THE BLOG
02/14/2008 01:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain's "Character" and "Integrity"

Here are just a few incidents to consider when assessing John McCain's "character" and "integrity":

In 2000, John McCain called the late Reverend Jerry Falwell and his ilk "agents of intolerance." In 2006, the "straight-talkin' maverick" lovingly embraced Rev. Falwell and delivered a touching commencement address to the graduating class at Falwell's "Liberty University." About eight months earlier, Falwell had visited McCain in his Senate office and when McCain came to Lynchburg Falwell assembled about 150 church leaders from around the country for a reception. Falwell also hosted an intimate private dinner with McCain and a close cohort the night before the speech. It was, in short, a love-fest between the "moderate" McCain and one of the founding lions of the intolerant, homophobic religious far Right. McCain has made his "character" and his "integrity" the paramount quality for why he deserves to be president. But what does his love affair with Jerry Falwell after sharply denouncing him tell us about McCain's character?

Also in 2000, during the South Carolina Republican primary the George W. Bush-Karl Rove smear machine unleashed a torrent of racist attacks against McCain, including the now infamous push-poll phone calls to white suburban voters asking: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had an illegitimate half-black baby?" Rove's racist calls referred to McCain's adopted child. McCain had his ass handed to him. Fast forward to 2004 and we see splashed across newspapers and on television the image of McCain, "the maverick," locked in a homo-erotic bear hug with President Bush while he gushes and fawns and tells Arizona voters why Bush deserved a second term. I think for most people if they knew that a person was responsible for smearing their family and using underhanded and racist tactics they wouldn't be too eager to help that person's career. What does this episode tell us about McCain's "character" and "integrity?"

In 2004, when the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" were in full slime mode against Senator John Kerry, smearing his war record as a Navy Lieutenant in Vietnam, the "war hero" and fellow Vietnam veteran John McCain did not come to Kerry's defense other than in the most understated and perfunctory manner. I'll never forget sitting in the Reagan Library doing research at the height of the Swiftboating of Kerry when a young 20-something white guy who worked at the library and wore the Republican uniform of khaki pants and a polo shirt accidentally cut his finger on a stapler. "Look, I'm bleeding," he said to a co-worker, "I guess I should I get a Purple Heart." The office staff chuckled in unison. The Texas GOP with its umbilical ties to Rove and Bush was responsible for the Swift Boaters. They, in effect, pissed all over John Kerry's war record. The young guy at the Reagan Library might have thought it was a joke to be patrolling the Mekong Delta in a Swift Boat in 1968, but as a historian I can tell you that there are few places on earth I would rather NOT be in my life than on a Swift Boat in the Mekong Delta in 1968. It was an insult to the United States Navy and to every veteran who earned a medal while risking his life in Vietnam. John McCain was too busy hugging and kissing George W. Bush to make an issue out of it. What does that tell us about the "hero's" character and integrity?