The Brawler is encouraged that some Washington media mandarins have overcome their infatuation with John McCain. They've dispensed with the illusion that he's some sort of "honorable" politician and have recognized him as a low roader who will make any scurillous attack necessary to get to the White House.
Some suggest that this low-roading is due to his slim chances (though not impossible) of reaching the White House, which is probably true. Others point to the Roveniks working for him. Which also is probably true, but only to a point.
Because the fact is, McCain has been a low-roader for most of his political career. That was generally ignored, as the media preferred to portray him as some high-minded solon (an image McCain has cultivated quite carefully).
And it's worth pointing out that McCain worked with the Atwater machine -- the pioneers of modern political lowroading -- to attack Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election.
From "Bush 'surrogate' to be a step ahead" from the 6/15/88 Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON - When he travels South tomorrow in search of general election votes, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts will be heading into a political ambush of sorts.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), working on behalf of Vice President George Bush, will be traveling ahead of Dukakis, stopping in two cities the governor plans to visit, to raise questions about the Dukakis record.
According to a senior aide to the vice president, McCain will hold a press conference today in Nashville, where Dukakis plans to campaign tomorrow. And he will hold another tomorrow in Miami, where Dukakis will campaign on Friday.
The vice president's aide, who asked that he not be identified, said McCain plans to draw attention to the Dukakis record and call on him to explain some of his stands.
Among other things, according to the aide, McCain will raise questions about Dukakis' commitment to defense, his 1977 veto of legislation requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, his support for gun control, his past support for weekend furloughs for convicted murderers and his prochoice stance on abortion.
This seems banal today, but as the quotes around "surrogate" suggests, McCain's actions as a sitting senator were novel enough that they invited rounds of criticism from his comrades in the Senate.
(The Duke's response was to say that McCain didn't know "beans from brown bread." Those four words provide a perfect summation for why the Duke got hided.)
And, indeed, the attacks must have stung -- because honorable St. John McCain suddenly realized that attack role wasn't the one for him. How do we know that? Because he told infatuated reporters!
From "John McCain and His Prime-Time Moment" in the 8/15/88 Washington Post:
Indeed, McCain was so uncomfortable with the attack role that he was back in it mere days later!
This was widely perceived as a negative tactic, and the Dukakis campaign immediately launched a counterattack in the Arizona press, asking why McCain was out campaigning for Bush instead of doing his job in Washington. As a result,McCain told the Bush campaign that "I preferred the surrogate kind of stuff that's positive. Let's face it, I'm not one who's comfortable with the attack role."