The NYTimes article on John McCain’s emergence as a Senate leader starts with a curious anecdote. Shortly after Trent Lott was pushed out the Republican leadership for saying that Strom Thurmond’s presidential candidacy could have prevented the nation’s problems
“[McCain]said, ‘I know how you are feeling; you have been treated unfairly,’ ” Mr. Lott recalled. “I am a grateful guy, and I will never forget it.” A legendary dealmaker with a deep store of chits, Mr. Lott became a valuable ally to his former foe, backing him in public debates and less visible Senate intrigues.
Their alliance was just one step in the political reinvention of Mr. McCain.
It certainly was a big step in reinventing McCain. In 2000, we liked him in part because he was the GOP candidate who stood against racism in South Carolina, and took a beating for it. It’s hard to imagine McCain providing a better symbol of his decision to turn his back on the principles he had stood for.
It’s worth remembering that Lott’s ouster was hard to argue with–Strom Thurmond’s candidacy was as explicitly based on support for segregation as any other Presidential candidacy had ever been, with the possible exception of George Wallace. Indeed, the gathering, composed of Thurmond’s friends and supporters, was said to have been in a shocked silence when Lott said that we wouldn’t have had all these problems if Thurmond had been elected.
The article goes to quote McCain supporters who explain his fickle record in the Senate as a result of his principles, but we should remember that the entire post 2000 story of McCain involves him going back on what he’d previously believed in.