As the anti-Bush Unity 2000 demonstration in downtown Philadelphia almost sputtered out on Sunday, John McCain, the much toutedopening speaker of Arianna Huffington’s Shadow Convention, enthusiastically and unexpectedly endorsed George W. Bush for president and urged the 300-odd conventiongoers to back the GOP as the “party of reform.”
To a chorus of boos and calls of “Gong! Gong! Gong!” McCain proudly trumpeted Shrub’s conservatism, warmly spoke of the United States as the “last best hope on earth,” and saluted Theodore Roosevelt. As the calls of “get him out of here” rose, McCain threatened to walk off the podium, but Arianna rushed to the stage and comforted the senator and one-time candidate. “This is a convention where you can hear everything with respect,” she declared.
Huffington opened her own remarks by noting that without McCain, a Shadow Convention could never have taken place.
Republican bigwigs had sought to get McCain to cancel his plans for addressing Huffington’s convention, which is devoted to exploring such subjects as the gap between rich and poor, campaign finance reform, and the failure of the administration’s drug policy. The GOP leadership regards the eccentric Huffington as an uncontrollable maverick who is raining on their Philadelphia parade. By stumping for Bush at Huffington’s gathering, McCain effectively put a dagger in her back.
McCain’s loyalty to Shrub was a long time coming. Bush has tried again and again to mend fences with him as far back as the New Hampshire primaries, and even raised the possibility early on of his becoming the VP nominee. It has always been assumed that should Bush win, McCain will get a cabinet post, possibly secretary of defense.
Meanwhile, Huffington’s Shadow Convention continues to darken the margins. Speakers today include Ellen Miller of Public Campaign and Scott Harshbarger of Common Cause, both talking about campaign-finance reform. Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, who backed Bill Bradley during the campaign, and Bill Greider of The Nation also take the mike.