McCain grumbles about having to build "the goddamned fence"

Vanity Fair profiles St. John, a man of conscience who strayed from the path by joining the Republican Party. What doth it profit a man to gain the Oval Office, asks author Todd Purdum, if he should lose his soul to Bush’s theocrat war machine?

You know what, Todd? You can have him.

A day earlier, in Milwaukee, in front of an audience of more sympathetic businessmen, McCain had been asked how debate over the immigration bill was playing politically. “In the short term, it probably galvanizes our base,” he said. “In the long term, if you alienate the Hispanics, you’ll pay a heavy price.” Then he added, unable to help himself, “By the way, I think the fence is least effective. But I’ll build the goddamned fence if they want it.”

Don’t worry; no matter how much we may want it, no one’s building the goddamned fence.

Here’s something for the “Christianists” among us:

“Yes, he’s a social conservative, but his heart isn’t in this stuff,” one former aide told me, referring to McCain’s instinctual unwillingness to impose on others his personal views about issues such as religion, sexuality, and abortion. “But he has to pretend [that it is], and he’s not a good enough actor to pull it off. He just can’t fake it well enough.”

And of course his fatal attraction with the left:

The battle between Bush and McCain in 2000 was bitter, with Bush supporters in South Carolina spreading rumors that McCain was insane and that he had fathered a black child. (McCain and his wife, Cindy, are the adoptive parents of a girl from Bangladesh.) Bush and McCain traded insults involving each other’s moral standing. A year later, with bad feeling still so high that strategist John Weaver had been virtually blackballed from working in Republican politics, Weaver went so far as to sound out Democratic Senate leaders about the possibility of having McCain caucus with them. This would have put the Senate, then divided 50–50, into Democratic control. Aides to two senior Senate Democrats say it was never clear how serious McCain himself was about the proposal, and any possibility that it might actually happen was short-circuited when another Republican, James Jeffords, of Vermont, made the move first, in 2001.

Romney’s people e-mailed me the link to his exploratory committee’s new website today and I was going to ignore it, but after this? Go on — explore Mitt.

As with all pieces about McCain, inevitably there’s something to admire too. The surge is going to happen, and it’s unlikely to do much good, but at least it gives us a chance. And that chance is exceedingly important:

He went on: “My difference with these people who are saying, ‘Threaten the Iraqis with leaving and then they’ll do more’—that assumes that they can or will do more. And there’s no way that you’re going to have any kind of stability without security. Political progress cannot take place unless you have the fundamental elements of a security situation. So, do I know it would be a tremendous strain on the army and Marine Corps? Absolutely. But I saw the kind of impact of a broken army, a defeated army and Marine Corps, after Vietnam. And I’d much rather have ’em take a strain and have some success than be defeated.“…

I look you straight in the eye, my friend, and tell you: I want to be president of the United States. I don’t want to be president of the United States so badly that I’m going to do something that I know is not right for the security of this nation and the young men and women that are defending it. So, if this position [of supporting a troop increase] makes me viewed as too militaristic, or unrealistic, or whatever it is, I will more than happily take those political consequences, because I’ll sleep a hell of a lot better.”

I believe him. Read the whole thing. And look out for the description of the injuries inflicted upon him by the VC, followed by the “workout” anecdote involving Bush which I hope to god is apocryphal. Although I kind of suspect it isn’t.