Sen. John McCain is scheduled to speak before the NRA convention in Louisville this Friday, May 16, 2008, and I suspect he might have to perform a high-wire act to impress most of the folks in attendance.
The NRA has pilloried and even ridiculed Sen. McCain over the years in its magazine articles and graphic caricatures of him.
For example, there's an article from the NRA magazine America's First Freedom from July 2001, called, "What's Happened To John McCain?" In it the NRA says:
The gun control debate in Washington has hit center stage because Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has now become one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment. ... McCain has joined with Al Gore running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. - a gun ban advocate rated "F" by NRA's Political Victory Fund - in championing legislation to close the so-called 'gun show loophole.' McCain is the poster boy for Americans For Gun Safety ... appearing in their television ads calling for new federal restrictions on gun shows.
(There are other notable attacks in the June 2001, February 2002, and September 2002 issues, as well. Online access to the magazine is restricted.)
Importantly, however, Sen. McCain still favors closing the gun show loophole, still defends the McCain-Feingold campaign financing law that the NRA bitterly denounced, and still maintains Sen. Lieberman as a close associate, taking him as an adviser in his campaign.
If C-plus rated Sen. McCain hasn't changed, why is the NRA highlighting him in Louisville?
Does the NRA still believe McCain is a "premier flag carrier for the enemies of the Second Amendment"? Or, is the NRA now willing to concede that the politics of gun control is now leaving them?
I think the answers will say more about the credibility of the NRA's political leadership than they do about Sen. McCain.