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)
  1. Anna

    McCain joins the ranks of the few GREAT Republicans I have come to Admire in our Nation's history...following the political bloodlines of Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.

    This guy DeMint honestly thinks that McCain's rogue stray from the traditional platform on issues like ANWR and amnesty are what lost the election?

    Actually, he may have come closer to victory had his rebellious streak cut loose in his fiscal policy, rather than energy and social stands. In a failing economy, it's a really tough sell to the majority of Americans when the highest earning 5% make no apology for demanding lower taxes on earned money they will never spend in their lifetimes.
    Didnt work for GHWB, and again failed the otherwise quite admirable Senator John McCain.
    Shame on the Clinton era (and equally, its Congress) for leaving our nation in good economic times at just the moment GWB gets an eye for the job.

    November 15, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. kristopher

    You didn't lose because of those reasons. You lost because many Americans like myself, don't want religion in our politics, believe the SCIENCE and evidence of global warming, are smart enough to realize that "drill baby drill" in ANWAR wouldn't substantially change the supply of oil in the world market, and last but not least, we're tired of being lied to by conservatives who try to scare the uninformed with smoke screen issues like gun control, abortion, socialism, taxes etc.

    November 15, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. A Canuck

    McCain wasn't being true to his values...that's why he lost........and of course Palin sealed his fate !!

    November 15, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Jim S

    All this time and I thought the only problem with the McCain campaign was Sarah Palin, at least that's what McCain and his staff would have us believe. McCain may have been considered a Republican in 1998 but in 2008 he ran farther to the left than the liberal democrat. His disdain for the conservative base became apparent on election day when conservatives, other than those that voted for Governor Palin, returned the favor, showing their disdain for McCain and staying home...again.

    November 15, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. Jared

    This Senator believes that most Americans prefer a traditional conservative government? On what planet! Obama smoked McCain in the electoral college and won 52% of the popular vote. Ignoring this fact proves that Republicans are out of touch with the American people.

    November 15, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. Jim Houser

    Sen. DeMint can't be serious. His attempts to scapegoat Bush and Stevens are hysterical. The Republican party (including DeMInt) has been in control of the Congress for nearly 20 years. The Repube Congress wrote and enacted the laws and policies that raided the Treasury, gave billions to their wealthy donors, authorized an illegal war, de-regulated finance, and created the mess we find ourselves in today. Stevens has only one vote and Bush (the R. Party's own choice) doesn't have a single vote in Congress so how can DeMInt blame this fiasco on Bush and Stevens. The Rebulican "brand" is bankrupt and needs to dissolve.

    November 15, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. David Soriano Bradford, PA.

    I am glad Senator DeMint spoke his mind on this key issue.
    Let us prepare the senator for 2012!

    November 15, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Lurn_Me

    John McCain was your saving grace. If not for him and the fact that a lot of Americans DO hold him in "high regard" the election would've resulted in a bigger land slide. The problem was the right wing ideology of the Republican party. American voters chose to reject that ideology and the sort of campaign that represents the Republican brand of fear-mongering and distracting from pertinent issues.

    At the beginning of the campaign, before the selection of Sarah Palin (another ultra-conservative, female version of George Bush), I was one of the moderate Democrats who might've been willing to vote for John McCain or who would've at the very least been hopeful of change if he had won .

    Lurn_Me, Saipan, CNMI

    November 15, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. jerry rubin, Whitefish Bay, WI

    Sen. DeMint should be saying that Sen. Demint is part of the Republican Party.

    November 15, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. Donna

    This country has had more than enough of the republicians brand of conservataism...time for a nice slide to the left!

    November 15, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Yeah, yeah, yeah...the fact is, you guys ALL stood loyally by George W. Bush's side for 8 years, so you're ALL responsible for the mess you're currently in.

    But do continue–I do so love the sound of the GOP eating their own.

    November 15, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. Hawaii Grad

    "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."

    "Strayed"? Squandering a multi-billion dollar surplus, running an un-provoked war with no battle plan, filling the bank accounts of companies like Halliburton with no bid contracts, cutting taxes during a time of war, borrowing trillions from China to be able to claim that taxes haven't been raised, failing to rush to the aid of hurricane victims, deregulating the financial and real estate markets resulting in a greed-induced collapse of trillions of dollars of equity: strayed from the core GOP values? "Betrayed" those values completely , I would say! DeMInt tries to make it sound like the GOP was only guilty of not properly recycling their paper goods and aluminum cans! Please!

    ANd, come on: weren't all of these folks sitting in Congress while this was going on for 8 years? How many said anything against these policies before now?

