One U.S. politician personifies what's wrong with today's politics—an obsession to forsake the nation's needs for re-election and using deception to lure voters with short memories.
For Sen. John McCain, the celebrity Republican incumbent running for re-election, political survival is more important than preserving personal honor that he claims can't be questioned and vastly more important than his carefully crafted media image as a straight talker.
McCain has become the "Dorian Gray" of 2010. Just as Dorian Gray in the Oscar Wilde horror novel traded his soul in exchange for eternal youth, McCain is betraying long-held political promises in exchange for his fifth six-year term.
McCain's abrupt divorce from commitments is shocking, even in the world of partisan duplicity and broken promises. Washington columnists ask, "What's happened to McCain?" Actually, McCain has never taken a stand he couldn't abandon if required.
Rather than the bipartisan cooperation he promised President Obama during a post-election sit-down, McCain delivered a rancorous declaration of partisan war in the months that followed: "No cooperation (with Democrats or Obama) for the rest of the year." Although he posed as a major player in the Wall Street bailout, he now claims he was misled and shouldn't have supported it.
Once honored by the Hispanic group La Raza for opposing English-only legislation, McCain now wants English as the official language.
In 2005, he crusaded for immigration reform leading to citizenship for illegal aliens. Now he's not only opposed to his former position, he's pushing legislation requiring federal prosecutors to bring virtually every illegal alien to trial.
McCain also once denounced the use of a barrier, wall, electronic sensors and barbed wire to seal the U.S.-Mexico border. Today, he's broadcasting a new TV commercial—"Complete the danged fence."
Unashamed about his deceit, McCain disingenuously recruited a sheriff from a non-border Arizona county for his TV ad. The border-county sheriff, Antonio Estrada, of Santa Cruz County, opposes the border fence that McCain now favors, opposes the tough new Arizona immigration law that McCain endorses and supports immigration reform that McCain now opposes.
He's no longer a maverick, McCain also insists. Instead, he's "partisan." No doubt about that.
After 24 years in the Senate, McCain's future is threatened by a mouthy former TV sportscaster and six-term congressman, J.D. Hayworth, a far-right darling of the tea party.
The irony is McCain helped create the new environment of tea-party extremism when he refused to denounce mindless rabble-rousing and bestowed undeserved authenticity on Sarah Palin, whose throw-the-bums-out mantra could conceivably take down her patron, McCain.