In the dictionary of American political cliches–a dictionary too thick for anyone to own–the first name you read next to the word “maverick” is John McCain’s. Not that McCain, pilot of the Fast-Talk Express, was or has ever been a maverick in the true definition of the word (not the one about being an unbranded, stray animal, but a person who takes an independent stand, a person who refuses to conform with his party or his gang).
In reality, the guy is more reliably Republican than most of his GOP colleagues. “Congressional Quarterly gave McCain a 90% score for ‘party unity,’ making him an even more reliable GOP water-carrier than fellow Arizonan John Kyl, the #2 ranking Republican in the Senate,” Perrspectives reported. “The Washington Post similarly gave him a score of 88.3%, tying him with South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham ahead of 29 other Senate Republicans.”
Whether McCain really was a maverick or not isn’t the point right now. The point is that he took to the tag like fruitflies to an aging banana and ran–or at least hobbled–with it.
Now that McCain is supposedly fighting for his political life (speaking of cliches: he’s actually up by 15 points) in his senate race in Arizona, against former congressman J.D. Hayworth, a rabid Republican to whom any form of independence is equivalent to treason (he calls himself “the consistent conservative”), McCain is doing all he can to make believe that he isn’t and never has been a member of the maverick society. “I never considered myself a maverick,” he told Newsweek’s David Margolick. “I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities.” Yet as Margolick points out in the next sentence, “here was Palin, urging her fans four times in 15 minutes to send McCain the Maverick back to Washington.” (You can always, always rely on Palin to screw McCain at every turn.)
The St. Petersburg Times’ Truth-o-Meter gives McCain a pants-on-fire rating for his latest denial as it goes on to list a dozen instances where he himself reveled in the maverick branding iron (the tattoo is still on his skin somewhere). “[E]ven if McCain is now listening more closely to his inner ambivalence about the term,” the Truth-O-Meter concludes, “it cannot erase the eagerness with which his 2008 presidential campaign touted that particular characteristic as a major selling point for candidacy. So we rate his statement that “I never considered myself a maverick” to be Pants on Fire!”