Tom Edsall tallks to Tom Mann:
Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution argues that “McCain continues to embrace Bush policies on the most important issues, relying on a reputation for independence and moderation that could be lost in the heat of battle with Obama and the Democrats…. At the end of this long interlude, the only rationale for his election that has emerged is that Obama cannot be trusted to lead the country at a time of great danger because he is too inexperienced, naïve, liberal, elitist, and out of touch with American values. ‘Elect me because the other guy is worse.’ Not much of an argument in the face of gale-force winds blowing against the Republican Party.”
I think that nicely frames some of the ways in which McCain and his supporters are talking past his critics. McCain can boast, accurately, that he’s been substantially more personally independent of Bush and the Bush administration than have most of his congressional colleagues. He’s not a die-hard Bush loyalist. But what he is doing is promising to continue Bush’s policies on the most important issues — on Iraq, taxes, health care, the economy, Iran, etc. he’s not saying anything that wasn’t in Bush’s last State of the Union address.
That’s not because Bush is controlling McCain’s mind, it’s just that despite the animosity between Bush and McCain their opinions about public policy are similar and they’re beholden to a similar set of interest groups.