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Other Opinions: GOP goon squad can't rattle McCain

It's been a kind of perverse pleasure to watch Sen. John McCain overcome the vitriol of talk radio's conservative goon squad. Despite vicious daily broadsides from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham (and their sycophants on regional and local talk radio), McCain emerged Tuesday as the front-runner among Republican candidates for president.

On Thursday, the senator's only credible competition, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, suspended his campaign, effectively handing the nomination to McCain.

So much for the influence of the talkers with the base of Republican voters.

In responding to questions about the attacks from talk radio's allegedly conservative voices, the senator was gracious and even extended an olive branch.

But why should he? Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, Ingraham and small-fry talkers taking their agenda from the big-time four have been so unflinchingly critical of McCain that the senator owes them nothing. His campaign, which a few months ago seemed ready for last rites, has been a resurrection story for the political history books. After his multi-state win in every part of the nation on Tuesday, he all but secured the Republican nomination.

And he did it without the help of the right-wing talkers. Indeed, he accomplished his comeback while fighting the blowhards' headwind.

The radio attacks on McCain were not merely disagreements about policy. They went after him personally and politically. They charged that his conservative credentials are phony, although a perusal of his long Senate record reveals McCain is one of the most consistently conservative senators ever to serve. They ripped him up and down because he's had the courage to stake out his own positions on immigration and campaign finance reform. Because of those apostasies, and the fact that he has refused to kiss their rings, the talkers tried to do him in.

And failed.

Ingraham went so far as to say that if McCain is the Republican nominee, she will vote for the Democrat, even if it's Hillary Clinton. Well, she apparently made a decision that's akin to packing up her Barbie dolls and going home because she didn't get her way.

What seems to be going on here is a serious nationwide repudiation of the far right -- at least as it's represented by talk radio's bile. The righty bloviators can't stomach a candidate who is independent of their dogma -- who doesn't dance when they play the tune. They can't accept that maybe their time as high priests and priestesses of the conservative agenda is coming to an end.

Whether liberal Democrat, conservative Republican or independent thinker, one can admire McCain's genuine maverick status. The Vietnam War hero has cultivated a streak of contrariness that has served him well in the U.S. Senate and now is serving him admirably as he seeks the presidency. The fact that he won't be intimidated by the overblown, self-important egos on talk radio makes him all the more attractive to American voters. -- The Forum