International Writers Magazine: Reality Check with JC
the Real John McCain stand up
that the Democratic Party's sixteen-month hissy fit winds to a merciful
close, the electorate will be forced to ask the absentee Republican
candidate for his credentials. Trouble is they are not of the usual
tried-and-true variety. The charming confusion that is John Sidney
McCain III's political biography is anything but ordinary. And as
I write this, it continues to stew, creating a daily definition
that begs the obvious question: Who the hell is John McCain really?
one with a lick of sense can argue that the Arizona senator and presumptive
GOP presidential nominee tiptoes across the thinnest of campaign tightropes.
He is a Republican in a political season that rates the very term with
extreme prejudice. For six of the last eight years his party has been
at the helm of some trying times, a good portion of them circumstantial,
others self-inflicted. He has also been a major part of this ride, in
some cases leading the vocal charge for an unprecedented domestic and
international litany of train wrecks, which fairly brands him with the
blame. Still other times he was battling the status quo with contrarian
bills and harsh criticism of its leaders, which equally brands him a
For good or ill, McCain must combine these peculiarly
fascinating and perhaps instructively unique dualities and find a way
to traverse his way through the most difficult of strides: Distance
himself from the currently doomed Washington atmosphere and rally the
very troops who stand accused of screwing everything up.
This is not an easy balancing act for a congressman, much
less a presidential candidate. It is why McCain appears at times like
a stalwart maverick and others like he is a blithering idiot, the latter
popping up more frequently since the Democrats have all-but decided
on his opponent.
When he excoriates rivals for views he himself espoused
a few years earlier, whether it is on the Iraq occupation or tax cuts
or negotiating with foreign nations not jiving with the American world
plan, McCain looks like a pandering hack. When he's making bold statements
about changing the tone of previous elections that appeared petty and
vicious by staying above the fray, but then when things get juicy, as
in the turbulent weeks following the now-infamous Reverend Wright fiasco,
he jumps to question a candidate's integrity, he looks desperately silly.
This is a shame; because part of the McCain appeal is
that he is anything but a pandering hack or desperately silly. His record,
for the most part, shows he has stood by principle even when it looked
like political suicide, as in his repeated public mockery of the bungled
Iraq war policies devised by the obviously mad Donald Rumsfeld, whom
he berated vehemently in public for close to two years. Later, when
he was wallowing in primary purgatory, flat broke and without a hint
of legitimate press coverage, his defense of the dubious troop surge
in Iraq seemed like the final nail in his campaign's coffin.
McCain has gambled where few politicians of this age have
gambled, heading up questionably deduced crusades outside the mainstream
and across the ideological aisle with like-minded legislators who believed
that campaign finances were becoming counter-productive to the electoral
process, the executive branch of government should be given the override
veto power to curtail federal spending, a bating of the powerful tobacco
lobby was long overdo, a reduction of greenhouse gases by big business
was paramount, and the monitoring of the senate's filibuster stranglehold
in judicial nominee process was a much-needed self policing of congress.
This is a man who at once rattled the sabers of military
might while railing against the use of torture in any manner. He questioned
the long-range wisdom of the original Bush tax cuts and worked with
the much-despised ultra-liberal lion, Ted Kennedy on immigration reform.
When he was torn to pieces during his 2000 presidential campaign by
a burgeoning Texas smear-machine, he dusted himself off and during the
general election hugged the soon-to-be president like a long-lost brother.
Four years later, however, he would deride the same army of political
hit men and his party's privately funded muckrakers in a staunch defense
of fellow Viet Nam vet John Kerry.
McCain is also two sides of the personality coin: An über-serious
war veteran of imprisonment and torture, who has dubbed himself "the
worst nightmare" for America's enemies, who often displays a playfully
self-effacing sense of humor. He speaks like a hawkish macho man to
the NRA and meets with lunatic Christian cult preachers, then pivots
to jive with liberal joke-factories like The Daily Show and Saturday
Night Live. He winks at the Right Wing of his constituencies with talk
of conservative judges, but derides any notion of crazy amendments to
ban gay marriage.
During the final weeks of his successful Lazarus-like
rising from primary oblivion, he battled every conservative talk show
host imaginable -- many still refusing to back his candidacy -- a vocal
pogrom that may ride into November now that a Clinton is no longer a
threat. In succeeding despite not sucking up to performing party robots,
he has disproved the myopic notion that a Republican must pander to
the ultra-right of the party to lead it. Hell, McCain even called the
evil leftist press corps his base in 2000 and still enjoys their company
on his Straight-Talk Express.
But there have been signs of change on that front lately,
specifically when the media pounced on the ever-fading president as
he stared down the lowest approval ratings since Nixon in a speech to
Israeli hardliners wherein he compared anyone who even considers diplomatic
relations with foreign nations he's deemed "terrorists" as
an act of appeasement akin to disgraced British prime minister, Neville
Chamberlain. McCain echoed these mawkish sentiments, continuing to recall
Hamas leader, Ahmed Yousuf's "endorsement" of a Barack Obama
presidency as a de facto threat to national security.
Rightly accused of the worst kind of political chicanery,
using an official speech on foreign soil as a sitting president to influence
an American election, McCain was unceremoniously tethered to Bush's
usual verbal goofiness and ham-fisted public relations; not a place
he wants or needs to be for any hope of victory.
So John McCain struggles to hover aloft from "business
as usual", once a champion of Independents, the maverick's maverick,
and gather the rancorous base of his wounded party, while also forced
to upset the Change Agent, Hope Movement of Barack Obama, who has systematically
stomped on the heretofore immutable laws of Democratic Party politics
by ignoring the socialist-minded working class special interest lobby
to create his own uncharted path to the White House.
It is a difficult and thorny trek laden with social, political
and philosophical minefields. At some point the 71 year-old senator
of 26 years will have to figure out which McCain is best suited for
the trip, and when he decides who that is, then the public can vote
© James Campoion May 23rd 2008
James Campion on Election'08
Race, Gender & The New Frontier
cultural landslide that has sprung from the 2008 Democratic primary
race is nothing short of historic. Nothing about it can be measured
by the past.
Make A Deal
James Campion - Election '08
unrecognizable stench of bitter and lasting defeat draped the air. And
for the first time, deep inside Campaign Fantasy Camp, everyone understood
the initiative had changed.
Barack Obamas Inability To Bury The Clinton Ghost Dooms November
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