the risk of bringing too much clarity to the overheated
discussion about whether Arizona Senator John
McCain really was John Kerry's "first choice"
for the number two spot on the Democratic ticket,
it is appropriate to recall a June 11 statement
issued by the Arizona senator's office.
McCain categorically states that he has not been
offered the vice presidency by any one," said
Mark Salter, the senator's chief of staff.
issued that firm denial after the Associated Press
was checking out the last of the rumors that Kerry,
the presumptive Democratic nominee for president,
had offered McCain, a Republican senator whose
disdain for President Bush has been well documented,
a place on the ticket that will seek to remove
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney from the White
to AP, a pair of Democratic officials were peddling
the story that "McCain has personally rejected
John Kerry's overtures to join the Democratic
presidential ticket and forge a bipartisan alliance
against President Bush." That sounded pretty serious.
But then, in recognition of the firm denial from
McCain's office, the AP report backtracked. "Both
officials said Kerry stopped short of offering
McCain the job, sparing himself an outright rejection
that would make his eventual running mate look
like a second choice," AP acknowledged.
the real world, that should have settled the matter.
But, of course, politics is not the real world.
now, despite the fact that McCain "categorically
states that he has not been offered the vice presidency
by any one," the Republican National Committee
is mounting an aggressive campaign to portray
Kerry's choice, North Carolina Senator John Edwards,
as the presidential candidate's "second choice."
There's no subtlety here: A new Bush-Cheney television
ad featuring a clip of McCain introducing Bush
is titled ""First Choice." And every Republican
spokesman who got his talking-points script was,
by mid-day Tuesday, using the "second-choice"
jab in their remarks regarding Edwards.
ads and the jabs are disingenuous at their core.
McCain is a loyal Republican, who is seeking reelection
to the Senate this fall on the party line, so,
yes, he has officially endorsed Bush. But it is
no secret in Washington that McCain maintains
a healthy personal disregard for Bush, whose campaign
and its supporters launched visceral attacks on
the Arizona senator during their fight for the
2000 Republican presidential nomination. McCain
has said that Bush "should be ashamed" of the
character of his primary campaign. (When Bush
asked whether McCain would join his ticket in
2000, the senator refused -- which would seem
to suggest that Dick Cheney was Bush's "second
year, McCain has been quick to counter the Bush
campaign's attacks on Kerry, a fellow Vietnam
veteran, sometime legislative ally and longtime
friend. Asked in March, during a CBS interview,
whether he agreed with assertions by the Bush
campaign that Kerry would endanger national security,
McCain replied, "I don't think that. I think that
John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he
has served his country. I think he has different
points of view on different issues and he will
have to explain his voting record. But this kind
of (attack) rhetoric, I think, is not helpful
in educating and helping the American people make
like that fed talk about the possibility that
Kerry and McCain would link up to form a bipartisan
"unity ticket" to depose Bush and Cheney. But
it was always just that: talk. Undoubtedly, Kerry
and McCain enjoyed the flirtation. And, yes, the
dance extended for some time. But it never evolved
into the sort of serious consideration that Kerry
gave Edwards, former House Minority Leader Dick
Gephardt, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and various
wasn't simply reticence on McCain's part that
prevented this flirtation from developing into
something more serious. Kerry had a problem with
it, as well. McCain is an opponent of abortion
rights and many gay rights measures, a backer
of Republican tax-cutting schemes and one of the
most vehement hawks in the Congress -- even before
Bush was promoting war with Iraq, McCain joined
with the atrocious Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut,
to advocate for military action. In other words,
McCain may be a maverick, but he is hardly a certifiable
McCain would have opened rifts within the Democratic
party, causing anti-war Democrats who already
distrust Kerry to wonder whether a protest vote
for Ralph Nader might make sense, and raising
real concern among abortion rights activists who
would have worried about positioning a consistent
foe of a woman's right to choose to break tie
votes in a closely-divided Senate.
bottom line: Kerry knew he could not select McCain.
It was a fun flirtation -- and, as with any flirtation,
both men undoubtedly entertained fantasies about
taking things further. But there is no evidence
to suggest that the discussion ever reached the
level of seriousness that the Republican spin
is, however, one Kerry-McCain mystery that remains
unresolved: Does anyone believe that John McCain
will actually vote for George w. Bush?
Posted: July 13, 2004