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. dyinglikeflies

    McCain got 46-47% of the popular vote while a President of his own party was in office 8 years with the lowest approval rating in the history of polling, and in the midst of a full-blown stock market crash. Does this idiot DeMint really think ANYONE else could have even come close to that?

    November 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Allan

    Well, since Sen. DeMint happens to represent me in the Senate, for better or worse, and since I vote Democratic, let me just say that I hope his Republican "brand", which doesn't smell very much like what Lincoln might have stood for, carries on into the next election cycle. If it does, then I suspect that we'll see a repeat of the last two cycles and the Dems will be in even firmer control. He and Ahmedinejad sound like bosom buddies until you realize they are talking about different religions. And his version of "conservation" and energy policy would leave us and our economy even more vulnerable to future disaster.

    November 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. Kevin

    Republicans as a whole governing collective have abandoned their party's principles. This is why I no longer vote for them. Ridiculous comment by Sen. DeMint.

    November 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. John Magnusson

    The problem with the conservative movement is they don't really know what they are. I always believed the GOP stood for less federal government control,some control on spending, a balanced budget and states rights. Those things, I think would actually attract the populace. Not the social crap and being a voice for big business, they have been in at least the last 8 years.

    November 15, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Sharon

    Republicans should not bring religion into politics, it is not and can not be part of a free society. It only draws attention to issues that are not the governments concern, and takes attention away from what the government is really to be doing.

    November 15, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. ndlily

    Goodness, DeMint should have stumped for McCain; those are exactly the things that might have convinced me to vote for him.

    No, Mr.DeMint, what sunk McCain and the Republican bid for president was the fact that he turned into the quintessential Republican politician, scare tactics, mudslinging, and all. He played to the conservatives in his party and scared off the moderates in our country, not least by his pick of an ignorant, corrupt, right-winger like Palin for VP.

    November 15, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Anthony Los Angeles CA

    I feel bad for McCain, Ive always liked him. The GOP and Republican party forced him to abandon his "Honorable" role, in exchange for mudslinging, fear mongering "Rove-ian" tactics. Now they turn on him, because we the people choose a more optimistic figure. Hey John, you may be old, but Im sure Obama is willing to put you to work somehow.. just check your Sarah at the door.

    November 15, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. tillzen

    DeMint like McCain is shooting blanks. The nation is broken by 8 years of waste, and yet the Republicans have less of a clue about REAL lives than they did 8 years ago. McCain just repeated those same hate and fear -based buzz words that talk-radio gives the GOP each election. 56 % of us heard you crying wolf, and to blame McCain when the Republicans are without plans is ludicrous. You lost your soul in George W. and you can dance the bones of Ronald Reagan around the room in revisionist history, but it still will never change the fact that you bring nothing to the table. Greed, intolerance, and fear define the base of the Republican Party. Spin that!

    November 15, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. John

    What a donkey! McCain has strayed from the Republican brand? The entire Republican party has strayed from their "brand" of being the party of fiscal conservatism. Bush ran up the national debt from 1 trillion to 10 trillion. Republicans went for deregulation and created this financial meltdown. Republicans took us to war on false pretenses.

    Democrats are the new party of fiscal responsibility. The "tax and spend" label doesn't stick. Republicans just spend and spend, with no end in sight, and no taxing to pay for it. You think war is free? Clinton reduced the national debt.

    Shame on you, Jim DeMint! Republicans in congress like yourself ruined things long before McCain was ever a candidate!

    November 15, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. steve

    This joker has it backwards. John McCain presenting himself as MORE conservative than his senatorial record would indicate...THAT is what cost him the election. The majority of America has moved past "traditional conservative values". It's only a matter of time before the deep south finally does the same.

    November 15, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Dixie AZ

    I have never defended McCain before, but DeMint is just another Republican pointing the finger of blame at his own party members. Sen McCain you should have dropped the Republican party a long, long time ago. I did.

