McCain: The Hero Who Wants to Play it Safe

The 73-year-old McCain is doggedly fighting for reelection to a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. But first he has to survive the Republican primary election in August.

Arizona is a vast, sun-scorched land that exudes the rugged romanticism of a John Ford western movie. It’s logical, then, that former Republican presidential candidate John McCain would want to project the image of a maverick, a daredevil, a non-conformist, a rebel.

“Maverick” originally described an unbranded steer and John McCain didn’t want to be labeled, either. He preferred to see himself as a Senator above the partisan fray, obligated only to his own conscience, and willing to turn his back on fellow party members — even if that meant the president — if he thought it was the right thing to do.

“Arizona is a Rocky Mountain state where the accent is on individualism and the government in Washington isn’t trusted,” is how Arizona State University political scientist William Ackroyd describes the border state. “Arizona has a reputation for being a Neanderthal state, and John McCain is one of the last heroes we have.”*

McCain Should Retire

Suddenly, however, the 73-year-old is embroiled in a hard-fought battle for his senate seat and no longer wants to hear about the outsider status that earned him respect even with his political opponents. He now grotesquely denies he ever depicted himself as a maverick, even though his private jet and his memoirs carry that description as if it were an award.

McCain is grimly battling to be reelected to a fifth term in the Senate, but he first has to survive the Republican primary election. That won’t be easy because McCain isn’t especially popular in his home state where he’s regarded as aloof and a Washington insider, alienated from Republicans. Many would like to see a new face in Washington. It’s not only Democrats who think McCain should retire, that his time is past and he’s lost direction since his defeat by Obama in the presidential election.

In reality, it does appear that McCain has yet to digest that electoral loss. In his primary campaign, he seems to be running against Obama instead of his Republican challenger, the former congressman J.D. Hayworth. Sports and talk show moderator Hayworth cozies up to conservatives with his image as a populist Reagan Republican and in so doing forces John McCain to the right, into a duel between two hardliners.

The Immigration Hot Potato

Billboards with bright letters in Arizona towns and along its highways proclaim McCain to be a proponent of secure borders. Yet three years ago, he fervently advocated immigration reform along with Democrat Ted Kennedy and courted the Hispanic community. Now he decided at the last minute to back the advocates of a controversial law that opponents say is a license to persecute illegal immigrants. Additionally, he also calls for a massing of security forces along the Mexican border.

Immigration and security are the defining issues in the election and Hayworth looks to trump his opponent by calling for the deployment of aerial drones and the construction of border barricades. In the borderlands of the Wild West where law and order once didn’t mean very much, the hardest-hitting slogans are winners. William Ackroyd says, “Whoever advocates amnesty for illegal immigrants is committing political suicide.”*

*Editor’s Note: These quotes, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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