John McCain better respond to this, and fast.
Headline: "Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP"
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist.
The strongest allegations come from Daschle...
Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain "had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority [A lot of issues] were on the table."
But the story gets murky as it goes on.
Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent.
And the strongest denial comes from McCain...
McCain said, "As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period."
As you notice at the bottom of this post from The Carpetbagger Report, Republican bloggers are up in arms. "If it's true, he's finished," says one. And rightfully so: would you vote for someone for the Democratic nomination if you knew only six years ago they considered becoming an Independent or a Republican? Or course not.
We've hammered John McCain pretty hard in this space for his recent flip-flops, but I've always suspected that John McCain is a fundamentally good human being, one who could be trusted not to suspend habeas corpus for prisoners of war, expose a CIA agent's identity, or let factions of the executive branch manufacture a case for war and then force feed it to the American public. He had a maturity and sense of perspective that George Bush lacked; he wasn't driven by his narrow faith on social issues; he rejected party-line thinking when he felt it was right. I think he lost his way the last few years and submitted to weakness -- he felt he had to backtrack on some of the things he said and did in order to be president, which he clearly wants more than anything. His support for the war, in 2002 and today, I can't excuse -- but I will say that if we are going to have warmonger in office, it might as well be one who knows the peril of battle.
While I obviously want a strong progressive elected in 2008, I've always felt that I could trust John McCain with the presidency -- the country would be in decent, if not ideologically correct, hands. You can define "decent" in several ways, all of them, I think, apt.
Maybe I'm just inclined to eulogize him because if these allegations are true, it's funeral time for John McCain. I'll say this, and I expect to get savaged for it: too bad.