    November 15, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Jim

    Since JMc held his word and accepted public finanacing, the bulk of the campaing money came form the RNC. The RNC held the purse strings for JMc's campaign and sent their message to the world. These mis-mashed politcal values intertwined with religious extremism are the kind of "values" that ruined the repubilcan party chance of winning this time around.

    Now, the weak links in the RNC (DeMint) are blaming the patsy for the loss and they will blame the other guy (BHO) when he institues radical policies that may just change the very core of this country.

    Republican should stop the blame game. They should regroup and plan a carefully organized strategy to reshape the public's image of the RNC. Complaining about the election results is not productive and only hurts the RNC's image. Stick to action, booting Stevens without knocking JMc for statrters.

    November 15, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. KC

    The shortcomings listed by DeMint are all what made McCain a viable candidate! That is, until he picked Palin. A truer conservative would probably have been beaten much more soundly than McCain.

    November 15, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. Tom

    As a liberal, Sen. DeMint's comments warm my heart. He clearly does not understand the demographic shift that took place in this election. Yes, Senator, old Southern white me prefer the type of government you describe, and Sen. McCain represented them well. But you are no longer an electoral majority. The Republican party will have to move beyond this base to compete nationally.

    November 15, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. Texas Teacher

    The Republican Party is OUT of TOUCH with this Nation! They are still appealing to the base far right of their party... we should have learned by now that they are NOT the moral MAJORITY.... but the morally hypocritically fast-growing minority! Praise be to the Creator!

    As we become a more educated populace, we are not so easily controlled! And that is going to be MORE the case as the years go by rather that less! We, the People, are waking up finally! And the Republican Party Smoke Screen is simply NOT working anymore! 🙂

    November 15, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. Gracie

    McCain burned too many bridges when he pick Caribou Barbie Sarah Palin!










    November 15, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. Saipanboonieman

    It seems like a lot of Democrats and independent voters have to stand up and defend McCain. It's a sad statement of the Republican party that they can't even stand by their own candidate, a person they voted for overwhelmingly during the primaries.

    November 15, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. Allan

    Mark, I agree with you. I don't know why I always get moderated. I'm not a flame-throwing anything, but CNN doesn`t seem to want to post anything I write. Instead, they post every type of illiterate, badly-spelled piece of Palinesque garbage they can find.

    And CNN, do you dare post this?

    November 15, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. yourkidding

    This guy is clueless. The republicans lost the election because their ideas are bad, not because their candidate wasn't conservative enough. The fact that people as stupid as DeMint run this country terrifies me.

    November 15, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. BABA

    I think the biggest probleme for the GOP is the exclusion ideas they have, the american people have moved on. If they don't change there policies of "conservatism", they will lose more ground et will become a minority underdog party for good.

    November 15, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. CAW in MD

    Senator DeMint can certainly believe that, because if the GOP believes that then they will cement their minority status for a long time.

    The Republicans will not win another election trumpeting limited government - nobody knows what that means, anyway. Everybody dislikes government, until you actually need government services, and then all of a sudden the government is just okey-doke with everybody.

    The Republicans will not win another election on "freedom", because nobody is against freedom, and the electorate I think has figured that out.

    I pray (no pun intended) that the Republicans don't win another election on religious-based values because it is just offensive to think that a) Republicans have a monopoly on religious-based values, and b) Republicans actually believe in those religious-based values they espouse. All major religions emphasize charity for the poor - does anybody really believe the Republicans do that? All major religions emphasize humility - does anybody really believe the Republicans (USA! USA!) do that? Many religions value the sanctity of *all* life - does anybody believe the Republicans (death penalty, environment) believe that? And the list goes on.

    It's not that Republicans are bad people - they have embraced a philosophy that fits on a bumper sticker, and that philosophy doesn't have much to say about the complex world we live in. Until they can look up "nuance" in a dictionary and take it to heart, they are going to have a rough road of it.

    November 15, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. Charles Mitchell

    Republican conservatives say they are for freedom, as long as it does not apply to gays or pregnant women. What a joke.

    November 15, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. Barbara Campbell

    CNN, did you reset the comments format and mine didn't get posted?


    From DeMint's description, John McCain doesn't sound so bad after all.

    Perhaps McCain will accept a position with the Obama administration, allowing Arizona's Democratic governor to appoint his Senate replacement.

    November 15, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Charles from Atlanta

    Republican has moved away from Lincoln's principles and the core of democracy. Government is of the people, by the people, for the people. As long as govenrment acts to protect and serve people and promote the goodwill of human society, and not abusing power, there is no small or big govenrment debate. Conversative by name, is NOT open-minded. It simply won't fit the fast path of 21st century. They need to understand why great majority of young generation are leaning toward Democratic party now.

    November 15, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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