    November 15, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. Liz

    No one takes Jim Dimwit seriously in South Carolina, so I don't take his comments too seriously now. It is the very idea that Republicans should run on a religious-based platform that has turned off mainstream America. So, I'll have to somewhat come to McCain's defense, although i didn't vote for him.

    November 15, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. AM in VA

    Great 20/20 hindsight after a Republican defeat :-)

    Let this great Senator toss his name in the hat for 2012 and put his money where his mouth is !!

    November 15, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. JJ

    Who cares! We all know that the GOP has lost direction...and it happened way before this election.

    November 15, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Sharon

    I live in South Carolina and DeMint represents everything that is wrong with the Republican party. You notice his reference to religious-based values. What he means is his narrow version of Christian values. I think the American people are sick of right wing fundies like DeMint. However, I hope he continues down his stupid path since it will mean another republican loss next time around.

    November 15, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Mark Farrell

    As usual the Republicans get it completely wrong. Senator Demint wants to blame individual members of his own corrupt and immoral Religious Right neo-con Party for the rout that effectively destroyed the Conservatives on November 4th. If you really want to look for a scape-goat then pick Sarah Palin. What were you Republicans thinking? That you could foist this brainless clueless relic of the 19th century on the American people. What happened on election night in the voting booth was not the "Bradley effect " but the "Palin effect" . Many Republican voters just couldn't bring themselves to vote for this woman. Americans want to live in the 21st century, not the 19th!

    November 15, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. independent

    You forgot to mention Sarah Palin, she is a cancer on the GOP

    November 15, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. David from CA

    This is yet more evidence that the GOP has a very tough road ahead for the next several years. The Democrats' worst case scenario for this past election was a John McCain candidacy, which the GOP seemed to back into almost by accident.

    The fantasy that the GOP lost because McCain was "too darn liberal" is something they are going to need come to grips with sooner rather than later.

    November 15, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. Marcos T

    Its sad the Republicans have to toss names around. They are all at fault!....Not just a few. Their greed and hate made them lose....not just one guy!....They need to revise there behaviors and attitudes to make a change. They all seem like a bunch of little babys at the playground. Calling names and such....so imature! Thats what you need to thinhk about! I didnt vote for John but dont just blame him. ITs ALL your fault!

    November 15, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. jim allison

    These people are still living in the late 19th and earliest 20th centuries. They have no concept of what America is now. They can only yearn for what America was then! If they keep nominating the Sarah Paylins of the world, they will never regain a majority in this nation again. It will mean the end of the 2 party system and that would be very bad for our country.

    November 15, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. stephen hymel

    I'm registered as "NO PARTY", the fastest growing "party" in Louisiana and the U.S. I won't support "freedom, religious-based values and limited government" as espoused by the Senator and most other Republicans when their version of freedom trumps the common good, religous-based values blurs the separation of church and state, and limited government doesn't value the dreams and aspirations of most citizens.

    November 15, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Craig - Hastings, MN

    Crying in their beer it seems. Got clobbered and are deaf, dumb, and blind to it all."Typical of a right wing nut case like Demint, Bush, Cheney, Palin, and yes McBush. I mean McCain. Talks out of both sides of his mouth and believes it to gospel truth. With people like him around the Republicans will be wandering in the wildnerness for a long, long time.
    Better yet! Maybe, just maybe the Republican Party will go out of business altogether and be replaced with a centrist type Independent party.

    We've got a great head start on one here in Minnesota.

    November 15, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  23. Bob1942

    If the distinguished senator is correct when he defines the Republican Party brand to include "religious-based values", then the party can forget my vote.

    Bite me, Senator.

    November 15, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  24. Tom-N-CA

    The problem with the GOP is they have turned themselves into a party of White, Heterosexual, Evangelical Christians with only two litmus tests; an anti-abortion platform and a hatred of all things Gay or Lesbian. Their numbers are dwindling because the American Population is turning into a more inclusive place than their narrow agenda would allow.

    November 15, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Chas

    If Republicans follow DeMint's advice, they'll become even more of a minority party.

    November 15, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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