New York Magazine Asks ‘Is John McCain Bob Dole?’

mccaindole.jpg“If McCain is no longer the bracing iconoclast he was in 2000, who the hell is he?” asks John Heilemann in New York Magazine today. The answer, according to at least one GOP operative, is that McCain has “morphed into Bob Dole.”

According to “an operative who worked for Dole,” one commonality beyond biography and temperament that McCain and Dole share is that like Dole in ’96, McCain currently refuses to talk about the pressing issues facing the country:

Republicans cite deeper, more worrying commonalities between McCain and Dole. “You’d fly around with Dole in 1996 and try to talk message, and all he wanted to know was who was going to be up onstage with him at the next event,” recalls an operative who worked for Dole in his pre-Viagra days. “Same deal now with McCain. He has no message outside of Iraq. What’s John McCain’s health plan? What’s his tax plan? What’s his high-tech plan? No one in a million years can tell you.”

Beyond examining the similarities between McCain and Dole, Heilemann also reveals several interesting tidbits about the contours of McCain’s campaign and his lack of knowledge about the economy:

McCain’s lack of “intellectual interest” in the economy:

Even the most loyal Republicans express concern about McCain’s economics gap. “He’s never been particularly fluent in or showed much intellectual interest toward economic matters,” says Pete Wehner, who ran the Office of Strategic Initiatives in Bush’s White House. “Can he speak fluently or compellingly about them? We’ll soon see. But it would require him to lift his game.”

McCain’s cozy relationship with lobbyists:

Even some Republican stalwarts are appalled at McCain’s coziness with the influence-peddling industry. “Can you imagine a bunch of people working for Halliburton trying to elect Cheney?” says a prominent GOP consultant. “How can that be legal? Even if it is legal, it’s never happened before. And it says a lot about what McCain has become. In 2000, he was the candidate of reform, of anger, of screw the system. Now he’s the candidate of lobbyists, endorsements, and special deals with Beltway banks.”

Karl Rove’s role in McCain’s campaign:

There are even rumors that Rove, the Architect himself, is funneling ideas through the pipeline. “There’s no official/formal relationship with Rove,” McKinnon e-mailed coyly. “Karl is on Fox a lot. We watch a lot of Fox. Karl has become an open-source consultant.” But one of the savviest Karlologists I know suspects that Rove is providing a steady stream of advice through multiple points of contact with the campaign and the national party.

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