When the cult of self meets the ultimate in reality TV, a presidential campaign is born. The departure of Terry Nelson and John Weaver from the Straight Talk Express teaches two separate but siginificant lessons.
First, they failed to achieve any of the objectives for which they were hired. Nelson, a BC04 campaign veteran arrived at John McCain’s campaign doorstep with a nice title. Any sentient politico should reflect on BC04 and ask one question: was Terry Nelson anything more than a tool of Karl Rove’s? Was Terry Nelson extraordinarily talented? A deity among the consulting class?
The reasons George W. Bush were elected had very little to do with anything Terry Nelson, or Rove, were responsible for. President Bush was reelected because Americans were not ready for him to leave the stage and John Kerry crumpled under the weight of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization. Many Left-wing conspiracy theorists tried to tie the Swifties to the BC04 efforts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If John McCain had hired the Swiftie’s team – he would be the front runner. Some consultants and strategists have genuine talent. They seldom aggrandize themselves because victory speaks for itself. Others have no talent but somehow manage to get a plum title – and are hired on that basis, rather than a careful evalustion of ability.
John Weaver’s exit leaves a mark on the Senator. It highlights his detachment from everyday campaign operations, his undisciplined approach to fundraising, and general ADD for running the campaign like a business. Weaver is a typical spendthrift consultant. McCain – the man who hears the Voice of God every time he enters a room – believed the “we’ll raise $100 million line but did nothing to ensure it happened. The parasitic nature of some consultants, especially in federal races, is not uncommon but it is still repulsive.
Unfortunately, this leads me to the other reason for McCain’s weakness as a candidate. John McCain.
Senator John McCain was unappealing to Republican primary voters in 2000. While mainstream press and independents were deeply in love with McCain, committed “hard R” voters never gave him a chance. McCain’s meteoric ride in 2000 was based on a great story and tough talk and enough imperfections to humanize him in the eyes of the Left. But it was a fiction. In the end, Republican primary voters were right to be suspicious of McCain.
McCain is not compatible with Republicans or conservatives. His participation in the “Gang of 14” was enough to cost him the nomination. Even if McCain survives the third quarter, he will face very persuasive negative ads. Bush supporters will always be suspicious. In fact, many still hate the guy. Few may recall the full scope of ugliness in the 2000 South Carolina primary… it wasn’t just the Bush campaign’s competence or Tucker Eskew’s ground game -it was the fliers placed on vehicles filled with lies about then Governor Bush and his stance on taxes. McCain recoiled during the final South Carolina debate when Bush pulled out a flier – and asked McCain point blank what the truth was. McCain waffled, tried to dodge – and Bush nailed him because the flier said “Paid for by McCain 2000.” McCain is the Republican Hillary. High negatives. Known quantity. Old. Looks sick. NEXT.
The race for 2008 appears, in virtually every way, to be a repeat performance. Presumably John McCain knows a successful candidate for president spends several hours a day placing phone calls to donors. And massaging his national finance committee, encouraging them to do the same. McCain is surrounded by men with enough personal wealth and enviable political résumés to frighten off the bottom tier candidates.
The most impressive men on McCain’s team are not the consultants. Consultants rarely understand the way things really work. Despite their impressive titles, they will never rival the real power of America’s influential class of billionaires. Haim Saban’s favor is a golden ticket for any Democrat. McCain must be a grand disappointment to those on his national finance committee. Billionaires Don Bren (#80 on 2007 Forbes list), Jerry Perenchio and George Argyros all hail from California. Bren, Chairman of The Irvine Company, owns approximately one-fifth of all land in Orange County, California. Argyros, a real estate developer and former owner of the Seattle Mariners, served as Ambassador to Spain during President George Walker Bush’s first term – and oversaw US Diplomatic efforts there after the 3/11 terrorist attacks on a Madrid train station. Perenchio, the former Chairman of Univision, is key to building diverse donor relationships with Republicans and independents in corporate media and entertainment.
Senator McCain also calls another Californian for advice on domestic and global economic issues, Gerry Parsky. Parsky’s unique status as a man who not only enjoys the close confidence of President George Walker Bush but also Bush’s father, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford. Parsky helped engineer a way through the oil crisis of the late 70s. Parsky also sits as Chairman of two key corporate groups that now oversee our nation’s nuclear labs. Both the Los Alamos & Lawrence Livermore labs look to Parsky – in a role that began when he served as Chairman of the University of California Board of Regents… are important to our national, and international security. All McCain has done is squander their trust. These are not men who suffer fools gladly. Every one of them is “Cabinet” quality.
So, while the domestic political chatter grieving Terry Nelson & John Weaver’s departure, and Mark Salter’s reduced profile, I will be thinking what a waste of time and space McCain’s campaign is. McCain is like so many angry about the Viet Nam war. Certainly, McCain has far more reason than others – but – and this is important: even if McCain were to be elected President & Commander in Chief, he will never unwind the clock, he will never find a way to bring back the honor of his generation. The military families of today are unlikely to give a man clearly so conflicted their vote. It would be a a testament to all the wrong things.
Blood is in the water. His rivals are waiting for the final collapse. Many, many times – I have asserted McCain will step out of the presidential race… perhaps I was hoping he would be a gentleman. This last chapter in his political career is marked by desperation rather than triumph. It is not Iraq or Immigration that are to blame. It is John McCain. So many times, I mocked him for hearing the announcer bellowing on his arrival into every room. He will never hear the music play Hail to the Chief. Soon, the introduction will change, and McCain will hear it first:
“Ladies and gentlemen, your failed presidential candidate and American hero, John S. McCain”
— Media Lizzy
Washington Post: Weaver Always Spent Big on McCain’s Behalf
The Atlantic: The McCain Decimation: The Inside Story
New York Times: McCain Campaign Drops Top Aides
Seattle Post: McCain’s campaign crumbles; Is Giuliani next?
Slate: Can McCain Survive the Carnage?
Politico: Jonathan Martin’s McCain Timeline
Washington Post: Where McCain Stands Now
Politico: Will McCain’s Big Change Work?
Washington Post: A Question of Bias (for those following the sexual attractiveness of the GOP/DEM presidential candidates, look for the bit in the middle. Clearly, my crush on Joe Biden is an aberration.)