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. Murali Behara

    Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint in his comments comes across as short-sighted leader leading the blind. I'm afraid that this ideology can be described anything but progressive which is where this nation wants to head.

    November 15, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  2. Barbara Eason

    It's easy to lay the blame on someone after they have been defeated, but I always thought America was a free democracy and each person has the right to agree or disagree without being called a traitor. I am a demoncrate, but that does not mean I have to agree with everything the entire democratic party agrees with.

    It is my opinion that Senator McCain had a lot stacked against him from the beginning. He was running against a very disciplined younger opponent who out spent him and outcampaigned him. Also the economy was against him. He was fighting an uphill battle, and then he made off the mark comments; he showed instability, he seemed just a little bit senile. He is a good person and what he did for the country will always be remembered, but let's not start the name calling, I thought you guys were bigger than that.

    November 15, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. James

    Senator Who?

    November 15, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. The Big Sandwich

    Something tells me the founding fathers are crying in their lapel suits over that statement. That's exactly what we need, a government based in religion. I mean look how well theocracies are doing around the world what with all the oppression and violence they cause. Don't presume to govern my country with your religion, senator. Separation of church and state applies to you as well no matter how rich or entitled you are. Jesus won't fix our broken economy. Or anything else for that matter.

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. Kevin, Rockford, IL

    I guess John McCain needs to tell the GOP where to go... and attempt to join the Obama Administration before he retires soon. The GOP need to obtain some DIVERSITY principles and trim their conservative Principles. Americans are tired of people telling them how to live, who to love and how to worship. Self-Righteous People are no longer fashionable. Shut up and leave people alone!

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. DC

    Finally. Somebody tells the truth and debunks the lame "maverick". I begrudgingly voted McCain and still have a bitter taste in my mouth. Where are the real leaders with conviction, principle and authenticity?

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. Joe the Drummer

    I didnt know the Republican party had any principles to betray. The way I see it their only agenda is to give big business everything they ask for and take away everything labor has achieved in the past century.

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. Terry

    The RP is way off base, they need to come into the 21 century.

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. Vijay Yanamadala

    This is exactly the opposite view from the one the GOP should be taking. Returning to the conservative values will further alienate the moderates that were drawn to the campaign this cycle by McCain's centrist policies without significantly solidifying the conservative base.

    November 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  10. Matt - Pittsburgh

    If McCain still had those 'betrayed principles' which we all loved from before 2000, and Obama hadn't been running, myself and many others would have voted McCain. What the GOP fails to reailze is that they don't need to run on social values. Their boy, George, ruined their reform and fiscal responsibility platforms which are the reason they get votes from more than evangelicals.

    November 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Alex

    Thank you Senator DeMint! You just listed many of the reasons why I started out this past campaign supporting John McCain and by the end withdrawing my vote for Senator McCain. He definitely was not the same Senator I voted for in 2000 in his bid against, George Bush, arguably the worst President in US history. I remain a Republican, but we have to do something serious to get this party back on track for it's values of the past. Many of the Republicans of today remind me of the Democrats.

    November 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Nick

    It is ironic that republicans are blaming McCain for the loss, when his strategy was to play to the base. If he had been more himself (a moderate centrist), his chances would have been better. Republicans chant that this country is 'center-right', when in fact the last election proved otherwise. So going back to 'core Republican traditions' is just going to further drive them away from where the American people are headed.

    November 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Dallas

    Nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking. This line of thinking will only serve to keep the Republicans in their current position. Younger, educated Americans are no longer going to accept the social intolerance of this party. Aligning with Religious Zealots and the NRA is no recipe for political success in a modern, progressive country. You either move to the left or the electorate will continue to marginalize you as a regional political party.

    November 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. KC - Iowa

    The implosion continues!

    Bobby Jindal is the future of this party. He is young, intelligent, and well spoken. Even that may not be enough to reverse what the GOP is doing to itself.

