- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Back in its grander colonial days, Great Britain's ruling class had a term for the type of fellow who, when dispatched to some remote corner of the globe, repudiated his home civilization and zealously adopted the ways and customs of the non-Western locals. Such a person had "gone native."

Culturally, Washington is as remote from Arizonan ideals as Pakistan was to Mother England. And like those earlier colonists, Arizona Sen. John McCain has smoked Washington's political opium and "gone native." In fact, the word "McCain" is now so often paired with Rust Belt Democrats, you'd swear it was the maiden name of a liberal newlywed: McCain-Feingold; McCain-Kennedy; McCain-Lieberman.

First, Mr. McCain hogged the stage to push for the colossal tobacco tax grab in 1998. Then he slapped together a campaign-finance "reform" bill that spits on the First Amendment and squashes the only means conservatives have for getting their message across in a Democrat-controlled media. This year, he spitefully voted against America's first income tax relief since the Reagan years, despite Arizona's support for the tax-cutting president.

Arizona has a long history of supporting individual liberty, and I twice voted for Mr. McCain based on his dull but conservative record. But these are strange times indeed, with disputed presidential elections and a Senate that features party-switchers and jilted first ladies. And zinging around through it all, like a random enemy spaceship in a video game, is Mr. McCain blasting this, disrupting that, curbing this freedom, shafting that taxpayer. Since 1998 the "maverick" Republican has lurched from one left-wing cause to the next.

Now, in a continuing quest to become the senator from the New York Times, Mr. McCain has joined Sen. Joe Lieberman to co-sponsor the dangerous McCain-Lieberman gun-control bill. (You remember Joe, that "moral" guy who trashed all those absentee votes cast by sailors in Mr. McCain's old outfit, the U.S. Navy.)

Some perspective on Mr. McCain's priorities: Republican President George W. Bush squeaked into office thanks to Second Amendment voters in Al Gore's Tennessee and in normally Democrat West Virginia. Yet Mr. McCain has resurrected gun-control for the Democrats by pushing to close a so-called gun show loophole that would instead shut down or greatly hinder legal gun shows. Of course, less than two percent of guns used in crimes come from gun shows, and gun shows are particularly popular in Arizona. Mr. McCain's press materials claim that states without gun show background checks are "flooding the rest of the nation with crime guns." Yet Washington, which outlaws virtually all private guns, has 3.8 times the murder rate of Phoenix, where residents can buy a gun in minutes and huge gun shows appear regularly. Why does the senator insult his own state, when by his own hyperbole it's really the "crime states" that are flooding the "gun show states" with criminals?

Worse, laws like McCain-Lieberman are often deliberately used to persecute honest citizens. Ask Jerry Michel of Mesa, Arizona. Last fall the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used the excuse of a trivial (and probably inapplicable) city pawnshop permit to invade and destroy Mr. Michel's federally licensed gun business. With tactics perfected at Waco, about 30 federal and local agents in macho SWAT gear used a trick to gain entrance to Mr. Michel's tiny showroom. Holding him at gunpoint, they then ransacked his shop and his home behind it. Eight months later the ATF still has Mr. Michel's property, though no charges have been filed against him. He is now broke and out of business.

That a rogue paramilitary force like the ATF not only still exists but is also today trampling on the rights of Americans should certainly rile an Arizona senator. After all, Mr. McCain's predecessor was the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was both tireless and courageous in his defense of liberty. But Mr. McCain has no time for protecting our freedom or serving his constituents. He's too busy boosting the ATF's budget and setting new legal tripwires to persecute honest Arizonans like Jerry Michel.

The talk around Washington is that Mr. McCain may jump to the Democrats or run as an independent for president in 2004 to help Democrats retake the White House. Whichever, The Washington Times reported recently that Arizona's Manchurian Republican is even using Democrat materials for his latest assault on his party's president. Regarding a Democrat health care bill he was co-sponsoring, Mr. McCain denied being spoon-fed by the left for his Senate attacks on Mr. Bush. "I have not coordinated with on anything," he said. When shown copies of his own press release and Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle's talking points issued the day before identical in wording and sequence, Mr. McCain became flustered. "I had nothing to do with that," snapped Sen. Straight Talk. "I have no clue who did it."

What do you say about such a politician? Mr. McCain has betrayed his voters for personal power and the thrill of a liberal media buzz. So bizarre is the senator's unprincipled turnaround that an Arizona group has even launched an effort to recall him (recallmccain.org). Here's hoping they're successful.

Daniel J. Rabil is a former Arizonan who now writes from Washington D.C.

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