John McCain’s campaign has been declared dead by the MSM and conservative activists alike and many are speculating as to whether McCain will stay in the race through the primaries. However, it may be that pundits have failed to understand what motivates McCain, who despite his years in Washington, operates — for better or worse — unlike most Beltway veterans. We talked to Charles Black, long time Republican strategist and a friend of McCain’s for decades. He is now an unpaid senior adviser to the McCain campaign.
People say they want a straight shooter, but is that the case given McCain’s early problems?
Black demurs, saying it is “a little bit early to tell” and explains that by his calculations only 10% of voters pay attention to day-to-day politics. He says that a Democratic pollster with whom he talked privately agrees that “authenticity” remains the primary quality that voters seek and this greatly favors McCain. Black is convinced that when we get down to the final weeks before caucuses and primaries the “authenticity quotient” will rise for many people and McCain will be the beneficiary.
Does McCain really march to a different drummer?
Black says that yes, contending that McCain has “always been that way.” He attributes it directly to McCain’s “background and history” in the military and as a prisoner of war. He says bluntly that McCain “doesn’t fear much of anything” and views himself as “here to do what is right, especially on the big issues like Iraq.”
McCain is well known not to “suffer fools” — how can he function in Washington?
“Most days John has a lot of patience,” Black says. But Black then adds, “John is not very patient when someone is being a phony.” He notes that McCain has exhibited patience to “get things done” through the legislative process.
What about McCain’s personal relations and friendships?
Black explains that McCain’s “best friends are people he was in Hanoi with. He stays in touch with them. It’s an extreme version of a college fraternity.” He also points to enduring friends and allies from his days in the House like Phil Gramm (who now serves as a campaign adviser). Black then explains that he considers McCain to be the “Great Reconciler” — pointing to his efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam and his willingness to work with John Kerry who had been “bad mouthing the U.S. military” when McCain was imprisoned. Likewise, he says that McCain’s efforts to reach out to Jerry Falwell are part of this same penchant for mending fences McCain has shown his whole life, not a political stunt as was portrayed by some in the media.
Does it bother McCain who has been pro-life his entire life that social conservatives have not embraced him in this race?
Black allows that it “disturbs him” that some pro-life and social conservative leaders “put emphasis on campaign finance reform,” which they believe impaired their political efforts. According to Black, these leaders “can’t forget” McCain’s championing of campaign finance reform. He nevertheless believes that voters themselves will look at the issues and eventually recognize McCain’s solid credentials on abortion and other social issues and conclude he has the “more consistent record” on social issues.
Does McCain feel that Fred Thompson, who co-sponsored McCain Feingold, is getting a “pass” while McCain takes the brunt of conservative activists’ anger?
Black declines to offer criticism of Thompson but does point out that people will “want to know where people stand on this.” He does note that the Mitt Romney camp persists in repeating the phrase “McCain-Feingold” and that he is certain “they won’t neglect [to mention] it with Fred.”
Would McCain be devastated if he lost a second presidential race?
Black says that McCain is “very, very resilient” and a loss would “bother him but not for long.” He emphasizes that he has not discussed this possibility with McCain who remains “such an optimist.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?