    November 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  15. Dexter Skagway

    Here is the Republican Brand: 1. Make an absolute catastrophe out of the economy, foreign affairs, wars, individual liberties, energy policy, and just about everything else. Throw in some torture and a concentration camp. 2. Blames everyone else for the catastrophe, calling them betrayers or true conservatism, ignoring your own direct support and involvement in all of it. 3. No matter how wrong you have proven to be, you are still sure that you are right, have always been right, and always will be right. That is the Republican Brand.

    November 15, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. kurt

    Ridiculous. John did the only things that gave him a chance to win. The Republican party as it was, is over. It's a failed system. I'm a Republican and have been since 1987. I voted for Obama, and I'm glad I did. The Republicans needs to drop the right wing religious zealots who opposed nominating Romney, for example. I might have voted for him. But Mccain and brainless Palin? You have to be joking. No way.

    November 15, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. clr33

    DeMint is a pinhead. Palin and McCain, breaking from the tradition of the republicans currently overbloating the party are about the only 2 decent republicans left in the party.

    November 15, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. CAROLE

    Republicans could learn something from Senator McCain. I can relate to Senator McCain more than I can to Rush Limbaugh or the racist who called President Obama Hitler!

    **Look at a Repub convention and it looks like a WASP snowfall. Look at the Dem convention and it looks like a MELTING POT. Keep it up Repubs, you are showing your divisiveness and racist attitude. This will not make the CNN repub monetor, but hey someone has to say it. I also hope they make Palin their leader! Please! I see President Obama teaching constitutional law in a pic, but then there is Palin implying she is more suited and does not even know the constitution!

    November 15, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. Danfourth

    The Republican Party has gone astray...far away from the principles of fairness and equality of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. They claim that the party is the "Party of Reagan" but it sure is not. It was hijacked my the religious right. The party needs to find it self again...until then I'll always be a Democrat.

    November 15, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  20. Mark

    I partially disagree with DeMint. I would blame Barney Frank, Dodd and Schumer to the most degree for this financial situation. At the same time, I think McCain was just in a bad spot. He was fighting such an uphill battle, anything he said was going to be perceived as wrong. And what is Demint talking about "Brand"? The Republicans (which I am one) are so confused and disillusioned, for anyone to act like they had a better idea or to shovel blame around is ridiculous. Why wasn't DeMint talking about this a month ago??? I think DeMint needs to take a dose of his own do all republicans right now. As McCain said, "America has spoken". It's time to regroup...we need new leaders

    November 15, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. ronnyg

    Oh please, please keep saying things like this, republicans. Yes, be more conservative and see how many more independent voters you gather. Move further and further to the right, never mind the precipice you're already overlooking. Nice job, DeMint!

    November 15, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  22. Dave Niskey

    the very moment a republican tosses out george soros i visualize rush limbaugh in rubber pants dispensing koolaid from an igloo cooler.

    an old cliché never dies, it just hangs around in the rafters and throws rocks at you.

    November 15, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. Michael

    For this independent voter (who supported McCain in the 2000 and 2008 Mi primaries but voted for Obama), the "nail in the coffin" was the type of strident ideological nonsense that this guy is spouting. The Repubs have become the party of religious wackos and redneck white Nascar males. They are stuck in some distant past fantasy land and have no really good 21st century ideas for real 21st century problems. Until they do, they are and will be irrelevant.

    November 15, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Cat DS

    McCain was the least of those who betrayed Republican principles. Start with anyone who voted for the Rebublicans in office in the 2004 election who were well aware , after four years of Rove, Chaney and Bush ,that basic conservative values had been abandoned for big spending, no long term plan and plenty of big government intervention when it suited the ideological want list.
    Then blame current voters who would still sacrifice hands off government and fiscal accountability to promote their freedom killing social agenda, all the while shouting "Country First" to drown out any objections.
    Essentially, start with yourself if you are still voting for the leadership that hijacked the Republican party over the last 8 years.

    November 15, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Barbara Campbell

    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 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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