After spearheading a disastrous, security-undermining illegal alien amnesty bill last year with Teddy Kennedy, "straight-talking" GOP Sen. John McCain claims he has seen the light. In TV appearances, he vows to put immigration enforcement first. On the campaign trail, he offers a perfunctory promise to strengthen border security and emphasizes the need to restore Americans' trust in their government's ability to defend the homeland.
"I got the message," he told voters in South Carolina. "We will secure the borders first."
But how can McCain cure citizens' distrust when his own credibility on the issue remains fatally damaged? He doesn't believe his own election-year spin. And he knows we know it. This is cynicism on steroids with a speedball chaser.
Not all of us have forgotten how the short-fused Arizona senator cursed good-faith opponents in his own party ("F**k you!" and "Chickensh*t" were the choice words he had for Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn during a spat over enforcement provisions). Not all of us have forgotten that he voted against barring felons from receiving amnesty benefits under his plan. Not all of us have forgotten the underhanded, debate-sabotaging manner in which McCain/Kennedy/Lindsey Graham/Harry Reid conspired to ram their package down voters' throats.
His admission of the shamnesty failure is grudging and bitter. While he now tells conservative voters what they want to hear about the need to build the southern border fence, he takes a contemptuous tone toward physical barriers when talking to businessmen. "By the way, I think the fence is least effective," he told executives in Milwaukee, according to a recent Vanity Fair profile. "But I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it." Straight talk? Try hate talk.
For all his supposed newfound enlightenment about what most Americans want -- protection against invasion, commitment to the rule of law, meaningful employer sanctions, an end to sanctuary cities, enforcement-by-attrition plus deportation reform, and an end to special illegal alien benefits that invite more law-breaking -- The Maverick remains a Geraldo Rivera Republican. Like the ethnocentric cable TV host who can't string a sentence about immigration together without drowning in demagoguery, McCain naturally resorts to open-borders platitudes when pressed for enforcement specifics.