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My Turn: A new McCain? Not hardly!

On July 28, the Sunday Monitor published a front-page story about the “new odd couple” of President Obama and Sen. John McCain. While it was good to read any news about the modest stirrings of bipartisanship, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the characterization that the benefit to McCain of doing so was that it offered “an opportunity to redeem his reputation as a Capitol Hill maverick” and that McCain’s maverick image was tainted by his run to the right in 2008.

Poppycock!

The writer does not know McCain, and the idea that his efforts of late are motivated by a chance to regain any label are laughable. From 2000 through 2008, McCain opposed many bad Bush-era ideas, from the completely unfunded drug benefit program which robs future generations, to the nonstrategies of two wars, to the failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, to the reckless spending and deficits. During those years the press and Democrats lauded the “maverick” McCain.

After the 2008 election when McCain criticized the failures of President Obama – from the loss of more lives in three years in Afghanistan than occurred in eight years under George W. Bush, to the failure to make meaningful debt and deficit reduction, to the failure to close Guantanamo, to the naive “ restart” with Russia, to the lack of leadership on immigration (until after the 2012 election). The press and Democrats vociferously criticized McCain as “old,” “cranky” and “out of touch.”

Now that Obama has realized that he cannot get anything done in Congress unless he builds relationships and bridges and ends the never-ending campaign speeches, McCain is suddenly in favor again because he repeatedly works to find common ground.

I am amazed that the media, which McCain used to half-kiddingly call his “base,” succumbs to such pseudo-analysis. Throughout his career McCain has been irreverent, impatient, insistent that Congress actually do something, and has worked with anyone from any party who has what he believes to be a good idea. The McCain/Kennedy immigration bill of 2007 is just one example. While he was roundly criticized by some members of his own party who equate bipartisanship with treason, he frankly didn’t give a damn. This was true when he opposed bad Bush ideas, and the same is now true.

If he thinks the president has a policy that is right for America, he will support it. If not, he is not shy to oppose it. McCain also possesses the remarkably refreshing ability to admit when he has made a mistake, something the president could learn from.

While he is quick to anger, he is quicker to forgive. For example, during the 2008 campaign Obama criticized McCain for abandoning his efforts on immigration when, in fact, the only change McCain made was that the three-pronged effort of securing the border, creating a guest worker program and establishing a path to legal status for the 12 million people here was that these steps be taken sequentially instead of concurrently. Yet after winning the election, Obama did nothing to move forward on this issue until the last months before the 2012 elections.

For most of us, in McCain’s position, it would be easy to let Obama try to get anything done on this without offering any help. Yet McCain is the real leader of this effort. Any suggestion that his efforts are based on some desire to reclaim some mantle is just wrong. It is just McCain being McCain. He remains impatient, sometimes cranky, certainly older, and still one of America’s great leaders.

(Steve Duprey of Concord was a national adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and traveled with him full-time in 2007-08.)

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