Halloween, Schmalloween. Sorry, but that’s how I feel. I don’t mind the little kids candyhandling – hey, a kid’s gotta eat. I just don’t want to have to dress up myself. (The one time I actually felt comfortable in my costume, the last time I did this decades ago, I wore a tuxedo with a pig mask and a dollar-sign on the snout. Capitalist pig. Very nice.)

The following is either six years late or two years early, but I’m up in Maine, in serious risk of frost bite, and, frankly, it’s all I got. Plus, at least this is a week most people are thinking about politics, so here goes:


Few who know the Senator fail to admire him. We share an editor who tells me he is a great guy and I don’t doubt it. I once tried to see for myself by bidding $10,000 on ‘lunch in the Senate dining room with John McCain’ at a charity event. I was outbid, so I have to just take my editor’s word for it.

That said, the Senator is – to his credit or detriment – a conservative. From Time, during the 2000 primary:

Bush went after McCain’s reform credentials last week, pointing out that as Commerce chairman, McCain has been willing to milk the system he rails against. “The portrait McCain likes is the one of the plain-talking crusader who’s bucking the system,” writes Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity in his book The Buying of the President 2000. “The one many others see is that of a politician who rarely breaks ranks with the special interests that finance his campaign.” Many of McCain’s top fund raisers and advisers – Kenneth Duberstein, Vin Weber – are lobbyists who do business with his committee. And as the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, McCain is more apt to rail against corporate malfeasance than to sponsor legislation to rein it in. It’s the reverse of Teddy Roosevelt’s dictumMcCain speaks loudly and carries no stick. . . .

McCain’s record makes the Bush strategy of calling him a Clinton clone seem foolish. In the Senate, McCain has been a rock-solid vote on just about every core G.O.P. issue, winning high ratings from the Christian Coalition and other conservative groups. He supported every item in Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and voted to convict Bill Clinton on every article of impeachment. And his environmental record would make Teddy Roosevelt cringe. McCain has voted many times to cut funding for toxic-waste cleanups, he has supported subsidies for mining on public lands, and he favors reopening national forest lands to logging. (In 1998 the League of Conservation Voters gave him a zero rating.) He is a longtime friend of the National Rifle Association’s, voting against the Brady Bill in 1993 and the assault-weapons ban in 1994. He’s against the licensing and registration of handguns. He has repeatedly voted against minimum-wage increases and equal pay for women, and labor considers him a reliable anti-union vote.

Bush allies in South Carolina have been running TV spots questioning McCain’s commitment to the pro-life cause. Yet he took the pro-life position 82 times out of 86 votes cast in the Senate.

This is all either good or bad, depending on your point of view. Likewise, his standing against most things that GLBT Americans wish he would support. His Human Rights Campaign ratings over the past three Congresses have ranged from 14 to 33 out of a possible 100. (By way of comparison, conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman – who surely knows the Old Testament labels homosexuality and the eating of shellfish ‘abominations’ – ranged from 88 to 100 over those same six years.)

My own hope is that a Democrat will win in 2008, and have the good sense to offer Senator McCain, who will then be 72 and out of a job if he resigns to run for the Presidency, an important ambassadorship. Lord knows, he deserves it and would represent our country with honor.

All hail our ambassador to the Court of St. James.

Happy Halloween.


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