It's a wildly successful branding, "McCain" and "maverick" trip off the tongue like so much peanut butter and jelly — but is it an accurate pairing? The Arizona Republic pulled together comprehensive lists of occasions where they thought McCain marched to his own drummer, and times where they thought he was more dutiful back up singer. So how independent is he?
I ask the question not to suggest that McCain isn't, but because the strongest convictions are the ones that have been tested. So let's test them! (Before we do, can we just acknowledge that no one on earth has ever looked more uncomfortable in a polo shirt than McCain? Thank you.)
Here's an example of the apparent contradiction the article aims to shake out:
- In 2000, McCain ran a reform-oriented presidential campaign against GOP front-runner George W. Bush. He called influential Religious Right leaders "agents of intolerance."
- But in 2006, McCain spoke at the commencement ceremony at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. McCain formerly denounced Falwell as one of the "agents of intolerance.
I suppose this example could be used both ways — both to back up his maverick status or rally against it. Ralph Nader, for one, is convinced he's his own man saying, "If they think they can change him, they're whistling Dixie." What do you think? Does McCain belong on a list with Theodore Roosevelt and Barry Goldwater? Does he act on principle, or is he as tied to a party line as any politician?