Return of the Reaganite

McCain says he's Luke Skywalker and Ronald Reagan incarnate while Bush retires to Texas to contemplate his future and crackpot conspiracies go prime time.

Published February 7, 2000 5:52PM (EST)

The calm before the storm

For the GOP the weekend represented the last relatively quiet campaign weekend until the nomination is settled in March.
John McCain addressed
the California state Republican convention in Burlingame where he continued
his attacks on special interests and drew an enthusiastic crowd. Since his
victory late last week in getting his name placed on all New York primary ballots,
McCain has taken to identifying himself as Luke Skywalker trying to get out of
the Republican party Death Star, an apparatus so wrapped up in its endorsement of
George W. Bush that it can't bow to fair play. McCain's speech to the
Californian convention reiterated the point. "Remember that the establishment is
against us. This is an insurgency campaign and I'm Luke Skywalker," he told the crowd. He also drew a comparison with one of the people who helped push McCain into politics, Republican hero Ronald Reagan.

McCain's campaigners
were also at pains to tell audience members that they had to be registered as
Republicans in order to vote for McCain in the March 7 California primary and that
the deadline for their re-registration is February 7. This has been a
major issue for both Bill Bradley and McCain because both share cross over voting
patterns from their parties and independents.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush was licking his wounds in Texas and sent his younger brother, Jeb Bush, to
make a short speech for him. George W. Bush will find it very difficult avoiding
the "fire-in-the-belly" questions after the New
York Times wrote
that his New Hampshire campaign was "curiously undemanding."
The Times went on to say that Bush "took midday breaks. He played in the snow for
television cameras. And he gave the impression of being tired and homesick." Not
appearing in California only adds to the impression.

While in Texas, Bush was also slated to review his campaign messages and plot
strategy for South Carolina. The Bush team's main options include portraying
McCain as a hypocritical
Washington insider
since he accepts special interest donations while slamming
them on the campaign trail. Bush already tested this approach Friday when he
said that it's "important for the people to know that my friend is raising money
from people who have business in front of his committee" in the Senate.
Regardless of the specific attack issues the Bush campaign is sure to concentrate
on an even keeled delivery so that their man cannot be portrayed as aggressive.
Note the preface to the above statement, "my friend". As the saying goes "with
friends like these..."

Other issues that the Bush team will be considering: Education - Bush
may play up Texas' successes in education and McCain's lack of
education policy experience. Bush, like the other three major presidential contenders has begun going negative by accusing McCain of negative campaigning, a strategy Bill Bradley began to deploy in New Hampshire. Bush has also begun attacking McCain as a Clinton liberal, criticizing McCain's past support for raising the cigarette tax and
questioning his pro-life credentials.

McCain has already started fighting back against the trial balloons that the Bush
campaign floated last week. While he rebuts every individual accusation he has
also started wielding Reagan's 11th commandment, that Republicans not attack
candidates from their own party, and suggested a 12th, that Republicans pay
attention to the 11th amendment. In his speech to the California convention
McCain said, "Ronald Reagan believed in the 11th commandment  thou shalt not
attack a fellow Republican. Upon reading todays papers, Im sad to report that
in an act of desperation, Gov. Bush has begun negative and misleading TV ads in
South Carolina. Two days ago he charged that I do not care for our nations veterans. I can only
propose a new 12th Commandment: It is wise to obey the 11th Commandment."

How is all this playing? The latest polls show McCain leading
slightly in South Carolina and gaining, though still loosing, nationally. South
Carolina Democrats may
provide a boost
to McCain's primary performance by announcing that they are
canceling their primary and replacing it with a caucus. Salon caught local
Democratic party spokeswoman Danielle Clermont's comments on the ramifications of
the decision for the Republican primary "I guess in a way it would probably be
more beneficial to McCain than anybody else. There are some
Democrats who will vote for McCain -- one of the reasons is to screw [George W.]
Bush over." Pundits speculate that the Republican party
might decide to shelve their South Carolina primary in favor of a caucus in
order to avoid complying with Justice Department regulations regarding polling
places in minority neighborhoods. Of course the sub text of such a move if
McCain were slated to win the South Carolina primary would be loud and clear and
probably give him a whole new issue about the vast, right wing conspiracy against him.

It's official!

Sunday with fanfare and her family at her side Hillary Rodham Clinton announced
her candidacy for the New York Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Moynihan.
Attendees at the rally noted that it didn't go off without a hitch.
Just before Clinton was to take the stage for her announcement the song played
over the PA was Billy Joel's Captain Jack which includes lines like "Your
sister's gone out, she's on a date And you just sit at home and masturbate..."
Apparently ignorant of the foul up Clinton then used part of her announcement
speech to ask "How do we protect our children from the forces of popular

As a pre-emptive strike, Rudy Giuliani appeared on all
five Sunday talk shows.
The Associated Press reports that this ties a
previous same day record established by Monica Lewinsky attorney William Ginsburg
on February 1, 1998. Giuliani is somewhat superstitious about formally
announcing his run for Senate. On Fox News Sunday he said "In 1989, when I ran
for mayor, I announced, I lost. In 1993, when I didn't announce ... I won the
election. So in '97, I decided not to announce and I won with the largest margin
a Republican has ever had in Democratic New York City."

Democratic Notes

Meanwhile on the Democratic side of the aisle the AP reports that Bill Bradley
attacked Al Gore's 1991 characterization of political campaigning as ripping
"your opponent's lungs out," and repeated his message that "It's a campaign about
differences." Bloomberg
that Democratic consultant James Carville thinks that Robert Rubin
would make a good running mate for Al Gore. And Al Gore walked away with the Delaware

Arizona Confidential

The Arizona
has long been involved in a personal feud with John McCain. McCain has shut out Republic reporters, and the paper has been anything but shy about digging up dirt on their senior senator. But the papers anti-McCain bias took a turn for the strange Sunday with a bizarre murder case story which the paper claims has a tangential
relationship to John McCain. There's no way that anyone could do justice to the
article itself. The story falls far short of nailing down any McCain connection. But it does have all the elements: adultery, manipulation, organized crime and presidential politics. Perhaps James Ellroy might want to take a crack at writing the pulp version. We're publishing a link here because it is the strangest unsubstantiated story to come around in a long time. Conspiracy theorists,
true crime buffs and mystery enthusiasts are sure to get a kick out of it.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

MORE FROM Max Garrone

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