Laurels from Beltway media, darts from Republican primary voters: That was the response to Sen. John McCain's recent obstruction of the Bush administration's carefully drafted bill to establish military tribunals to try terrorists now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
When McCain attacked faith-based voters after his loss to George W. Bush in the South Carolina primary in 2000, he singled out Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and said, "The politics of division and slander are not our values. They are corrupting influences on religion and politics and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party, and our country."
Even those who disagree with the two high-profile pastors on many issues understood McCain's attack to be aimed at most Christians who were active in politics, and to be a powerful assist to the radical left's attempt to diminish the legitimacy of faith-based political activism.
McCain has spent years trying to repair the damage he did in late February 2000, even making a visit to Falwell's Liberty University. But the Arizonan does not realize that his policies and not just his rhetoric offend center-right conservatives, including those who regularly attend church.
McCain's obstruction of the military tribunals bill is only the most recent bad choice he has made. The McCain-Feingold "campaign reform" fiasco unleashed George Soros and other shadowy "527 committees" on the land while curtailing advertising aimed at incumbents in election season.
The McCain-Kennedy "immigration reform," amnesty without fences, appalled the party and independents as well. It died in the Senate but not before greatly complicating necessary border security reforms.
The McCain-inspired-and-led "Gang of 14" killed the "Constitutional Option" that would have allowed every judicial nominee who emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee an up-or-down vote on the floor. If the GOP loses even a couple of Senate seats, the filibuster malady will return, and McCain will be responsible for having thrown away the remedy.
When McCain's presidential ambitions crumble in Iowa and New Hampshire and beyond, the press will no doubt try to cobble together an explanation that attempts to pin the defeat on the "religious right." When those accounts are written, it will be necessary to remind Beltway cheerleaders that John McCain wrote his own ticket to electoral defeat-again and again and again.