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/ April 29, 2010
The Sad Ballad of Senator John McCain

John McCain has done some pretty impressive things. Sure, the Arizona senator loudly bitched about healthcare and the fiscal stimulus just like any good Republican. But he also stood up to Rush Limbaugh when he attacked the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration amnesty plan, and when Jeff Sessions proposed an amendment to bar illegal immigrants from an earned income tax credit. He was one of two Republican senators to vote against the Bush tax cuts, which we now know were disastrous, and he broke with fellow Republicans over issues like campaign reform, climate change and gun control. After Abu-Ghraib, he put the heat on the Bush administration to crack down on torture. (McCain was a torture victim himself. It’s why he can’t raise his arms above his head.)

The maverick lifestyle seems to have exhausted McCain. He recently retracted his support for TARP, and this month even told Newsweek, “I never considered myself a maverick.” He has also sidled back his stances on campaign finance, Guantanamo Bay, and gays in the military–basically, all the issues that liberals once admired him for.

McCain’s been reversing his moderate stances because now, after a 24 year Senate career, he is facing his toughest reelection challenge yet–from his own party. The Arizona Tea Party has grown tired of McCain’s liberal-friendly ways and threw its support behind J.D. Hayworth, a The sad irony here is that the figurehead of McCain’s potential undoing is Sarah Palin, who McCain salvaged from the throes of obscurity.

If he loses, Palin may also be McCain’s last legacy.

If money equals fame and fame measures influence, Palin’s finances reveal how fast and how far she rocketed into power. She was almost broke after McCain’s failed presidential bid, worn down by the drab duties of governance and an expensive lawsuit. But she’s pulled herself out, as documented by New York Magazine’s brilliant cover story this week. Her every action is a careful move, calculated to line her pockets while maintaining her hockey mom shtick. She capitalizes on a movement whose average income is over $50,000, much higher than the national average. Last year she earned $12 million.  Her stupidly-titled Going Rogue sold 2.2 million She bills $100,000 for speeches like the one at the Tea Party convention, putting her in the ranks of older Republican stalwarts like Giuliani and George W. Bush. She signed a lucrative “contributor” deal with Fox News for $1 million per year. (Note: this is all from the New York article). In our era of instant gratification and instant success, she is the conservative poster child. It frightens me, and I know I’m not alone.

Palin’s success has far surpassed that of John McCain, who has faded from national media spotlights after November 2008. It used to be that his name would always precede hers, but now the name “McCain” is barely a whisper in the shadow of “Palin.”

But that just goes to prove how monumental was McCain’s introduction of Sarah Palin. If he loses this November, and leaves politics, it will be the last thing he’s remembered for. It will forever haunt the legacy of the man who was once known as the “Maverick.”

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