Jon Chait has a great article up on John McCain in TNR. Among other things, it makes it quite clear why establishment conservatives are so unhappy that McCain is the nominee:
Conservatives complain constantly of McCain's
disloyalty, but the full extent of that disloyalty is not widely known.
Even though it is in the public record, McCain's voting behavior during
Bush's first term is almost never mentioned in the press anymore. Yet
McCain's secret history is simply astonishing. It is no exaggeration to
say that, during this crucial period, McCain was the most effective
advocate of the Democratic agenda in Washington.
health care, McCain co-sponsored, with John Edwards and Ted Kennedy, a
patients' bill of rights. He joined Chuck Schumer to sponsor one bill
allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs and another
permitting wider sale of generic alternatives. All these measures were
fiercely contested by the health care industry and, consequently, by
Bush and the GOP leadership. On the environment, he sponsored with John
Kerry a bill raising automobile fuel-efficiency standards and another
bill with Joe Lieberman imposing a cap-and-trade regime on carbon
emissions. He was also one of six Republicans to vote against drilling
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
teamed with Carl Levin on bills closing down tax shelters, forbidding
accounting firms from selling products to the firms they audited, and
requiring businesses that gave out stock options as compensation to
reveal the cost to their stockholders. These measures were bitterly
opposed by big business and faced opposition not only from virtually
the whole of the GOP but even from many Democrats as well.
voted against the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. He co-sponsored bills to
close the gun-show loophole, expand AmeriCorps, and federalize airport
security. All these things set him against nearly the entire Republican
Pretty impressive list. McCain's become such the loyal GOP warmonger that I had myself pretty much forgotten why I liked him so much back in the early 00's.
As Chait points out, the media has basically ignored what an amazing transformation he has undertaken on domestic policy:
The prevalent view of McCain is that he is a
generally conservative figure with a few maverick stances and an
unwavering authenticity. Nearly every liberal editorial board that has
made a Republican endorsement has chosen McCain, and nearly all have
offered variations on the same theme. “Voters may disagree with his
policies, but few doubt his sincerity,” editorialized The Boston Globe. “The Arizona senator's conservatism is, if not always to our liking, at least genuine,” concluded the Los Angeles Times. This is the consensus: McCain's basically a right-winger, but at least you know where he stands.
this assessment gets McCain almost totally backward. He has diverged
wildly and repeatedly from conservative orthodoxy, but he has also
reinvented himself so completely that it has become nearly impossible
to figure out what he really believes.
This article points to what I truly believe will be McCain's achilles heel in the general election. One thing I'll say about Karl Rove is that he had a great insight in that a campaign should really go after an opponent's perceived strength. Once you take that away, what do they have left? In the case of McCain, his mainstream popularity is all about being Mr. Straight-Talk. Presuming the Democrats are smart enough to take him on on this, it should soon be quite obvious that Mr. Straight-Talk has morphed into Mr. I'll say what's necessary to get the Republican nomination (so long as it is not immigration, where I'll hang onto my principles). The flip-flop charge is leveled against candidates all the time, yet I think it will be especially damaging to McCain since 1) it clearly has merit; and most importantly; 2) his purported straight talk is at the heart of his appeal in a general election.
(And you should really think about reading the whole Chait piece. Its not too long, and given that McCain will be the GOP nominee, its worthwhile to stay on top of this stuff).