Wednesday, August 11, 2004

When principle counts (or doesn?t)

Democrats whose noses are out of joint because John Kerry?s Vietnam heroism is being questioned in a Republican group?s television ad have short memories.

When George Herbert Walker Bush was running for president No. 41, some loony Democrats suggested Bush?s ditching of his TBM torpedo bomber in the Pacific during World War II should be investigated. Cowardice was insinuated.

Now the same sort of political scum among Republicans are at work on Kerry?s wartime credentials.

Something sets apart allegations against Kerry, however: They?ve been denounced as ?dishonest and dishonorable? by the Republicans? most lionized Vietnam hero, Sen. John McCain, the long-tortured POW in the Hanoi Hilton who?s widely beloved for honest straight talk.

So, straight-talking McCain asked President Bush, the GOP?s titular leader, to condemn the TV ad financed by Republicans.

What principle! McCain?s GOP registration didn?t stand in the way of defending Democrat Kerry against a Republican black bag job and appealing for presidential repudiation.

But Bush refused to rebuke the ad, leaving the impression he tacitly endorses it.

McCain?s expectations were unrealistic. This is the president whose followers trashed McCain in the 2000 campaign with whispers about collaborating with Vietnamese captors and spreading hints in the Deep South that McCain had fa-thered a black child (he and his wife Cindy had adopted a dark-skinned Bangladeshi orphan). Bush didn?t denounce them either.

So, what possibly drives McCain to join George Bush on the campaign trail, trading on his reputation for principle to curry votes for Bush and ignoring affronts from his own party? Is it just politics as usual with McCain, too--making a ?dishonest and dishonorable? retreat from his sense of principle?

For a classic example of ?principle? bought-and-sold to the highest bidder, meet Alan Keyes, the new Republican senatorial candidate in Illinois who preaches principle but practices cheap politics.

Republicans transparently recruited Keyes in 11th hour desperation because he?s black to run again front running Democrat state Sen. Barack Obama, also black. Keyes, incurably addicted to being in the limelight, has lost two presidential quests and two U.S. Senate campaigns in Maryland.

Maryland? There?s the rub. Keyes is a resident of Mary-land. So, to qualify for office in Illinois, he must hurriedly establish residence in the Land of Lincoln, then bamboozle voters into believing his loyalties are in Illinois, not Maryland. At least until Election Day.

Of course, Keyes? still must explain his umbrage when denouncing Hillary Clinton?s run for Senate in New York State.

"And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism repre-sented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it," Keyes stormed with appropriate, if not feigned, fury.

But imitate it he is, hypocrite to the end.

What if Keyes loses this one? Well, he?s available to run in 48 other states that might need a politician with last minute, quick-change loyalties and can provide the spotlight.

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