Declaration of independence

McCain says there's a lesson to be learned in Jeffords' departure. Freepers tell McCain to drop dead.

Published May 24, 2001 4:39PM (EDT)

Big buzz

Sen. John McCain called Sen. Jim Jeffords' departure from the GOP a chance for his fellow Republicans to learn a lesson about tolerance. And if that gets McCain some ink, and a chance to throw a little salt in the eyes of Sen. Trent Lott, Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Bush at the same time, so be it.

"Although we have lost our majority in the Senate, I do believe Senator Jeffords' departure can have a positive impact on how our party responds to members who occasionally dissent from party orthodoxy," McCain said in a statement Thursday. "For his votes of conscience, he was unfairly targeted for abuse, usually anonymously, by shortsighted party operatives from their comfortable perches in K Street offices, and by some Republican members of Congress and their staff. Perhaps those self-appointed enforcers of party loyalty will learn to respect honorable differences among us, learn to disagree without resorting to personal threats and recognize that we are a party large enough to accommodate something short of strict unanimity on the issues of the day. Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party, and it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up."

Of course, when we at Red vs. Blue see the phrase "tolerance of dissent," we immediately turn to the Free Republic.

"As long as we're cleaning house, why don't we get rid of McCain at the same time," writes one poster. "He'll cause less harm if he sheds his RINO camouflage." That's RINO as in Republican in name only.

"Hey maybe we can get McCrazy to jump over to the Republican side," another agrees.

A third Freeper adds: "It's official -- I now loathe McLame as much as I loathe the Clintons."

Over at, the staff posted this note: "For all of you who weren't invited to the White House for the National Teacher of the Year Award, we hope you have now gotten over it and remain loyal, steadfast and true Republicans. We weren't invited either and it's okay."

"Do not blame the White House for Jeffords' traitorous, vindictive, adolescent behavior," writes a poster. "You can't deal with such amoral and unprincipled morons anyway. I'd rather he leave and join the enemy than give him one iota of payoff for his extortion. Good riddance. Say good-bye to Federal funding for anything that even smells like Vermont."

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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