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

GOP senator: McCain betrayed Republican principles

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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)

    In the frenzy caused by such unprecedented GOP defeat, it is normal for sharks to eat sharks 🙂

    November 15, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. TJ

    DeMint is right. The only things he did not cover were McCain's frequent campaign blunders, such as telling his supporters to quiet down on the hot-button issues, such as Rev. Wright, and his own soft-peddling of important issues when he could have come on strong. He as a clumsy candidate who shot himself in the foot even when he was the only one holding a gun in the fight.

    November 15, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Franky

    You know, I think is easy to blame it on Senator McCain. Plus, last time I checked, the GOP selected him this year so I wonder what the GOP really wanted...

    I think is easier to blame Senator MCCain because he is in fact, Senator MCCain. I just don't think is right to blame someone who arguably was your only chance to win the election. I mean, who was gonna win it for you, Gov Palin? Gov Palin was arguably the nail in the coffin.

    I think is too easy to blame Senator MCCain...

    November 15, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Blue Dog Dem in NC

    Once again, Sen. DeMint is absolutely wrong. I suspect that Sen. DeMint (a Member of Congress at the time) was one of those responsible for the attacks on Sen. McCain in 2000 that propelled W to the nomination that year which has ben a worldwide disaster. Does Sen. DeMint believe this Type of Conservativism is good for this country?

    Sen. McCain is a Patriot and always will be. He has served his country and his party with honor and dignity. The Republicans losses this year aren't about Sen. McCain abandoning the "conservative" myth. The Republicans lost because they insist on focusing on such labels rather than offering a plan to make this country better.

    Unlike the Senior Senator from South Carolina, Sen. Graham, who understands that elections are about making the lives of people better and making this country better, Sen. DeMint appears to proceed in the conservative myth that if allowed to persist will lead to the demise of the Republican Party.

    November 15, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Lou R

    Another partisan Republican sounding off as if a potential Presidential candidate attempting to broaden his base of support. Also, he seems to be a member of the Republican throw under the bus crowd. DeMint sounds credible among his own kind, all 40% of them. Once again it comes down to the Independents to decide the Presidential "who" question.

    November 15, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. singe

    "One of our principles is that power corrupts, and you need to disperse it," DeMint said.

    This is funny stuff. The Bushies and their handmaidens in the Pelican Party "dispersed" power to wall street, the energy industry, the banking industry, the soldier of fortune industry and so on. What we got from this dispersal is an unnecessary war, a collapsing economy, wildly fluctuating energy prices and so on. DeMint should be careful because the dispersal's the American people indicated they are interested in a week ago involve sending him and his ilk far, far away...the Pelicans have worked hard to preserve their inheritance....and it is the wind.

    November 15, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. Steve

    The Republican party's random campaign message certainly provided little reason for support. this election season. The Republican party needs to revise the freedom, religious-based values and limited government. message because there is an inconsistency between (individual) freedom and religious-based values. Although I may individually hold dearly my interpretation of values, I do not want any group telling me what those values should be as long as my vaues do not impinge on your values. Individual freedom and liberty are the cornerstones of this country. Don't support inconsistent postulates.

    Steve, Harvard, MA

    November 15, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Diana M. Schneider

    While I don't think Senator McCain ran a great campaign, and his choice of Sarah Palin was disastrous (I did not vote for him), I don't think that it is fair to say he "betrayed" Republican principles. if these principles include not addressing global warming, for example, or keep pandering to the far right wing, the Republican party will have no chance to recover from the hole it has so diligently dug for itself.

    November 15, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Matt Johnson

    For someone who is a conservative more than a republican at the moment. I could not agree more with Senator DeMint. This is for the republican party members to listen to and accept responsibility for their failures. Lets get this party back to Reaganism.

    November 15, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. Andy

    It's not McCain's moderate views that lost the election. It's all the bible-thumping, immigrant-hating, gay-bashing, corporate-supporting, right-wingers that were behind him in the republican party. The only way the party is going to survive is if they all realize that they're going to have to bring their platform to the 21st century.

    I really hope that the republicans are able to take stock of this defeat and realize that they're going to have to start to appeal to a broader base of people.

    November 15, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. Robin in SC

    Hmmm...actually kind of surprised that Bush's boy Demint actually criticized him...he generally supports anything Bush proposes, the more fanatical the better.l DeMint represents the far right in SC, even more so than Lindsey Graham. Not surprised that he's critical of McCain, though.

    November 15, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. Richard Lyons

    South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is just the type of person we DO NOT want in public office, another right wing dirt-bag........

