His erstwhile friends

I promise to tell the truth always about my intention and my beliefs.

Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate

Some of my fellow bloggers and pundits (the redoubtable Andrew Sullivan, for instance, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, and Time’s Joe Klein, to name just a few) had long labored under the illusion that John McCain was a principled, deeply moral politician.

As such, they have expressed disappointment at the disgusting extent his campaign is going to vilify Sen. Barack Obama with falsehoods and smears.

They beat their breasts in wails about how this man they trusted and respected had gone horribly off-track, jettisioned ideals they knew he had for the sake of political expediency. Andrew Sullivan’s latest can be read here.

McCain is not as pure as he was in 2000, the cry goes.

Me, I never had such illusions about McCain.  He isn’t virtuous now; he wasn’t then.

I’ve always seen him as a man born into a life of privilege who feels entitled to everything he’s been getting and not getting.

That’s why he sleep-walked through the Naval Academy, graduating 894th out of 899 cadets. That’s why he never took his flight training seriously, crashing four aircrafts before the fateful one that led to his five-year sojourn as a prisoner of war.

Why hasn’t anyone in the media demanded that McCain have his record as POW, including statements he made on behalf of the enemy, be declassified? Please, don’t talk to me of his heroism until his full record has been examined.

Why did McCain finally leave the Navy?

How about the family he abandoned for the younger, richer wife who financed his political career.

The reputed “straight talk,” the excessive confessions and quick contritions were borne out of the Charles Keating debacle, merely cloaks he learned to wear once he was exposed as a corrupt politician.

Once he knew he would be lauded for honesty by coming clean about being in bed with Keating, the savings and loans magnate who swindled his customers out of billions of dollars and left American taxpayers holding the bag, there was no turning back.

McCain himself confessed “straight talk” and contrition became his chief strategy for burnishing his reputation. McCain, who has copped to staying at Keating’s Bahamas vacation villa about 10 times, ran interference for Keating with regulators to make Keating’s little perfidy possible. He was astounded at how quickly he was forgiven after he confessed and immediately decided it would be his modus operandi from thereon.

He did not, however, resolve to get out of bed with gift-bearing lobbyists, or stear clear of situation that called his integrity into question. If anything, he got deeper in bed with lobbyists. There was one point this summer when he shed daily lobbyists who were his campaign officials.

He still has at least seven still in the employ of his campaign as we speak.

So, yeah, McCain did not have some Road to Damascus moment during this campaign when he had a choice and he made the wrong one. Even when he was pledging to run a clean and civil campaign, he never had any intention of living up to it.

Despite the fact that the tenor of his campaign were imposed by former Bush handlers and Karl Rove disciples, the McCain we are seeing now is the one who was always there. This is the campaign he always wanted because he knows it’s the only chance he has to win the presidency.

So, expect more of the same and, please, spare me the crocodile tears about the change that has come over McCain.