Michael Corleone said to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." But what, pray tell, do we do with our frenemies? This is the awful election-year quandary of movement conservatives. And everything you need to know about our heartache can be summed up in one image: 2008 presidential election loser John McCain and Mitt Romney together on the campaign trail.
When they're together, they look like they're holding each other (and the rest of us) hostage. Their toxic chemistry makes seething, ex-newlyweds Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries look like Fred and Ginger. In New Hampshire last week, after Romney's Iowa caucus squeaker, an overly giddy McCain mocked his endorsee for his "landslide victory." Awkward.
Then in South Carolina on Friday, McCain mistakenly referred to Romney as "President Obama" -- as Romney and South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley rushed to correct the gaffe. Freudian slip? Senior moment? Sabotage? All of the above?
Of course, if you choose to pal around with a double-talking, big government barnacle, you get what you deserve.
McCain is the entrenched incumbent Arizona senator/war hero who lost to a neophyte, radical leftist community organizer from Chicago. The "straight-talk" GOP candidate flip-flopped on everything from illegal immigration to global warming to offshore drilling to closing Gitmo. He pandered to minority grievance-mongers and the liberal media. He proposed massive government interventions bigger than Obama's.
This Beltway fossil who now poses as a tea party hero proudly teamed with Big Government liberals Teddy Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He's the "maverick" who supported the $700 billion TARP bailout, the $25 billion auto bailout, the first $85 billion AIG bailout and a $300 billion mortgage bailout -- yet he now carps about "record deficits and debt."
A career politician for the past 30 years, McCain set the stage for the suicidal anti-capitalist rhetoric now polluting the GOP primary. Four years ago this month, during a GOP primary debate held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, it was McCain up on stage denigrating Romney's private-sector experience. Asked whether he thought Romney's record as CEO made him qualified to lead, McCain snarked: "I know how to lead. I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit."
Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have all followed suit, bashing Romney's venture-capitalist past at Bain Capital with Occupy Wall Street-style zeal.