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A stranger in his own party


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Sheila Bapat
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 29, 1999
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As presidential primary season nears, there is one question Republican candidate John McCain ought to be asking himself right now: Is it too late to switch parties?

The man is a good Republican. His only problem is the rest of his party.

Though he is the best GOP candidate, John McCain, a persistent speaker on the Senate floor on behalf of every issue Republicans hate - the two most notorious being campaign finance and anti-tobacco legislation - will not be able to clinch the Republican nomination for president simply because his party does not like him.

On ABC's This Week, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, made a statement that cleared up the GOP's problem with McCain: "John McCain's personality has been an issue for a lot of people in Washington. For me, it's policy."

Of course, policy tends to get personal - especially the kind of policy McCain has pushed for.

His campaign finance reform legislation, the McCain-Feingold bill, was introduced in 1997 and was repeatedly blocked by GOP leaders. Senate majority leader Trent Lott did not let the bill go to the floor as an amendment to another GOP bill because he "used the Senate rules to block any amendments from being offered other than those of his own choosing."

As of October of this year, another version of the legislation had yet to be passed by the Senate. McCain's number one priority is to get rid of soft money, and Republicans benefit a great deal from soft money donations. Another one of McCain's biggest priorities was getting rid of the tobacco lobby's influence in Congress. Tobacco money feeds campaigns like McDonald's feeds President Clinton.

McCain's persistence in these issues has made him the enemy of many Republicans who just want him to shut up.

Some Republicans have gone as far as to begin spreading rumors about McCain's mental stability. McCain was a POW in Vietnam for over five years, an experience that had a deep emotional impact on the senator. A small group of Republicans, including Bush supporters, have allegedly used this as ammunition to say McCain is insane.

Ironically, McCain and George W. Bush, Jr., are the only two Republican candidates that are not psychotic. In fact, McCain seems to be a better candidate than Bush for many reasons. His experience within Washington has given him a good understanding of how things work inside the Beltway.

Many like to say that being a "Washington Insider" is a bad thing. But at this point, a Washington Insider who actually shows up to debates and gives us a reason to vote for him deserves his party's nomination much more than a Texas governor who ditches debates and doesn't know the names of world leaders.

But the GOP has already chosen its boy wonder, George W. Bush, Jr. Even Arizona Gov. Jane Hull has given her support to Bush. GOP leaders seem to want a less informed, less experienced candidate to represent them.

True, Bush has been made out to be a stable figure. His aloofness in Texas, versus McCain's dynamism on the Senate floor, is something Republicans seem to like.

But for Republicans to ostracize McCain simply because he has dared to speak out about issues he believes in, for them to spread rumors about him being insane, only proves that they do not deserve him as a candidate.

All circumstances seem to be pushing McCain to the other side. Some of McCain's biggest supporters right now are Democrats. At a New Hampshire debate, Al Gore said he supported the McCain-Feingold bill. On the same This Week, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-New Jersey, said the Republicans' "campaign" against McCain by calling him unstable, is unfair.

At this point, McCain's best bet might be to become a Democrat. That's how bleak his chances to get the GOP nomination are, and that's how pathetic the GOP actually is.

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