    November 15, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. TJ Johnson

    To be fair, Sen McCain ran for president just as he has conducted his Senate career: he was/is a maverick. He has pursued his own ideals which are mostly in line with Republicans but he has reached across the aisles many times. Also, the democrats have also reached across to him at times. Sen McCain has put country above party, which is admirable but it cost him the presidency, unfortunately. Even with McCain's "maverick" ideals, he would be a much greater president that That One who was just elected because of the Republican splits.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Vincent Petrosino

    But DeMint was a senator as well! Does he accept the blame himself? Every GOP elected official should do so! The basic premises of the party are dated, obsolete and unresponsive to young voters who are much more diverse, worldly, intelligent and tolerant. They put Obama in the driver's seat. The GOP must change now as well or die out and make room for a new second party because it has now become the party for whites only!

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Steve

    DeMint is yet another koolade drinker hanging out on the far right fringe. When will the far right and the far left learn that the real thinkers and innovators are those willing to come to the middle to meet the other thinkers and innovators to create real change for the people. That's where McCain is. It takes zero courage to run your mouth off Mr. DeMint, engage your brain first.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. pam Eugene OR

    You should put the blame where is belongs. It is awarded to Bush. You can't call a 10 trillion deficit small government by any stretch of the imagination. McCain tried "brand" when he picked conservative Sarah Palin for his VP. That didn't work out so well., did it?
    Yes, throw the felon out (Stevens) and make jokes about a dying man (Kennedy). The Republicans are a dying party with no followers, no ideas and no leaders. I suspect it will take them many years to regroup and they will spend a very long time wondering in the wilderness.
    Good luck moving forward Republicans. I can't imagine ever coming back to my former party.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Ben Malkin

    A feeding frenzy that will further weaken and narrow the Republican Party. If this keeps up the Republicans can hold their next national convention in a small church in Mississippi.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. TC Williams

    McCain didn't betray repubilcan principles. The Republican Party betrayed republican principles...they have been doing so for years now.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  19. Elaine Bergstrom

    Let me see. Limited government, yes. Limited spending, yes. But religious values (which women, and their mothers, read as no abortion but also no to many forms of birth control), AND global warming is not a problem AND we should drill in the anwar? Well, it sounds like the GOP has become the party of the old, the ignorant and the out of touch with our times. Is it no wonder young people are abandoning it in droves. Grumpy Old Party, your time is over.
    Sign me, a former GOP member.

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. GOP needs to go away

    What is interesting is that the complaints this guy lists about McCain are the some of the few things that make McCain appealing to most people.
    It is the nasty campaign that he led and the fact that he sold out and acted more like the other GOP politicians (e.g. bringing moron Palin in) that help him lose the election. If he had been more of a centrist, he would have had a better chance.
    Get a clue GOP. You guys suck!!!

    November 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Bill McGrath

    The Republican Party that I grew up in NEVER suggested that we should be governed by "religious-based values." When the religious right hijacked the Republican party, and attempted to legislate morality, I bolted, and now vote Democratic. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment saves us from people like this guy. The problem with his idea of religious values is that there is no general agreement about just what constitutes morality. Even among Christian sects, there is wide disagreement about what is right and wrong. Just whose values does he suggest we adopt?

    We are thankfully a secular country, and here's hoping it stays that way. The Republicans got shellacked in the last election because they are out of touch with mainstream America. Sure, McCain's inept course corrections and his choice of Sarah Palin didn't help, but Bush's deviation from the mainstream and the Republican's narrow-minded religiousity sealed the deal.

    November 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Sunil


    It was all the GOOD things that he did – accept global warming, try to implement campaign finance reform, try to reform immigration – that is unacceptable to the conservatives. The Rovian tactics, selecting an imbecile for VP etc. are all considered fair game and fine Republican principles.

    Keep it up GOP and you will lose the few moderates that are still in your camp. Then you will truly and finally end up as a party of white, ultra-religious men. And that will NEVER get you to 270.

    Good luck!

    November 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Ghost

    Nothing like watching a party collapse upon itself.

    November 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Phil Newton in Murphy, Oregon

    Blame whomever you want: the GOP problem is the GOP.

    Get back to us when you mean something.

    November 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. John

    If he would have stuck to the conservative principals he would have been beaten worse. The GOP appeals to too small a group of people. If he would have campaigned as well as he made his concession speech he would have done better. His campaign was just too negative. If the GOP stays as such a conservative party they are finished as a national force.

    November 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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