Former Congressman and radio host J.D. Hayworth started his march on Sen. John McCain in Payson this week to attack the incumbent’s right flank at a gathering of Republican activists.
Ridiculing McCain as an “Obama enabler,” Hayworth blasted McCain for opposing the torture of suspected Al Qaeda supporters, voting for the bailout of the banks, supporting reform of immigration laws and not using parliamentary maneuvers to prevent the senate from voting on health care reform.
Hayworth this week mounted a statewide tour to announce his challenge of the 73-year-old McCain, who has represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate for 24 years.
McCain will spend Saturday morning in Payson, appearing at a series of town halls and question-and-answer sessions with local officials.
Moreover, Tucson Vice Mayor Rodney Glassman, who is seeking the senate nomination on the Democratic side, will meet with Rim Country officials on Friday, and hold a town hall Saturday morning at Tiny’s before McCain kicks off his event at the high school auditorium.
McCain has already launched a barrage of campaign ads, vowing to cut government spending and lead the fight against just about anything President Barack Obama does.
But Hayworth hopes that a surge of fury on the Republican right will prove fatal to McCain in the primary. McCain developed a long record as a political “maverick” by championing issues like campaign finance reform, elimination of pork barrel spending and immigration reform, but shifted to the right in his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2008. He has opposed most of President Obama’s policies in the past year.
Although Hayworth started his remarks by thanking McCain for his service — including the nearly six years the former Navy pilot was imprisoned and intermittently tortured by the North Vietnamese — he spent the rest of the time on the attack.
With audience members in the Republican gathering Wednesday at Tiny’s Restaurant urging him on, Hayworth proclaimed himself the “consistent conservative,” and McCain a closet “progressive” who sounds conservative only during elections.
“The problem is not that John likes Hillary Clinton, the problem is that he sounds like Hillary Clinton,” said Hayworth.
“I’m going to try to stay positive, I haven’t used the ‘L’ word,” said Hayworth. “I’m running a positive campaign.”
However, he soon observed that “John comes comes home and campaigns as a conservative, but goes back to Washington and legislates like a liberal.”
In fact, Hayworth turned even the word “progressive” into an epithet, to the vocal approval of many among the roughly 70 Republican Party activists gathered for the breakfast meeting.
Ironically, Hayworth blasted McCain for criticizing him in radio ads, saying McCain’s “scorched earth, scorn, venom and vitriol are reserved for a conservative.”
Hayworth chastised McCain for supporting the closure of a prison for terrorism suspects in Cuba as well as his opposition to using torture to extract information from prisoners. McCain has repeatedly criticized the use of torture on prisoners as not likely to yield useful information, but very likely to damage the nation’s reputation and influence.
Hayworth said McCain had as a result become “President Obama’s enabler,” who he termed the “most radical president ever to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Hayworth also decried the idea that one of the men believed responsible for planning the 911 attacks should be tried in a New York City courtroom.
“Those two radicals,” he said of Obama and the U.S. attorney general, “came up with the idea to put them on trial. How shameful, how stupid, how suicidal.”
As it happens, Tucson Vice Mayor Glassman — stumping for the nomination on the Democratic side — came to McCain’s defense.
“I find it atrocious that J.D. Hayworth would attack John McCain on the issue of torture. I disagree with McCain on a host of issues, but I do not question his patriotism — the same patriotism he was once tortured to publicly denounce.
Hayworth also offered scathing criticism of McCain’s support for a $850 billion bailout of major banks, which included some $150 billion in “earmarks” for projects in specific districts.
Many economists have credited the bank bailout with preventing a collapse of global credit markets, which at the time, many experts feared would cause an already catastrophic recession to morph into another Great Depression. The banks quickly stabilized and have since repaid most of the bailout money. However, they also have reaped huge profits and awarded bailed-out executives with huge bonuses — triggering populist outrage across the country.
Hayworth lacerated McCain for supporting the bank bailout, which included earmarks to win support of wavering senators.
McCain has crusaded for years to end the practice of inserting money for local projects into unrelated spending bills as a way of buying votes.
“He’s a sworn opponent of earmarks and he tells us the vote was an obscenity. But he voted for it anyway. That was his choice. He has his reasons. But for you and me, that meant $850 billion out of our pockets,” concluded Hayworth, without noting how much the banks have already paid back.
Later, he castigated McCain for a campaign ad criticizing Hayworth while in Congress for voting in favor an appropriations bill that included money to kill snakes in Guam — without noting in the ad that McCain also voted for the bill.
“A half truth, in essence, is a full untruth,” concluded Hayworth. “But after a quarter century in Washington, it seems John honestly believes there’s one set of rules for John McCain and another set for the rest of us.”
In the course of Hayworth’s wide ranging attack, he also faulted McCain for backing a comprehensive reform of the immigration laws that would have made it possible for millions of people with jobs and clean records who had been living in the country illegally for years to eventually qualify for citizenship, for a suggestion during his presidential campaign that the government provide up to $300 billion to buy up mortgages to keep people in their homes, and for not doing more to block Democratic initiatives like health care reform.
Hayworth noted that if he’d been in the Senate, he would have invoked a rarely used provision to require the clerk to read aloud the entire 2,000-page health care reform bill, which he declared an “abomination.”
Hayworth said that if elected he would only serve two terms.
“I’m not there to be part of the leadership,” he said. “I do not want to become part of the Washington establishment and overstay my time in Washington.”