Regrets? JohnrnMcCain has had a few.
And when it comesrnto immigration, the Republican ought to have a couple more that he has yet tornmention.
Thern81-year-old Senate maverick, who is battling brain cancer while holed up at hisrnranch near Sedona, is second-guessing past decisions.
McCain hasrnbeen known for straight talk, challenging his own party, and putting principlesrnbefore popularity. Sadly, when the issue was immigration and white people’srnfears over shifting demographics in the Grand Canyon State, McCain failed atrnall three.
In a soon-to-be-releasedrnbook and upcoming HBO documentary, McCain unpacks a series of regrets. He hasrnpreviously said that it was a mistake for him to initially oppose the idea ofrnmaking Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, and that he isrnashamed of being one of the “Keating Five” at the center of the savings andrnloan scandal in 1989.
According tornthe New York Times, McCain also regrets that he was not more outspoken duringrnhis 2000 presidential bid about the Confederate flag flying above the capitolrnin the early primary state of South Carolina.
He alsornthinks it was a fumble to not pick Sen. Joe Lieberman, a pro-choice formerrnDemocrat, as his running mate in his 2008 presidential run.
The articlernmakes the point that McCain’s decision to select Sarah Palin as his runningrnmate led political observers to claim that he shares blame for “unleashing thernforces of grievance politics and nativism within the Republican Party.”
Yet on thernsubject of immigration and how it plays out in Arizona, the New York Times is arncouple of tacos short of a combination plate.
The truth isrnthat McCain didn’t need Palin to stoke “grievance politics and nativism.” Herndid his own stoking.
While seekingrnreelection in 2010, McCain supported the outrageous Arizona immigration law —rnwhich required local and state police to enforce federal immigration law, evenrnif it meant profiling Latinos.
In 2011, thernsenator suggested, with no evidence, that a devastating Arizona wildfire wasrncaused by illegal immigrants; the culprits were U.S. citizens who were camping.
And in 2014,rnMcCain declared “humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border,” andrndemanded that tens of thousands of women and children be sent back to CentralrnAmerica — despite the fact that many of those refugees feared death if theyrnreturned.
As I watchedrnall this happen from California, I kept thinking, “Et tu, John?” The old McCainrnwas gone. In his place was a cynical opportunist who yielded with the politicalrnwind.
Once upon arntime, McCain racked up what was, for a Republican, astronomically high levelsrnof support from Latinos in the Grand Canyon State.
In 1984,rnPresident Ronald Reagan got reelected with 40 percent of the Latino vote. Inrn2004, President George W. Bush won reelection with 44 percent.
But there wasrna time when, in his Arizona Senate races, McCain did better than both of them —rnracking up an impressive 62 percent of the Latino vote in his 1998rnreelection.
As a reporterrnand metro columnist at the Arizona Republic in the late 1990s, I saw thisrnphenomenon up close. Twenty years ago, one of my columns caught McCain’srnattention. I had seen a news story where he described his strong support fromrnLatino voters as his “honor.”
Later, Irnwrote a column about his going mano a mano with Bush for Latino support in thern2000 GOP primary. In it, I wrote that someone who spent more than five years asrna prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton, and turned down early release unless hisrnfellow prisoners got the same offer, probably didn’t take lightly a word like “honor.” McCain calledrnme, ostensibly to compliment another column about an obscure topic but no doubtrnwith the “honor” column in mind.
In 2000, whenrnthe senator ran for president and I was studying at the John F. Kennedy Schoolrnof Government at Harvard, I saw him at an event in Cambridge and later at arncampaign stop in New Hampshire. Both times, McCain recognized me, flashed a bigrngrin, and vigorously shook my hand.
When he ranrnfor president in 2008, I interviewed him about his Latino support, and therngrief he caught for it from nativist forces within the GOP.
He was alwaysrnkind to me.
I know thisrnsubject well. I used to be a big fan of McCain. But that changed in the lastrndecade ,when he bent his famous iron will to pander to nativists in Arizonarnbecause he was afraid of losing his Senate seat.
The nextrntime John McCain is asked about regrets, it would be nice if hernincluded that.
Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editorrnto Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post WritersrnGroup, a contributor to USA Today and the Daily Beast, author of “A DarkerrnShade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano,” and the host of the podcastrn“Navarrette Nation.”