TAMPA, Fla. — Even Republicans who disparage Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over his support of campaign finance reform and other past breaks from the conservative agenda had to admit: the old maverick and 2008 Republican presidential nominee was in good form as he addressed the national convention here on his 76th birthday.
In praising ‚??08 rival Mitt Romney and taking a hard-line against the administration on foreign policy, the Arizona senator was, in effect, preparing his audience for his next ‚??reinvention‚?Ě: after many years as the GOP‚??s leading maverick, and then winning renomination to a fifth term in 2010 by moving to the right (his American Conservative Union rating for this session of Congress is 100 percent), McCain is poised to become the leading Republican voice on foreign policy and national security in the next Congress.
His speech Wednesday night was a preview of that, as McCain lambasted President Obama for committing to a date for withdrawing from Afghanistan, weakening relations with Israel, not doing enough to stop impending cuts in the defense budget, and not adequately supporting dissent in Iran and Syria.
Should Republicans win the four seats they need to control the Senate, McCain will become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and thus in a strong position to influence national security policy in a Romney administration.
In many ways, McCain could very well be this century‚??s version of Sen. Arthur Vandenburg (R-Mich.), who lost bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1936, ‚??40, and ‚??48 but became his party‚??s most respected voice on foreign policy in his twilight years.
Republicans who had had differences with McCain on his support of global warming, his call for an omnibus immigration package (which he later abandoned), and — most upsetting to all — campaign finance, told Human Events they were happy with the new role the Arizona senator was carving out for himself.
‚??I love him as ‚??the senator,‚??‚?Ě former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) told us during McCain‚??s address, ‚??and that‚??s all I have to say.‚?Ě
‚??I didn‚??t appreciate it when his campaign just wrote off Michigan in ‚??08 and left us in a lurch,‚?Ě Republican National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land said, as she walked into the convention center. ‚??But I have a lot of respect for him. Hey, when someone runs for president twice, you have to have respect for him.‚?Ě
But McCain‚??s close identification with campaign finance issues and the restrictions and red-tape that came from his signature McCain-Feingold legislation has still left some scars. We asked Carolyn Meadows, former RNC member from Georgia and now a board member of the National Rifle Association and the American Conservative Union, if she had forgiven the senator for McCain-Feingold. She replied without hesitation: ‚??No way. I‚??m glad he addressed the convention, but in Georgia, we are still paying in a big way for the loss of soft money and all the paperwork and complications his bill caused.‚?Ě