Thursday, February 07, 2008

The ascension of John McCain

The ascension of John McCain, from presidential also-ran, to front-runner, gives hope to everyone, toiling in obscurity, funding gone, hoping for the “Eureka!” moment.

McCain’s presidency appeared dead in the water, during the mid-summer dog days of July. While no one, other than political pundits and a few bloggers were tracking the horserace, articles like this one were asking what went wrong with team Johnny Mac.

Today’s announcement of Mitt Romney’s exit from the race is interesting. Will hard-core idealogues on the right finally bury the hatchet and get behind McCain? Does their support really matter and are the followers of Rush, Hannity and Glen Beck as significant as these right-wing windbags pontificate to their listeners that it is?

McCain is an enigma. The “straight-talker” from 2000, a bona fide American hero, who captivated voters in New Hampshire (trudging to 101 town hall meetings), and also, the pariah, now persona non grata to the “noise machine” crowd, on the right end of the political spectrum.

I personally don’t get the right’s obsession with Mitt Romney. For testosterone-fueled white males, McCain should be their man. Christ, the guy endured a 5 ½ year ordeal as a POW that no human being should ever have to go through. He still can’t lift his arms above his head today, as a result. As David Foster Wallace wrote for Rolling Stone, in 2000, during McCain’s first run for president,

But the point is that with McCain we know, for a proven fact, that he’s capable of devotion to something other, more than his own self-interest. So that when he says the line in speeches you can feel like maybe it isn’t just more candidate bullshit, that with this guy it’s maybe the truth. Or maybe both the truth and bullshit; the guy does want your vote after all. But that moment in the Hoa Lo office in ’68 – right before he refused, with all his basic normal human self-interest howling at him – that moment is hard to blow off. The fact is that John McCain is a genuine hero of the only kind that Vietnam now has to offer, a hero not because of what he did but because of what he suffered – voluntarily, for a Code. This gives him the moral authority both to utter lines about causes beyond self-interest and to expect us, even in this age of Spin and lawyerly cunning, to believe he means them. [ from “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys And The Shrub,” from Rolling Stone Issue #838 (April 13, 2000) ]

It’s really hard to listen to someone like Limbaugh, shit on McCain, the hero. Limbaugh, a man who engaged in behavior befitting a derelict, destroying his own hearing because he felt the need to indulge in “hillbilly heroin,” and then, that “great American” that he is, with his “talent, on load from God,” vehemently denied it, until he got painted into a corner. This very same man who refused to serve, while McCain served his country and nearly paid for it with his own life.
[Note: Limbaugh avoided military service by having his physician certify his medical unfitness due to an "inoperable pilonidal cyst" and "a football knee from high school.” Ryland Meyr, his football coach in high school said Rush played one year of varsity football and that he remembered no injuries to Limbaugh.]

During the last eight years of Bush, the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping and Guantanamo torture, I had grown to despise Republicans. Actually, my loathing of the GOP had more to do with the sycophantic, post-Reagan revisionism, that’s still quite fashionable with the likes of Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher and the other right-wing choirboys. This right-wing talk show crowd makes you forget about Republicans like Olympia Snowe (from my home state), who btw, said that McCain was "as authentic as you can be."

Romney is a fake as counterfeit bill. The Republicans had a field day with a fellow Massachusetts native, John Kerry, calling him a “flip-flopper.” Seems to me that Romney wears that label well.

John McCain’s positions have remained steady. While he could have gotten a handler and employed spin doctors, he stayed true and steady on immigration and the troop surge, many on the right ridiculing him for it, now unable to get over it. But none of that really matters, post-New Hampshire and then, even more remarkable--his amazing running of the gauntlet, across the map on Super Tuesday.

The following quote, from Dwight Eisenhower distills the essence for what I believe is our political hope for the future.

“It is only common sense to recognize that the great bulk of Americans, whether Republican or Democrat, face many common problems and agree on a number of basic objectives.”

Colin Powell talked about a “sensible center.” I think a lot of people, whether they self-identify as either liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats essentially support the same policy positions on major issues. I consider myself a left libertarian and I'm fed up with partisan politics.

Still, because people allow themselves to be swayed by partisan idealogues, who surprisingly, get more than their fair hearing in a variety of mainstream sources, these disciples of division are able to maintain a following, devoted to party politics and ideologies. Meanwhile, solutions to problems in healthcare, energy policy and the perpetuation of the military/industrial complex continues, even though the will of the people is for better roads, socialized healthcare and meaningful education and safer schools for their children. [for more on independent politics, see Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics, by John P. Avlon]

The real example of what America needs is FDR, not Ronald Reagan. Only devotion to balkanized political dialogue coming from the Kool-Aid crowd, keeps the airwaves and information channels jammed with white noise.

I think McCain’s success and the rejection of someone like Romney, as well as the groundswell of young people around Obama’s message of change, indicates that elements of the U.S. electorate may be breaking free from a politics of personal destruction and a movement towards meaningful change may be on the way. I certainly hope so. It will take a herculean effort to reverse the destructiveness of the past eight years.

I like to call this new energy, around McCain, capturing moderates on the right and some of the new voters coming out for Obama and even Mrs. Clinton, “the politics of the common people.”


Anonymous said...

This should be entitled, "how to let liberals get their foot in the door".

Give me a break, phooey.

McCain is a nutcase.

Jim said...


You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I appreciate that you expressed it. Let me pose a question to you.

If in fact, close to 70 percent of Americans represent the middle ground, between the hard right and the liberal left, shouldn't the presidential candidate represent their views and wishes on some of the significant issues?

In my opinion, to accuse McCain of being a "nutcase" adds nothing to the dialogue and plays right into what I see the problem is with American politics at this time. Why would you even go to such a vicious, ad hominem attack on a man who represents something heroic, whether or not you are pro-military? I disagree with the man on some major issues, but that doesn't diminish my admiration for him, his record and for the honest campaign he's run in the face of a sea of naysayers.

Those are a few thoughts that I have, quickly responding to your comment.