Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Setting the Record Straight on McCain's Party Affiliations

A long article in last week's Hill reignited discussion about what exactly happened six years ago when rumors abounded that John McCain might leave the GOP. According to the Hill (and, BTW, it's good to see that the paper is picking up after the Politico poaching), it was not Democrats who approached McCain, but McCain's chief political strategist, John Weaver, who approached the Democrats, namely, lobbyist and former Congressman Tom Downey (D-NY).

Weaver, who changed his party affiliation to Democrat several years ago, acknowledges that McCain discussed the issue with leading Dems like Daschle, Kennedy and Edwards, but says his boss was much more inclined to becoming an independent than a Democrat.

To compound the confusion, yesterday John Kerry told the liberal blog, MyDD, that in 2003, Weaver approached him.

Townhall's Matt Lewis sorts it all out, with quotes from Weaver and McCain's longtime chief of staff, Mark Salter:

[W]hat Weaver and Salter both describe was instead a desperate attempt by John Kerry to lure John McCain. . . . What is more, the offer did not involve McCain switching parties.

According to Salter, “The idea that McCain approached Kerry is a fantasy.” Out of respect for Senator Kerry (they worked together on the POW MIA issue), McCain allowed Kerry to talk with him on three occasions (sometimes this was on the floor of the Senate and sometimes it was over coffee).

As a blogger worth his keyboard, Lewis then digs up a 2004 Newsweek cover story to confirm his report:

[Kerry] badly wanted Sen. John McCain to be his running mate. As far back as August 2003, Kerry had taken McCain to breakfast to sound him out: would the maverick Republican run on a unity ticket with Kerry?. . . .

McCain batted away the idea as not serious. But Kerry was intent, and after he wrapped up the nomination in March, he went back after McCain a half-dozen more times. "I can't say this is an offer because I've got to be able to deny it," Kerry told his friend. "But you've got to do this." To show just how sincere he was, he made an outlandish offer. If McCain said yes, he would expand the role of vice president to include secretary of Defense and the overall control of foreign policy. . . . McCain exclaimed, "You're out of your mind. I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell."