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What was McCain Promised?

Over at redstate.org, they are quite agitated over the possibility that Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics, will be appointed to the Federal Election Commission, where he served as director of enforcement for many years, as Senator McCain's choice. The Redstaters would like to see Bush reject the recommendation.

This brings up one of the big lingering questions about the 2004 election: What was Senator McCain promised that converted him from a fire-breathing Bush-hater who visibly toyed with the idea of joining Kerry's ticket, to the partisan good soldier which he remains to this day?

I wrote after the election that that shift was one of the two key moments in the campaign.

Presumably part of the promise was for Bush to not stand in the way of McCain's 2008 presidential ambitions. The news that Bush advisor Mark McKinnon has joined McCain's team is a good indication that he has tacit permission to do so. The healing of the legendary rift between Karl Rove and McCain strategist John Weaver is also part of the story.

Maybe that's the only thing. But I've been told by several McCain allies that a big part of the promise was that Bush would support campaign finance reform. And I've always wondered what that meant. It couldn't mean supporting the legislation to regulate the 527 committees. That is very small beer, and Bush would probably have supported anyway since it's a dig at what were perceived to be Democratic organizations. (The 527 bill now seems to be dying a slow death in the corrupt chambers of the House.)

On the other hand, the promise wouldn't have meant supporting a real, comprehensive piece of reform legislation, which would include public financing for congressional elections, a real fix to the presidential campaign system, reform of the Federal Election Commission, and probably free airtime for candidates. Bush couldn't support that, and even if he did, even if he demanded that Congress pass such a bill, DeLay wouldn't do it.

That doesn't leave much, besides FEC appointments. So presumably the deal was that McCain was promised his choice for the next FEC opening.

This is pretty trivial stuff, but I just thought it was interesting to remind the Redstaters that the McCain deal was probably the single most important factor in Bush's reelection. They got their president; now I think they have to live with McCain's FEC commissioner.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 8, 2005 | Permalink


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And here I thought it was Karl Rove's promise no to unplug McCain's elderly grandmother's respirator that made the difference.....

Posted by: Larry Yudelson | Aug 8, 2005 11:55:41 PM

And here I thought being a Bushie meant you never had to hold up your end of a bargain...

Posted by: Doug | Aug 9, 2005 9:34:17 AM


McCain could still do the bushies a lot of damage should he wander off the reservation. So they are going to do their part this time, at least.

Posted by: modus potus | Aug 9, 2005 3:39:07 PM

Late comment: How long can and will McCain restrain himself from aggressive criticism of Bush when Chuck Hagel is blasting like he has been this week? If he stays quiet, he runs the risk of yielding some of his maverick credentials to the Hagel. That won't happen. The resulting competition btw the two could become a further drag on Bush remaining 3 yrs.

Posted by: Tom | Aug 19, 2005 6:48:11 PM