Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may not be the archetypal happy warrior, but these days he is more cheerful, even ebullient, than most politicians on Capitol Hill.
He seems to have his hand in everything from immigration reform to the deal that suspended GOP filibusters long enough to get vital Obama nominees confirmed to goading fellow Republicans into starting budget talks with the House.
This is a politician who has been written off as dead at least twice: Once after his 2000 presidential-primary campaign was derailed by dirty tactics in South Carolina; and again in 2008, when his choice of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate made his judgment seem questionable.
During that campaign he shed controversial positions — many of which, like allowing gays to serve openly in the military, have since become accepted dogma — that had identified him as a maverick in favor of off-the-shelf GOP boilerplate.
It is a relief to report that the old John McCain, the candid, blunt-spoken McCain of the 2000 Straight Talk Express is back. And although he might reject the comparison, he has emerged as a Man of the Senate, one of the old bulls like the late Ted Kennedy who could get things done, either by working out of sight in the cloakroom or openly in the well of the Senate. McCain has been busy battling what he calls the “wacko birds” of his party, a term unlikely to endear him to the far right but one that is refreshingly reminiscent of the old McCain.
McCain’s energy, rhetoric and political courage will be needed when ill-advised House Republicans try to shut down the federal government.
The GOP has been burned every time it has tried this tactic. Perhaps the newly rejuvenated McCain can spare his country grief.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.