Stay Classy, John Kerry

Chris Hayes, The Nation’s crack political reporter, finds that Swift Boat donors have donated money to Senator John McCain, who condemned the Swift Boat ads. Now John Kerry is blasting his “friend” for accepting the contribution to his cash-starved campaign.

“There is such a thing as dirty money,” said Senator Kerry in a statement, after The Nation informed him of McCain’s FEC records. “I’m surprised that the John McCain I knew who was smeared in 2000 and thought so-called Swift Boating was wrong in 2004 would feel comfortable taking their money after seeing the way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves.”

“The way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves.” Does John Kerry mean … himself? I assume he does. So Kerry knows McCain “loves” him, yet Kerry doesn’t “love” McCain back, or at least not enough to allow him to “accept” money.

This is a famous trap: How dare Bob Dole accept money from homosexuals! How dare Ron Paul accept money from white supremacists! How dare Hillary Clinton accept money from … Chinese Americans!

Don’t fall for it. McCain opposed the Swift Boat ads. If their contributions go to him, that money is not going to candidates who cheered on the Swift Boat ads. Kerry must understand that. But in this case friendship isn’t a two-way street. Imagine a world in which John Kerry said, “Look, I know Senator McCain opposed the Swift Boat ads. He broke with the Bushies and stood up for me when I needed him. So if he needs the money to fight the good fight, God bless him. I’ve accepted plenty of money from jackasses, cranks, anti-Semites, influence-peddlers, and other questionable people.” But yeah, that would never happen.

Of course, Mitt Romney has received far more Swift Boat money.

Romney’s success with Swift Boat donors is significant because he has surpassed even McCain in his demonstrated willingness to do or say anything in pursuit of the presidency and because he has emerged as the GOP establishment’s favored candidate.

One wonders what the “even McCain” means here exactly. I suppose McCain’s derisive remarks about ethanol were a craven attempt to win over corn-hating Iowans, and his talk of a 100-year occupation of Mesopotamia represent a craven attempt to cater to famously war-mad New Hampshire voters. McCain has many obvious failings as a candidate and perhaps even as a human being: he has a mean streak, he has a temper, he seems pretty stubborn. But has he demonstrated a “willingness to do or say anything in pursuit of the presidency”? Perhaps he is willing to do or say some things in pursuit of the presidency, e.g., his softer stance on the Bush tax cuts. But I fear that virtually all candidates, including even Barack Obama, will do or say some things in pursuit of the presidency.

Expect more abusive harangues directed against John McCain, the Republican shrewd Democrats fear most.