Slate Writer: McCain 'Rehabilitation' Depends on Angering Republicans and Disowning Palin

Slate political reporter, Christopher Beam, has some advice on how John McCain can "rehabilitate" himself: become more like a Democrat and admit that his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was a mistake. In a report reminiscent of how people who differed slightly from the party line in Stalinist Russia or Mao's China could rehabilitate themselves by admitting the "error" of their ways, Beam comes up with some "helpful" tips on how McCain could become liked by the mainstream media again. As you can see in his Slate article, the advice that Beam offers pretty much boils down to the fact that McCain must become a liberal:

PHOENIX—One major casualty of the 2008 race is the McCain brand, as a big chunk of his former fans have turned critical. The media, a group John McCain once called his "base," have fallen off the boat. Independents who admired his stances on immigration and Bush's tax cuts have drifted away. Veterans of the 2000 campaign have said they barely recognize the 2008 Republican nominee. Mark Salter, McCain's co-author and confidante, has said that Obama has "dinged up" the McCain brand.

Well, now is the time to rebuild. McCain may have lost the election, but in the coming weeks and months, he'll have an opportunity to fix a damaged reputation. Here are a few things he can do:

Beam should be more specific by suggesting, "Here are a few LIBERAL thing he can do:"

Remeet the press. It's conventional wisdom in McCainland that the media jilted their candidate this election. "I think people wanted to see McCain lose with honor," says Michael Goldfarb, a spokesman and blogger for McCain. "That's how they wanted it to play out, like a f---ing episode of The West Wing." But after McCain's candor created some awkward moments, the campaign shuttered its doors and froze out the press—which only made the media pig pile grow. Whoever's to blame, McCain can make headway by resuming his old ways—giving interviews, reconnecting with alienated allies, and generally "going rogue," to use a current phrase.

Yes, so important to seek the seal of approval from the MSM. And to achieve that approval you need to become a liberal.

Acknowledge campaign mistakes. A big part of the McCain "brand" was admitting when he screwed up. After his 2000 campaign ended, he apologized for his support for flying the Confederate flag above the South Carolina statehouse. McCain would do well to acknowledge his missteps this time around. Chief among them may be picking Sarah Palin as his running mate—which many former allies called the last straw. Sure, McCain deserves credit for refusing to discuss the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or to demonize Obama because of his heritage or use his middle name (especially in defiance of staffers' urging). And this doesn't mean pointing the finger—postmortem recriminations always look bad (Exhibit A). But a full rehabilitation requires that McCain confront some of his campaign's less proud decisions. 

Disowning Sarah Palin is an absolute must. That is an important step on the road to "rehabilitation" ...and to get those prestigious invites to Georgetown parties.

Piss off Republicans. "Maverick" has always been part truth, part myth. But what wins McCain points among Americans may not win him friends among congressional Republicans, particularly when it comes to campaign-finance reform, immigration, and climate change. Now that McCain doesn't have to worry about "winning the base," he can return to emphasizing his less orthodox stances. There's a risk in being pegged as a flip-flop-flipper—I was for pathways to citizenship before I was against them before I was for them!—but unless he's planning a 2012 run, who cares?

Strange but no one thought to suggest that Walter Mondale could "rehabilitate" himself following his 1984 landslide loss to Ronald Reagan by "pissing off" Democrats.

Be funny. One of McCain's best selling points has always been his sense of humor—it's a big reason people (voters, reporters, other politicians) are attracted to him, and it will remain so. But it doesn't hurt to remind people. What can he do to get back his mojo? Go on Letterman and joke about the time he stiffed him. Poke fun at the new guy in the White House. Laugh at his own worst moments. His latest appearance on Saturday Night Live was a good start (and at least one observer saw it as an early indicator that he knew he wasn't going to win). But McCain should take every chance he can get—including his concession speech—to show he's not bitter. 

I guess that Christopher Beam is so cut off from reality that he doesn't yet know that McCain already went on Letterman and joked about the time he stiffed him. To bring Beam up to date, your humble correspondent generously presents him the video of that performance.

Reach out to Obama. McCain's behavior—not to mention aides who know him—suggest he doesn't have a sparkling opinion of Obama. But from now on, grace is the word. Don't just stick to the concession-speech standards like congratulations. Offer to help Democrats reach across the aisle. Arrange meetings. Negotiate compromises. Suppress the urge to point out that you were the first to propose collaboration—(cough) town halls (cough). Both candidates have stood for cooperation—act on it.

And don't forget to genuflect in the presence of The One.

Write a campaign memoir. McCain is always at his best when telling stories. So tell the story of the campaign. No candidate has ever done it—at least not as McCain would. McCain's books have always been windows into his mind (with Salter acting as a pane). He could win a lot of respect by penning an unvarnished account of the campaign, from his own perspective. Suggested title: Travels With Lindsey.

And be sure to slam, slam, slam Sarah Palin in that campaign memoir. It is the surest way to gain the seal of approval from Christopher Beam and his fellow liberals.  

2008 Presidential Slate Sarah Palin
P.J. Gladnick's picture