• Marc Johnson

The Last Tango of John McCain

      “If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life.”

           Senator John McCain who says he will support the GOP nominee.

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Let’s call it the Trump Tango, the awkward, unprincipled, downright disgusting dance of various Republican politicians desperate to get right with their “presumptive nominee.” The stumble to the dance floor with Trump comes, of course, after the same crowd spent months believing their new best friend to be, as John Boehner might say, “the devil incarnate.”

Still, unlike the sexy Latin dance, this political tango has no grace, no style, no elegance. The Trump Tango is only about ending up in the same place locked in an uncomfortable partisan embrace when the music finally stops.

Senator Kelly Ayotte


New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, a vulnerable GOP incumbent in this weird, wild year, is a prime example of one of the delicate dancers. Ayotte says she will vote for the bumptious billionaire, but quickly adds that we shouldn’t consider that an endorsement. You might call that dancing on eggshells.

Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in the country, began his own graceless tango toward Trump a few days ago. Emerging from a closed-door meeting with the man who has repeatedly dissed his policy proposals, including Medicare and Social Security reform, the Speaker indicated he is warming to Trump’s dance music of racism, Muslim bans, narcissism and misogyny.

A Warm and Genuine Person…

“I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today,” Ryan said, “I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified, to bridge the gaps and differences.” Right.

House Speaker Paul Ryan AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Proving that he can dance backward while wearing high heels, Ryan is clearly pirouetting in the direction of turning the last remnants of the Republican Party over to the charlatan from Queens. “He’s a very warm and genuine person,” Ryan concluded about the man who regularly calls people who challenge him “losers” or “dopes” or “clowns.” Such calm and measured language from the presumptive nominee obviously passes for “warm and genuine” in the new Trump-led GOP. Can the full Paul Ryan embrace followed by the deep swoon be far away?

At least Ryan hesitated before his inevitable jump into Donald Trump’s arms, signaling at least a momentary brush with genuine political principle. By contrast the one-time captain of the “Plain Talk Express” toppled like an old, tired, withered Sonoran saguaro.

John McCain is, of course, running for re-election in Arizona. He has two Tea Party challengers in the August primary and, assuming he survives, McCain will face a very creditable Democrat, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, in November. McCain is already forecasting the most difficult election he had ever had. Given his shameless embrace of Trumpism he deserves everything he’s going to get.

With Trump at the head of the ticket the one-time “maverick” had to make a choice: he could resist embracing a man that puts the lie to most everything McCain once stood for or he could set aside all principle in the interest of political self-preservation and dance with the devil. McCain has made his choice and The Last Tango of the Maverick has indeed become a sorry spectacle.

Not Oscar and Felix, but certainly an odd couple.


McCain, perhaps as much as any incumbent Republican in the country, is caught in the ethical and political dilemma that the party has created for itself.

McCain once earned considerable bi-partisan support for pushing back against the tax and spend policies of George W. Bush’s Administration. He worked across the aisle to try and ensure that the Senate actually confirmed qualified judicial nominees. He forged alliances with Democrats to try and limit the corruption of big money in our politics. He once advocated immigration reform. McCain even once shut down a woman at one of his rallies who launched a tirade about Barack Obama being “an Arab.”

Now, afraid to confront the Tea Party, McCain caters to the original birther and supports a guy who disparages his own military record.

I Like People Who Weren’t Captured…

Admittedly it can be difficult to keep all the Trump insults straight, so as a reminder it was way back in July of last year when McCain became one of Trump’s first high profile insult targets. McCain had criticized Trump’s racist rants about Hispanics and worried that such incendiary rhetoric would, as he said, “bring out the crazies” in Arizona. Trump, of course, did what he does – he attacked.

Trump, having never served a day in the military, dissed McCain’s six years of torture and imprisonment in a North Vietnamese POW camp as the story of a loser.

McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008


“(McCain’s) a war hero because he got captured,” General Trump thundered. “I like people who weren’t captured.” Asked later to elaborate, Trump said he wasn’t impressed with McCain’s Senate service since he wasn’t doing enough for veterans. More recently Trump again refused to back off his sleazy comments about McCain saying, in essence, he never apologizes.

On another occasion Trump called the Arizona Republican “another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job.” As if spending time on television constituted a political crime in Trumpworld.

But John McCain, the “maverick” straight talker, can’t bring himself to reject the hate monger who has appropriated his party. As E.J. Montini, the political columnist for the Arizona Republic notes, McCain is really concerned only about getting re-elected.

“Instead of being direct and plain-spoken,” Montini wrote recently, McCain is “being cautious and political, calculated.

“He’s teeter-tottering on a tightrope between appeasing the Trump voters he wants and the Latino voters he needs, trying not to topple in either direction.

“As for the ‘Straight Talk Express’ – call a tow truck, it’s out of gas.”

If any Republican had both a reason and the gumption to tell Donald Trump to kiss him where he sits it ought to be John McCain. Surely McCain privately agonizes over a presidential candidate who praises Putin, advocates a return to torture, talks loosely about encouraging nuclear proliferation and will, should he be elected, demand about as much respect from the American military as Jane Fonda.

Still, McCain says he will support the nominee of his party. There is apparently nothing that would disqualify this charlatan. Republicans, and even John McCain, are proving to be partisans first, last and always. When it comes to the presumptive nominee, like his party, McCain has abandoned the last shred of principle in order to rally behind a man – it’s not even a close call – most Republicans know is a dangerous fraud.

McCain might have made his last go round an example of class and courage. He might have danced to a different drummer. He might have called Trump what he is. But he did none of those things. And, who knows, the abandonment of principle may work. McCain may well win re-election by hitching his wagon to Trump’s phony politics, but if he goes down in flames with the crass, conniving businessman it would amount to a certain type of poetic justice. Giving in to a clown only makes one look like a clown.

McCain has long courted Arizona’s large and expanding Hispanic population. He needs a certain degree of support from Arizona’a Hispanic community to win a general election and he might have calculated that telling the truth about Trump would position him well with Hispanics, but he didn’t. McCain instead embraced the very “crazies” he once predicted would come out of the woodwork to support a fundamentally race-baiting candidate. The maverick has become the enabler.

Win or lose this is undoubtedly McCain’s last campaign. The old John McCain might have gone out being remembered for something better than creating Sarah Palin, a decision, which come to think of it, helped create Donald Trump. Yet, McCain’s last tango has turned into a stumbling lurch. As Trump might say – Sad.

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©2019 by Marc C Johnson