The Real McCain?

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Profane, independent, cranky? Or just another mask for another political audience — a mirrored room full of worldly high rollers?

Jason Horowitz writes in the New York Observer:

For all the national attention surrounding John McCain’s two highly anticipated, protest-ridden commencement speeches in New York last week, the Senator actually saved some of his best material for the crowd that gathered on Friday behind closed doors in the back of the Regency Hotel. [ . . . ]

“One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, ‘Stop the bullshit,’� said Mr. McCain, according to Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, an invitee, and two other guests.

The exclusive audience included [some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential political donors:] R.N.C. finance chair Lewis Eisenberg, Blackstone Group co-founder Peter G. Peterson, former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman and Gail Hilson, the politically influential socialite who has organized events for Mr. McCain in the past. [ . . . ]

He cautioned against ghettoizing immigrants, which he noted has brought about disastrous results in France, and criticized elements in his own party as “nativist� before lambasting the punditry of Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage for helping to “fuel the problem,� according to two of the sources.

And Mr. McCain, a Vietnam War hero and strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq, criticized the Bush administration’s lack of candor about the current situation there.

McCain was, of course, in New York City not only to give commencement speeches and get heckled, but on the Willie Sutton Principle (you may recall why bank robber Sutton said he robbed banks). Democrats back Hillary, suicidal creatures that they are, and the city’s moderate Republicans know and are loyal to Rudy. A day after McCain’s scheduled New York fund-raiser in early June, Giuliani will be pointedly holding one of his own. But the smart money probably knows that Rudy’s recent trip to Georgia to campaign for Ralph Reed (the former head of the Christian Coalition is running for lieutenant governor) won’t make the red base forget his big-bad-city image as gay-friendly and pro-choice. McCain’s positions on those issues are more conservative, but muted, and social liberals and libertarians could be forgiven for picking up a tacit live-and-let-live tone.

Mr. McCain’s private pitch, in many ways, was the more important one to his current mission�and the more telling about what he is trying to accomplish. [ . . . ]

Mr. McCain has [ . . . ] already established a sophisticated fund-raising and outreach operation spearheaded by Mark Miller, the former executive director of Republican Leadership Council, and Tamara Hallisey-Hatfield, who has raised money for both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and is now employed by Mr. McCain’s political-action committee, Straight Talk America.

And they are not scaling back expectations just because they’re based in one of the capitals of liberal America�people in the McCain camp actually expect to have raised about $1 million in New York by midsummer. [ . . . ]

[MCain] is once again presenting himself, as he did during his first Presidential run, as the straight-talking political independent who stands for principles that transcend traditional notions of left and right. [ . . . ]

“Among the conservative Democrats who are not supporting Hillary Clinton in New York, John appears to be the one that they like. The liberal Republicans seem to be doing the same thing,� said [Georgette] Mosbacher, a past supporter of Mr. McCain who was invited to Friday’s breakfast but did not attend.

McCain probably has less of a chance of reconciling Sunnis and Shiites by telling them to “stop the bullshit.”

Cross-posted at AmbivaBlog