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McCain, Pataki, and Congressman Kickass

I highly recommend Chris Jones' piece on John McCain in the latest issue of Esquire which we have linked on the frontpage this morning. In sum, the piece amounts to a big sloppy kiss for McCain, but it's really entertaining and exceedingly well written. If you don't have a chance to read the whole thing, however, here's a taste of what you're missing:

At the bottom of the stairs, McCain is greeted by John Sweeney, a hard-right Republican congressman in a tough race for reelection in New York's twentieth district. Sweeney is a bear-sized Irishman with a high forehead and a baritone voice; on behalf of Bush, he helped stop the 2000 recount in Miami, earning him the nickname "Congressman Kickass." But now he is on the verge of getting his own ass kicked, dragged down like every other Republican by his president's approval ratings and a few mistakes of his own, including his appearance at a frat party where he reportedly pushed back too many Keystone Lights. Tonight he has called in the cavalry, and the cavalry has arrived in the form of John McCain.

They man-hug and climb into a car for the ride to the hotel. It is late, and McCain is starting to feel heavy-lidded, but he begins peppering Sweeney with the names of local members of Congress and wonders aloud how each is faring. For every name that McCain rattles off--"How's Sue? How's Walsh? What about Reynolds?"--Sweeney answers with doom.

"I think the whole state's in play," he says.

McCain knows this to be true, and he nods.

A big part of the problem, Sweeney says, is Governor George Pataki: "He's checked out, and everybody knows it. Plus, there's still that big hole in Manhattan. You know what his approval rating is? Twenty-nine."

"Twenty-nine?" McCain says.

Pataki has long been rumored to want to run for the Republican presidential nomination, to run against McCain long before either man will get his chance to run against Hillary Clinton. By Jesus, there will be blood in the sawdust on the floors in New York. In 2000, Pataki worked hard to keep McCain off party ballots across the state. That led to McCain's stopping his campaign bus in front of the Russian consulate in New York City and shouting, "Comrade Pataki, give us our ballots!" McCain eventually won a place in a race that he went on to lose in part because of Pataki--but also, interestingly, because of John Sweeney, who campaigned aggressively for Bush. Sweeney has been forgiven for his sins, after he supported McCain in his fight to rid baseball of steroids and to find better body armor for the troops in Iraq, but Pataki has not.

"I don't know anyone with a twenty-nine," McCain says, "who thinks he can make a run for president."

Ouch. There's much more, so do try and read the whole thing.