York Times reported on Thusday, McCain has learned from the master and is now trying to ''create a negative narrative about Barack Obama is being coordinated by veterans of President Bush's 2004 bid."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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