November 15th, 2008
10:22 AM ET
4 years ago

GOP senator: McCain betrayed Republican principles

A Republican senator hammered John McCain on Friday.
A Republican senator hammered John McCain on Friday.

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on Friday became one of the first high-profile Republicans to publicly criticize John McCain following his electoral defeat, blaming the Arizona senator for betraying conservative principles in his quest for the White House.

The conservative senator, speaking to a group of GOP officials gathered in Myrtle Beach at a conference on the future of the Republican Party, described how the party had strayed from its own "brand," which, according to DeMint, should represent freedom, religious-based values and limited government.

"We have to be honest, and there's a lot of blame to go around, but I have to mention George Bush, and I have to mention Ted Stevens, and I'm afraid I even have to mention John McCain," he said.

DeMint offered a long list of complaints about McCain's record in the Senate and on the campaign trail.

"McCain, who is proponent of campaign finance reform that weakened party organizations and basically put George Soros in the driver's seat," DeMint said. "His proposal for amnesty for illegals. His support of global warming, cap-and-trade programs that will put another burden on our economy. And of course, his embrace of the bailout right before the election was probably the nail in our coffin this last election. And he has been an opponent of drilling in ANWR, at a time when energy is so important. It really didn't fit the label, but he was our package."

Bush and Stevens, he said, had corrupted the party brand by expanding the size of government and engaging in wasteful government spending. Had Republicans not strayed from their core beliefs in recent years, DeMint argued, the election results might have been different.

"Americans do prefer a traditional conservative government," he said. "They just did not believe Republicans were going to give it to them."

DeMint said he would introduce a Senate resolution next week to boot Stevens out of the Republican caucus, and "force votes" on Senate seniority rules that have allowed certain members to hold onto power. However, DeMint twice confused Ted Stevens with Ted Kennedy, drawing chuckles from the audience of Republicans, who hold neither senator in particularly high regard.

"One of our principles is that power corrupts, and you need to disperse it," DeMint said. "And if our own party allows ourselves to be destroyed by this idea, and are not willing to stand up, then we have to change everyone at the top."


Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (711 Responses)
  1. PRH

    If Jim DeMint cries in a forest, and only CNN is there, do the rest of us have to hear it?

    Seriously, what exactly is he saying? That if McCain had denied global warming, proposed deporting every Latino immigrant, and done an even better job of scuttling the bailout, the Republicans might have won? Oh boy!

    Someone needs to remind Mr. DeMint – the candidates who proposed this kind of nonsense couldn't even win the last *Republican* primary, much less the general election.

    November 15, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. AmericanFeminist

    McCain didn't lose the election because he betrayed conservative principals. He lost because he behaved exactly like a Republican of late. Negative smear ads, which worked beautifully for them in the past, (John Kerry's Swiftboat, Max Cleland's Osama bin Laden comparison, etc.) didn't work this time because Americans grew tired of their methods. Add that to the ridiculous choice of Palin for VP, meant this was a totally disastrous campaign.

    Let's face it... McCain complained that Obama broke a promise about public financing. But, McCain promised to run an honorable campaign.

    November 15, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. Liz from DC

    I do not believe Jim DeMint is a traditional, "Rockefeller Republican." I do believe that if the party would ditch the wing nuts and get back to the Rockefeller ways, people might give the party another chance.

    November 15, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. Joe from Georgia

    The issues DeMint mentioned that he attributes to McCain are not what hurt the Republican Party. Are you kidding? They actually helped the party. McCain hurt the party by pandering to the far right voters, the ones who during rallies, made threatening remarks, those that on November 5th stood in line at gun shops. I don't think McCain realized that more of the far right attended his rallies until it was too late. What did he expect? He was espousing far-right ideals and using language like "fight! fight!". Those are far right words. Yes, that's what hurt the party because running a campaign with the rhetoric and strategy (or lack thereof) he used, he won the far-right Republicans but lost the intelligentsia. That's what really happened.

    November 15, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Bill

    And DeMint and that side of his party is why right-of-center independents are seeing less relevance in those REAL republicans.

    Signed,
    Man without a Party

    November 15, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. James

    Wow, how quickly everyone turns on you.

    Do these so called republicans even know what the party was founded on?? Abraham Lincoln would be heartbroken to see where his party has ended.

    November 15, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. David

    DeMint is obviously WAY out of touch with the American people! It's so-called leaders like him that have ruined the Republican party, going for "special interests" and meaningless "hot button" issues rather than exhibit true leadership like Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln.

