I'll stress the incredible part, because much more than my colleagues I can remember when McCain seemed to be a potentially Eisenhower-ish, as opposed to an increasingly Bunning-like, figure in American public life. Broad-minded, tolerant, eager to bridge rather than open divides -- this was the way he seemed to so many people starting from his arrival in the Congress in the 1980s.Seeing him now is surprising not simply because it reminds us: this man could be the sitting president, but also because it again raises the question, how did he end up this way? Even if his earlier identity had been artifice, what would be the payoff in letting it go?
There's some sense that the press, in 2000, was basically hoodwinked by McCain. I'm sympathetic to that argument, and basically agreed with it, until I read this. I don't know Jim to be the sort to be taken in by press access and banter, so I am tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, I'd like to hear more about the 1980s McCain that Jim is referencing. I don't know much about McCain during those years--except that he opposed the MLK holiday.
Further down, Jim searches for comparisons of senior political figures whose views narrowed as they got older. I just sent him a note saying that a good comparison might be John C. Calhoun, who at first seemed something of an nationalist-iconoclast, but toward the end of his career basically became a vulgar sectionalist. I don't know that being a "nationalist-iconoclast" of the Calhoun order is a good thing. His views on slavery seemed to remain the same. But the younger Calhoun certainly seems to have a more interesting mind.
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