by John Carney
Something ugly is going on in South Carolina. Struggling to deflect criticism and win public sympathy, Senator John McCain has taken to decrying his Republican primary opponent's supposed negative campaigning. What McCain doesn't mention is that three months ago he helped lead the brutal smear campaign that sought to paint Pat Buchanan as a Hitler-sympathizer.
After Buchanan left the GOP behind last October, McCain launched on air war to demonize Buchanan. On every talk show that would have him, McCain described Buchanan's world view as "so far outside the philosophy of what America is all about that it's unacceptable."
Never mind that this attack gets things exactly backward – it's McCain's foreign policy of bombs, death, and empire that violates the best traditions of our Republic. The point is that back in November McCain had no qualms about u2018going negative' and attacking Buchanan.
Now under attack from George W. Bush and his allies in the GOP establishment, McCain whines that "this kind of savagery is not necessary in an American political campaign." This attempt to turn public resentment against negative campaigning to his advantage reeks of hypocrisy.
Just like President Clinton, who survived an impeachment trial using scorched earth tactics that dragged the names of every one of his enemies through the mud, McCain embodies the u2018politics of personal destruction' he now claims to reject. Besides his assaults on Buchanan, McCain ran negative ads against George Bush as recently as last week.
McCain's hypocrisy on negative campaigning borders on pathological. It's as if part of him never really left the Hanoi Hilton, where he was a prisoner of war for five years. Still looking through the lens of his imprisonment, he sees his opponent's criticism as cruel torture and is utterly without remorse for his own savage smears and assaults.
Earlier this week a misguided Gary Bauer endorsed McCain, calling him a moral man. It's hard to believe that anyone could mistake McCain's base hypocrisy for genuine morality. But then again, mistaking hypocrisy for morality has a long tradition in the Republican party.
John Carney is a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania.