Yesterday, Bob Novak said about the ethics bill:
Because their leadership has not cared for this struggle from the start, Senate Republicans will likely be forced to vote for this weak bill simply because they will otherwise look like they are obstructing reform.
There was however, one alternative, John McCain, once described by Hotline as "Senate Majority Leader, whoever is in the majority" is the only person who has the stature to turn what would be obstruction into a moral crusade. And that is what he is going to do. From the Hill:
DeMint said McCain’s national reputation as a reformer would help him and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), another vocal opponent, highlight the bill’s weaknesses to other senators and the American people, and could help revive his flagging campaign for president.
McCain returned to the Senate Monday night to develop strategy with Coburn, DeMint and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). He huddled with Coburn and Burr on the Senate floor Monday night.
So McCain is engaged strategically. And he is stepping in where the Senate Leadership is silent, and therefore complicit in non-reform. Back to Novak:
The question for Republicans is simple: how many more of their members have to go to jail before their leaders embrace the concept of reform? The motivation need not even be so negative: The conservative ideological position of limited government gives the GOP an opportunity to exploit a great political issue by embracing reform. Yet neither the prospect of several Republicans’ going to prison nor the disastrous loss of the 2006 election has weakened the party’s embrace of the earmark model they ran from while holding the majority, in which each congressman provides for his district or state according to the New Deal model of "Tax, tax! Spend, spend! Elect, elect!"
Not only does the Senate leadership not embrace reform. It opposes it. And it attacks reformers. Indeed, Leader Mitch McConnell has gone so far as to throw DeMint under the bus for his support of principle and ethics:
“As a result of that, none of our people were involved in the final product,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “But in a sense, we made it difficult on ourselves because one of our members prevented us from going to conference.”
It is clear what has happened. DeMint and Coburn have stood on principle. McCain is providing the leadership and stature. And the Senate Republican leadership is on the sidelines, in effect complicit in gutting the reforms and mute about corruption in their caucus and party.