McCain's idea of a progressive, economically sound America is hardly a newly assembled work-in-progress. In fact, it's not even original with him but is lifted in its entirety from George Bush's playbook. He wants an extension of Bush's tax cuts plus a lot more added on. To a fellow like me, who still has penny wrappers in my office cabinet, I don't know how it would help much to extend the tax cuts that only made matters worse under Bush. If you think otherwise, just one figure should discourage you: 598,000 jobs lost in January alone.
Still, there was Maverick McCain rising to the Senate rostrum to declare: "This bill has become nothing more than a massive spending bill. To portray it as stimulus flies in the face of reality." If he had said he was sore because the president had endorsed the Steelers against McCain's home state Cardinals, I could understand that. In professional football, there are never any hands to extend across the aisle. Trash talk is socially acceptable. Now that's the face of reality.
But McCain was denying the obvious in the stimulus bill, and Obama felt it necessary to correct the senator about the goal of the bill. Of course, the president said, it was a spending bill. Always has been and always will be.
McCain hasn't fought the battle alone. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tagged along with McCain throughout the campaign and was probably responsible for making sure that the shirts got to the laundry on time, was ungentlemanly graphic. "This bill stinks," he barked. He also accused Obama of being "AWOL on this bill," which must have deep roots in a southern dialect because nobody's sure what the senator meant.
Asked why he plays so many grim operatic roles, Placido Domingo said, "I like being miserable on stage."
That may also explain where we are with McCain-Graham these days.