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McCain to Bush in 2000: "Take Your Hands Off Me"

March 6, 2008

In his eternal quest for the White House, John McCain has demonstrated repeatedly that no indignity suffered at the hands of George W. Bush is too great to be forgiven. To appease conservative GOP primary voters, McCain reversed many of his long-held positions in order to appropriate the third term Bush agenda. And yesterday, McCain accepted Bush's Rose Garden endorsement as coming from" a man who I have a great admiration, respect and affection" for. But while John McCain now is only too eager for Bush's embrace, eight years ago John McCain told him to "take your hands off me."
For her part, White House press secretary Dana Perino seems ignorant of McCain's bitter history with his new found patron. Appearing on Fox and Friends, Perino rejected any notion that McCain and Bush had ever been "enemies" or "long-time rivals:"

"Absolutely not. And while I think that might be a good story line for some people to say, to try, it's simply not true. I would say that hasn't been true ever."

As it turns out, the seething hatred John McCain felt for George W. Bush isn't merely a good story line. It also happens to be the truth.
On Wednesday, President Bush praised McCain as "somebody with a big heart", telling him "I'm proud to be your friend." But during their fierce battle for the Republican nomination eight years ago, Bush said of Mccain to a friend:

"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."

McCain's past hatred for George W. Bush is the stuff of legend. As Time reported in March 2000, McCain showed a visceral disgust towards Bush and his scorched earth campaign:

But many close McCain advisers think the personal rift between the two men is too wide to bridge, at least in the near term. After all, the last time Bush tried to smooth things over-at a South Carolina debate in early February-the result was less than promising. During a commercial break, Bush grasped McCain's hands and made a sugary plea for less acrimony in their campaign. When McCain pointed out that Bush's allies were savaging him in direct-mail and phone campaigns, Bush played the innocent. "Don't give me that shit," McCain growled, pulling away. "And take your hands off me."

John McCain could certainly be forgiven for his anger, given the painful memories of character assassination, smears and lies the Bush camp dished out during the 2000 campaign. After McCain's upset win in the New Hampshire primary, Bush operatives during the critical South Carolina contest phoned voters with 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. (In reality, the McCains had adopted a baby from an orphanage in Bangladesh.) McCain even received an early version of the Swift Boat treatment, with allegations that his Vietnam War captivity in Hanoi left him mentally unstable. All of these slurs came as candidate Bush chastised McCain that he couldn't "take the high horse and then claim the low road." It's no wonder he angrily rejected Bush's feigned attempt in 2000 to bury the hatchet.
But by 2004, John McCain was looking towards his next White House run - and life after Bush. McCain's presidential ambitions let him forgive sins past in order to rebuild relations with Bush and the Republican establishment. McCain's long road back began during election 2004. McCain not only stumped for George W. Bush, but joined the chorus of the Swift Boat hacks by stating that "what John Kerry did after the war is very legitimate political discussion." (Only the previous month, McCain himself called the attacks on Kerry "dishonest and dishonorable.") Dana Perino was exaggerating only slightly when she claimed today that "in 2000 and 2004, Senator McCain went on to work his tail off to help this president."
From there, the selling of John McCain's soul proceeded quickly and his Faustian bargain began to pay dividends. At the Southern Leadership Conference in March 2006, McCain McCain asked the delegates to throw their support to President Bush. McCain used the venue to offer a full-throated support of President Bush and his Iraq policy, proclaiming "We elected him, we need him, he needs to do well and the country needs him." McCain turned his vitriol towards the President's critics, claiming that anyone who said Bush lied about WMD in Iraq "was lying." By mid-2006, McCain had secured the backing of much of the Bush financial machine.
Fast forward to 2008, the Arizona Senator has completed his fawning courtship of George W. Bush. But in suppressing his burning hatred for Bush in the name of his no-holds barred pursuit of the White House, John McCain may yet pay a price with the American people. As the New Republic's Michael Crowley suggested last August, John McCain is about to learn "you can't un-sell out."
UPDATE: In October 2004, Saturday Night Live animator Robert Smigel created "John McCain's Speech," a cartoon that comically depicted McCain's anguish in stumping for Bush after all the slurs he had endured at Bush's hands. As it turns out, the only thing John McCain hates more than George Bush is the thought of not being president himself in 2008.

6 comments on “McCain to Bush in 2000: "Take Your Hands Off Me"”

  1. Wow. The war hero POW torture victim who bled for his country bows down to service the coke-snorting AWOL deserter? Maybe he really DID go insane. I would.

  2. McCain let his wife and child be attacked and smeared and then he repeatedly kissed the ring, not to mention the ass, of the petty tyrant who attacked his family, and he did it all for his political ambitions.
    Why in the world would I think he would consider my actual well-being when he is president?
    Does he realize how he looks letting his family be treated that way and then hugging and kissing the man responsible?
    There's something wrong there; some chip missing.

  3. I totally believed this, until I got to the bit where Bush uses the word "sanctimonious". That would neverhappen.

  4. The Corporate Holodeck McMedia is spinning like a turbocharged top for the man, but his own craven actions will come back to haunt him - & this one looms large. Sucking up to the guy who smeared you mercilessly less than a decade earlier looks pathetic, but McCain really doesn't care. At this point I think he'd cut off his own right hand & eat it raw for that brass ring ... & the GE campaign hasn't even gotten really nasty yet.
    When they bring this mistake up in the Debates, watch for his forehead to start bulging - that'll be the cue for the first 3 rows to open their umbrellas & get out their barf-bags.

  5. This article is highly informative.By visting this site only i gathered some information about John McCain and Bush.It clearly explains the bitter experience of McCain when bush use to say the words"take your hands off me."
    nancy fernandez
    South Carolina Alcohol Addiction Treatment


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

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