Monday, October 27, 2008

Still Crazy After All These Years

I finally read the John McCain Rolling Stone piece by Tim Dickinson that a number of people sent to me. It is no secret that I have never been enthralled by John McCain, unlike some of my more moderate (or even, heaven-forbid, Republican friends and colleagues). I always thought that he was a fake and a fraud. But many pundits (and friends) have expressed surprise and dismay over the course of this campaign and the John McCain that has emerged.

The Rolling Stone article should put to rest any lingering doubts about the Real John McCain. It's long, but it's a must read. As the piece notes, Make-Believe Maverick:

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

This, of course, is not the story McCain tells about himself. Few politicians have so actively, or successfully, crafted their own myth of greatness. In McCain's version of his life, he is a prodigal son who, steeled by his brutal internment in Vietnam, learned to put "country first." Remade by the Keating Five scandal that nearly wrecked his career, the story goes, McCain re-emerged as a "reformer" and a "maverick," righteously eschewing anything that "might even tangentially be construed as a less than proper use of my office."

It's a myth McCain has cultivated throughout his decades in Washington. But during the course of this year's campaign, the mask has slipped. "Let's face it," says Larry Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. "John McCain made his reputation on the fact that he doesn't bend his principles for politics. That's just not true."

After reading that expose, I searched my archives to see when I first began writing about McCain. It was not long after I began this little adventure back in the fall of 2005. In fact, one piece that was posted on November 27, 2005 (a month shy of 3 years ago), Not the Real McCoy, is just as true today as it was then:

What you see isn't always what you get. As a follow up to this recent post, The Company You Keep, this month's Nation has an article on John McCain, aptly titled The Real McCain:
Speaking of the misimpression McCain has promoted on both the right and the left, author Ari Berman says that "the senator they saw projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. . . . McCain [addressed a conservative right wing group], referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy."

* * * *

"In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL. Citizens Against Government Waste dubs him a "taxpayer hero." He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

""He's a foreign policy hawk, a social conservative and a fiscal conservative who believes in tax cuts but not at the expense of the deficit,' says Marshall Wittmann, a former McCain staffer and conservative activist who now works at the Democratic Leadership Council. McCain's ideology resembles an exotic cocktail of Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan--a conservative before conservatism was bankrupted by fundamentalism and corporatism. His centrist reputation simply proves how far right the center has shifted in Republican politics. 'The median stance for Senate Republicans in the early 1970s was significantly to the left of current GOP maverick John McCain,' write political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book Off-Center. 'By the early 2000s, however, the median Senate Republican was essentially twice as conservative--just shy of the ultraconservative position of Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.'"
It is truly breathtaking when you think of how far the Republican Party has shifted things in this county. Issues affected range from things such as how policy has become politics, dissent has been silenced and the media has become propaganda. The Republican Party has become entrenched in many areas of many states through extreme gerrymandering in various political districts. And the center has moved to the right in a significant way.

Even if the current crew in the White House and Congress gets indicted (and convicted) from one of the many criminal investigations currently underway or voted out due to voter backlash from an assortment of reasons, from the war, the economy, the lies and misrepresentations, the replacements aren't necessarily going to be a substantial improvement.

As Nathan Newman observed in a post on TPMCafe, The John McCain Scam, "One of the danger signs for Democrats that a Bush collapse doesn't necessarily mean much for progressive gains in policy are the polls showing that John McCain could step up and poll almost twenty points more than either Hillary Clinton or John Kerry in 2008."

And whenever you think McCain's not so bad, just remember that the Center for Republicans is not that far removed from Rick Santorum.


It's interesting to see that the names Clinton and Kerry were the only Democrats then on the horizon for 2008 -- no Barack Obama in sight.

And then there was PA's own Rick Santorum. Hopefully, John McCain will go the way of Santorum in the next week.

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