The Magazine

The Gentlemanly McCain Campaign

To win the nomination, won't John McCain need to go after Bush?

Oct 4, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 03 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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The coming Bush Meltdown is at the heart of every challenger's strategy, though the McCain people are weirdly unwilling to admit it. "Bush is almost irrelevant to the McCain campaign," says one strategist with no hint of sarcasm. "It's much more about selling McCain than about tearing down Bush." Partly because of this attitude, there has been speculation that McCain is angling for a spot on the Bush ticket. "Absolutely not," replies McCain spokesman Howard Opinsky, and he's probably right. On the stump, McCain snorts when asked if he would consider becoming Bush's running mate, and goes on to make the job sound like something only a moron would accept. (A vice president, McCain says, has only two duties: to check daily on the health of the president, and to go to the funerals of Third World dictators.)

How to explain McCain's potentially fatal lack of nastiness? Some McCain advisers suggest that their candidate is just lying low for now, waiting until "people are listening" to unsheathe his hard edge. Perhaps. Or it may be that McCain simply wishes to remain a gentleman. In which case he'll probably remain a senator.

Tucker Carlson is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD.