The New Dirty Politics McCain

09/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Arizona senator is running a barnyard demeaning campaign even comparing Senator Obama to Paris Hilton, lying about Obama's record of visiting our wounded warriors and lying about Obama playing the "race card." Denouncing the new Dirty Politics McCain, McCain's own former strategist, John Weaver said to Newsweek: "Its hard to imagine America responding to 'small ball' when we have all these problems."

McCain is going to lose this election. And the way he loses will take the Republicans down with him.

As a former Republican activist who, as late as 2000, was campaigning for John McCain against Bush, today I am a dedicated supporter of Senator Obama. Yes, I changed my mind. But that isn't the point. My point here is to ask how the Republicans will define themselves by the means they use to try to define and defeat Obama.

By the very way the new Dirty Politics McCain is fighting his losing election he has disqualified himself from the presidency. Simply put: Republican strategists who think that business-as-usual -- i.e., the slanderous politics of the past 30 years -- will take care of matters this time around, are deluded.

A few more lies about Obama, silly comparisons to celebrities, lies about him "not visiting" our troops, B.S. about Obama "introducing the race card" and the Republicans won't recover. That is too bad, because we need a two-party system.

Will the Republicans sacrifice themselves to vindicate the ego of one man?

The reason to vote against McCain, paradoxically, is not just McCain's flip-flop on the use of dirty politics but also his military career. He is an old warrior willing to do anything to win. His military experience and the sort of arrogance that goes with being a self-proclaimed hero, is working against him.

The problem is that the new Dirty Politics McCain doesn't see himself as a civilian. He sees himself as so honorable that he can do no wrong. That was why he felt free to abandon his first wife and his children to chase a young blond who had 100 million dollars. He was a hero! He deserved a good lay and a good bank account! Why should he put up with a wife who had had a disfiguring accident! And these days why should he lose to an uppity black man who never belonged to his private military club?

It is time for America to draw a line under the Bush years of dirty tricks, not add to them. All over the world people who have thought ill of America are now thinking better of us, simply because Obama has become a serious major party candidate. All over the world our country, which has sunk to its lowest level ever in the public's view under Bush, suddenly looks immeasurably better because we have grown up enough to embrace a black candidate, our fraught and sordid racial history notwithstanding. We might even be setting an example in spite of ourselves. All over the world people who have despaired of their old friend America are taking a second look.

In our own country millions of new voters, especially young voters, are coming into the political process that, before Obama, they had either ignored or written off. And the African-American population that has been the victim of the racism which has dragged on and on relentlessly is taking a deep breath and considering a new future.

The Republicans must say NO to the new Dirty Politics McCain's ego-driven scorched filthy games. Here is what the Republicans and others can do to come out of this contest alive and well with their future bright, whether they win or lose this election.

1. Categorically repudiate and denounce the sort of McCain slime attacks that are being mounted against Obama and his wife.

2. Refuse to go along with the snickering half-wits at places like FOX News.

3. Pay homage to what Obama means to America and what his candidacy stands for in the same way that Obama pays homage to McCain's Vietnam War service.

4. Don't let McCain be too clever by half. Play even the hint of the race card, no matter how cutely or while pretending innocence -- for instance with the bogus claim that Obama is playing the race card! -- and you're toast.

The fact that McCain has -- in the course of one campaign -- turned from an American legend into a compromised shill for the far right, the religious crazies, the neoconservatives, the warmongers and corporate America -- he even wants to lower corporate taxes in wartime while the middle and working class serve and die! -- is astonishingly sad. Some future Shakespeare will write the play about McCain's tragic fall.

In 2000 Jack Kemp (former congressman and Bob Dole's vice presidential candidate) told me, "McCain is a war maker, and I'm a peacemaker, so is George Bush. McCain would be too dangerous as President." (By the way, I noted this conversation in my book Crazy For God long before McCain was running for President in 2008 -- and therefore before Kemp's statement was topical.)

Jack and I were arguing on the phone about the then Republican primaries. I still had Jack's home number from back in the 80s when I was a right wing activist and regular guest in his home.

These days Jack Kemp (just like the rest of the Republican establishment) is supporting McCain. But in 2000 the Republican establishment's suspicion of McCain was overt. McCain -- went the word in the insider's Republican network -- was "unstable." And the dirty tricks they used against him worked.

McCain learned the wrong lesson: he's gone and hired the crew who took him down in 2000 to take Obama down now. But it's not going to work. Obama is bigger than McCain ever was, bigger in spirit, bigger in intelligence and bigger in significance. And that is what is driving McCain batty: he is jealous.

Now that the new Dirty Politics McCain is the Republican's man of the hour, Republican heavy hitters are conveniently forgetting that for years they have regarded McCain as mentally unfit for the presidency. Back in 2000 I thought they were wrong and just didn't like McCain because of his "maverick" label. They were right.

The newly diminished McCain suffers by comparison because in Senator Obama we have a real alternative, the most inspiring person to run for the presidency in my lifetime, not to mention someone who (unlike McCain) was right about -- and told the truth about -- the Iraq war from the start.

In a McCain presidency the United States faces disaster. The new Dirty Politics McCain, as opposed to the old "straight talker" McCain, will turn eight years of Bush/Cheney into twelve to sixteen years. This is something our country might not survive economically, politically or in terms of our standing in the world. If he wins by lies and deceit he'll govern that way. McCain will make Nixon look sweet. When it suits him McCain will do to us what he did to his first wife, just as he has abandoned his promise of taking the high road in this election.

Frank Schaeffer is coauthor of HOW FREE PEOPLE MOVE MOUNTAINS-A Male Christian Conservative and a Female Jewish Liberal On A Quest For Common Purpose and Meaning. He is also author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.