Post-mortem on John McCain's Candidacy

Matt Towery

11/7/2008 12:01:00 AM - Matt Towery

Anyone who doesn't at the very least appreciate the historic nature of Barack Obama's election is either an idiot or a bigot. It is just that simple. So let me take a few sentences to say that as an American, I congratulate our new president, will pray for his success both personally and as our new leader, and will view his presidency with the same objectivity I had with regard to George W. Bush.

That was probably the most popular part of my column. Here's where my conservative friends get really mad: I want to salute John McCain. Why? Because he may be the last true American hero we ever see in a presidential race.

McCain really never had a prayer of winning the 2008 presidential race. The Republican establishment despised McCain for his willingness to cross the aisle to work with Democrats, and his equal willingness to cross the system by taking on George W. Bush in the 2000 election. He wasn't their kind of conservative. So they preferred to let him wilt on the vine, struggling for money, searching for issues, and having to deal with a leaky, creepy, Bush-linked staff, who decided it was far more important to attack Sarah Palin before the election was even over than really try to win.

And McCain wouldn't get down into the gutter. He could have run endless Jeremiah Wright ads toward the end of the campaign. But McCain was bright enough to know that it would only have destroyed his own reputation, and not given him enough votes to overcome the inevitable tide of Obama votes.

You see, it was never supposed to be; a McCain race that is. Mitt Romney -- who I will freely admit I had warmed up to considerably by the end of the campaign -- was meant to be the inheritor of the GOP establishment crowd. If not, they would settle for Rudy Giuliani. But when Mike Huckabee stole the show in the November 2007 CNN debate, he became the darling of populist and social conservatives long enough to deflate Romney and Giuliani to also-rans.

Ironically, the media in America, particularly the national press, have always liked McCain. They knew he would buck the system, was accessible, quotable and open to them. It wasn't until he won his party's nomination that they attacked his every move.

But in the end, it was neither his choice of Sarah Palin nor his performances in the debates -- not even his Joe the Plumber strategy -- that did John McCain in. Instead it was an economic collapse rooted in a rotten housing market, propped up by a phony mortgage market that for some reason decided to collapse and bring down with it the entire U.S. economy with just weeks to go before the election.

McCain was guilty of doing what he had taken a solemn oath to do: deal with the situation. Obama handled the crisis in the same manner. But McCain's party, fractured and broken, could not decide whether to trust a badly damaged President Bush who warned Congress of almost dire immediate consequences if a so-called "bailout bill" was not passed immediately, or the phone calls from constituents, the very same who had put Bush back in office in 2004 by a huge margin. They demanded that Congress reject any bailout.

McCain was trapped between what he believed would put his country or his campaign first. As had been his tradition, he opted for, whether one agrees or not, country first. His fate was sealed.

Ironically, only a day after the election ended, pundits and writers from many national news organizations were musing that they "really didn't know much about Barack Obama." They were right.

And so America entered a new era of change not knowing if Obama would become the next John Kennedy, if he would meet the comparisons drawn earlier in the year by some to Jimmy Carter. Thankfully he had survived the campaign season without being harmed, a constant fear justified when a group of white supremacists was arrested just days before the election having plotted Obama's assassination.

We will have none of that. Instead we needed as we came to the end of the 2008 race to pray for the safety and success of our president, be he Republican or Democrat -- liberal or conservative.

And we needed to thank John McCain. A man who suffered physically for his country as a soldier and battled valiantly and honorably for his party, even if they never wanted him in the first place.

Ironically in the closing days of the race, I heard Mitt Romney on talk shows across America. Sarah Palin, when asked if she was interested in running for president in 2012 said, "No." But then again, she noted she was responding after a grueling campaign.

And after being on the air and giving interviews for a solid 24 hours, I entered my home the day after the election, and my wife handed me a special overnight package. It was from Newt Gingrich outlining the achievements of his Americans Solution group in 2008.

I tossed it on my desk in a stack labeled: To Be Read Before 2012.