    November 15, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. jack

    Jim DeMint is another republican who is out of touch with America. People are waking up to the fact they have been played by GOP leaders who's only ambition is to take as much (money) as they can carry away from anyone who is a lobbyist. The brand is broken and can never be fixed. Keep pandering to the christian radical right wing and all red states will turn blue.

    November 15, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. solid7

    Ummm, maybe Americans finally woke up, and got tired of the irony of 'small government' telling them how to live their lives.....

    November 15, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Greeley

    Oh come off it–if McCain was "the wrong man" then why did the GOP nominate him? Is that, too, part of some kind of "liberal plot?"

    Bottom line–the GOP ran out of ideas for America, and the Democrats offered a far better alternative. That's all it is. If you went to a car dealer, and all he's selling is old beat up junkers, and the guy across the street has new models under warranty, where you gonna go?

    November 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. David S. Robins

    McCain's betrayal of the Republican party relates more closely to his idiotic choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate than to any question of conservative "principles." All Americans know by know that Republicans have to principles except greed and corruption. Nevertheless, the one who really betrayed the party and may well have destroyed it is GWBush. We can thank our lucky starts that his criminal regime is ending soon.

    November 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. VETS4Obama

    DeMint please keep sticking to your ultra rightwing nutjob principles and you and your party will forever be in the minority!  This country needs to work together and reach across the aisle!  Keep dreaming about your "principles"!

    November 15, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Joyce Becker

    They nominated him and supported him so they got what they deserved. Stevens isn't going to win anyway, not a bad idea for DeMint to boot him out of the Senate, and himself at the same time. The party has been corrupt for a long time with Jesse Helms, Trent Lott and Craig. There are hardly any good Republican senators left and the few they did have didn't get reelected.

    November 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. Adrian Veidt

    Jim DeMint is obviously a bit of a moron.

    Did this election in any way *not* prove that the average voter is SICK AND TIRED of the standard-issue Republican lines?

    November 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  15. KR

    Oh Boy, McCain Could have really benefited from this idiotic but dangerous comment a few weeks ago. It would have certainly driven more intelligent conservatives as well as independents to his camp. Everything in DeMint's comments is what the country was riled up against. People are dead tired of these old rhetoric. I am now more comfortable say all the blame for the GOP election loss goes to him and his followers for shutting their eyes on reality.

    November 15, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Ms. G

    What exactly the GOP brand stand for? Senator Jim DeMint described it on Friday as: "represent freedom, religious-based values and limited government."

    So far the Bush administration has approved of a bail out, they have increased the deficit, they have increased spending, they have lied to the American people, everything religious-based values: contrary to that seems to happen under their watch. I don't think that the GOP now stand for anything just for their pockets, so long that they get elected. So far, nobody in the GOP stood up and let Gov. Sarah Palin know that her time for big time will be when she acquires more knowledge. I would like one of them to speak, for once, the truth!

    November 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. gc

    I looks like he won the primary becuase the repubs were tired of the morality legislation instead of governing the country. Bush isn't a conservative, he just sold them a great big lie and used JC to do it. What a sin.

    November 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. Good Person

    Jim DeMint is demented. He probably don't realize by now that it's the Religious Right mostly that cost McCain the election. Religious based values imply that those who are not religious are not good people and that's wrong.

    Around the world right now most hatred is being spewed by religious people who decide that God is not doing his job so they must do the hating and killing for God.

    November 15, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Joanna Carver

    Oh, please. All these conservative politicians and commentators seem to forget that the people chose John McCain as their nominee. Hopefully this means the game is changing, and that the Bush Legacy really has been rejected. A party that supports religious-based values should not be an American political party, because this country supports separation of church and state, and the touting of religion in government can only make others feel repressed, as well as the rest of us scared that this country is going to be overtaken by extremism AGAIN.

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. MEandYOU

    I have NO SYMPATHY for McCain or Palin, after the "Roveian" politics they played... let the slamming begin!

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. james

    this old guy knows is hate and disrespect. that is all about conservative repbulican.

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. Aaron

    Would you like some cheese with that whine?

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. otis

    good point. get away from the extreme religious right and go back to the principles of small government, personal accountability, and national independence and freedom

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  24. SD Demo

    I suggest a Palin/DeMint ticket for 2012. Make the Repub "tent" into a phone booth and keep the Dems in command for decades!

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. Beartrack

    It is just amazing to watch what is going on in, what's left of the old GOP. Attack each other now that the truth of what these people stand for is finally coming out. Instead of considering if , just maybe, their way of thinking is not in line with the majority in this country, they just blame any and everyone except themselves. This is what "lacking in character and integrity" means.

    November 15, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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