CORNERING THE MARKET ON BIPARTISANSHIP....Over at Tapped, Mark Schmitt tells the story of how John McCain tried to get former Common Cause president Chellie Pingree fired after she grew disenchanted with McCain-Feingold and began championing public financing of congressional elections:
The line that McCain's agents took in trying to oust Pingree was that she had hurt the organization's "bipartisan credibility." Yet what constituted a loss of bipartisan credibility? It was McCain alone. If McCain was happy with the organization, they could call themselves bipartisan; if he turned on them because they didn't follow his agenda, they lost their bipartisan cover, because even if there were other Republicans who supported reform, he occupied the entire space. This was a staggering amount of power for one politician to have over an organization that was meant to be a watchdog on politics, and McCain used that power ruthlessly.Well, maybe a few people will start seeing through it this year. Alternatively, if he releases a few more preening, faux highbrow ads like this latest interminable effort, maybe McCain will simply bore his supporters to death and Obama will win the election by default.
This is where I lost my admiration for McCain. And as I've watched McCain's modus operandi on other issues, such as the torture legislation, I've continued to see echoes of the Common Cause episode: Corner the market on bipartisanship. Move to claim the position of bipartisan intermediary, and then use that position ruthlessly to serve his own purposes or sell out his allies, because they are dependent on the reality or perception of bipartisanship. As a study in the art of exercising power, it's quite impressive. Until people see through it.