But as his presidency nears the 100-day mark, nothing better symbolizes McCain’s man-in-the-arena emulation of TR than his impromptu mid-February flight (the White House press corps was given 45 minutes’ notice before departure) to Johnstown, Pa., in the midst of a protracted showdown with Congress over the stimulus package. Fulfilling his oft-repeated campaign pledge to make the authors of earmarks “famous,” the president stood in the eerily empty main concourse of the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on a Friday afternoon and mockingly declared: “This isn’t an airport in need of stimulus money. This is a museum of wasteful government spending.”
Asked about his testy relations with Congress during his lone prime-time press conference (which scored near-record low ratings) in late February, McCain retrieved one of his musty jokes from mothballs as he cracked, “To quote Chairman Mao, `It’s always darkest before it’s totally black.'” The beleaguered McCain congressional relations team printed up T-shirts, which they still periodically display on trips to Capitol Hill, with the inscription, “Is it totally black yet?” It is ironic that McCain, the first president elected directly from the Senate in 48 years and a legislator known for his willingness to work with Democrats in the quest for compromise, is well on his way to becoming the most veto-prone president since Harry Truman, casting 13 during his first 14 weeks in office.