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When Sainthood Fails: The Flawed Apotheosis of John McCain

In "April is the cruelest month" forum on April 28, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Few Americans noticed recently when a movement to rename the oldest Senate office building collapsed.. The effort was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer. Driven by what appeared to be uncontainable grief, he tweeted: “Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain; but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him.” This was, of course, the same Chuck Schumer who previously raged against McCain’s “Five-hundred dollar shoes,” decried his lack of empathy “with the plight of the average person,” and who, during the congressional bail-out mania of 2007, characterized McCain’s suspension of his presidential campaign to resume his senatorial duties as “nothing more than a prolonged photo op” during which, Schumer grumbled, McCain contributed nothing “except for an occasional, unhelpful statement.” Now, gripped by an anguish too painful, apparently, to conceal, Schumer recalled a different John McCain…the saintly McCain—the incomparable statesman whose tragic loss rendered not only Schumer, but every news anchor, politico, editorialist, and show-business personality in America, utterly bereft.

Renaming the building was genius. Republicans would approve because McCain was, after all, a Republican;, and one whose tendency to break ranks with his party seemed oddly representative of the GOP’s weakness for breaking ranks with its electorate. Democrats would approve because McCain’s style of bipartisanship reliably advanced the progressive agenda. Besides, the building in question—an elegant triangular edifice in the Beaux-Arts style—was ripe for a nomenclatural sandblasting, being named for Democratic icon Richard Russell Jr.–a diehard segregationist whose bigoted legislative record recalls a political lineage Democrats prefer nowadays to conceal.

“Ha! Here I stand, while them idiots is out knockin’ over statues of Kate Smith!”

User sabotage–again!

But the impulse died aborning. Schumer’s resolution never gained traction, probably because he never actually bothered introducing it. Ultimately, the only institution to officialize the name change was Google, which impishly contrived to have all searches for the Russell Building return information about “the McCain Senate Office Building,” until the resultant confusion incurred waves of protest, whereupon Google dropped the effort and blamed the matter on “user sabotage.”

The Russell Senate Office Building–briefly renamed by GOOGLE-invading saboteurs.

The principled conservative…

Schumer’s beau geste fizzled for the same reason McCain’s secular sainthood proved ephemeral: The nation’s brief bout of McCain-o-mania sprang from an unholy alliance of  Democratic Leftists, GOP moderates, and disenfranchised conservatives, bound by a common appreciation of McCain’s postmortem utility as a foil to Donald Trump. In life, McCain’s usefulness to liberals stemmed from his fondness for “going maverick,” or rather, for thumbing his nose at his party’s leadership and swerving leftwards. If death lowered the curtain on his legislative rascality, it afforded the Senator a brief afterlife as a makeshift heirogram–an effigy held aloft to rally the righteous and depose the Great Usurper. Saintly McCain became the Anti-Trump—the “principled conservative”–always poised to spring across the aisle to engineer some new compromise thwarting border security, upholding Obamacare, frustrating the Christian Right, advancing Gay marriage, or combating planetary destruction.

One swampy morning….

Nothing says “kumbaya” like a good funeral!

Put another way, McCain was cast as  Ahura Mazda, Trump as Ahriman. The mythic juxtaposition–light versus darkness–was advanced, implicitly or explicitly, in every media treatment of the Senator’s passing. TIME drove the point home for readers too dimwitted to catch on by themselves, explaining that, “While President Donald Trump had been notably excluded from the [funeral service], it was clear many of the speakers — from both political parties — had him on their minds as they mourned McCain, a political giant who died after a brutal fight with brain cancer.” Just as perceptively, if more giddily, The New Yorker described the funeral as “the biggest resistance meeting yet,” noting it “was all about a rebuke to the pointedly uninvited current President of the United States, which was exactly how McCain had planned it.” Absent, apparently, any awareness of paronomasia, The New Yorker nailed the atmospherics, reporting that McCain’s funeral took place on a “swampy Saturday morning.”

As if…

If death made McCain indispensable in the short term, it also ended his usefulness as a walking, talking media prop.  Democrats had no real interest in pursuing the man’s deification, and Republicans sensed the inadvisability of affronting 623 million Trump voters.  Newscasters pivoted from hagiography to slander, professing disbelief that even so infamous a bunch of haters as the political Right would deny John McCain—statesman, war hero, champion of Senatorial outreach—praise on the event of his passing. Anchors frowned over remarks about the Senator that seemed insufficiently fulsome, wondering aloud if they constituted “hate speech.” Even Leftist Kelly Hayes recoiled at the uniform saccharinity, “As if telling the full, truthful story of his life and career were an insult to the senator and his loved ones.” As if, for that matter, the point even required “as if.”

Gregory Green-Ass, the early years….

Granddad, Dad, and Gregory Greenass.

McCain’s family was naval–his father and grandfather both four-star admirals. In keeping with expectations, he entered the Naval Academy, graduating 894th in a class of 899. Proceeding to the Pensacola Naval Air Station McCain quickly earned a reputation as “a sub-par flier” and a partier. By his own admission he “did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer.” Barely passing flight school, he crashed two airplanes after graduating, and damaged a third.  In Spain, he attempted to fly his A-1 fighter-bomber between a pair of electrical pylons, hitting one in the process and knocking out power for thousands. In his autobiography he wrote “My daredevil clowning had cut off electricity to a great many Spanish homes, and created a small international incident.” Reassigned to a cushy diplomatic post, McCain laudably volunteered for combat in Vietnam. Assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, he flew 23 combat missions over Vietnam, making him a true war hero by any reasonable standard–but 23 missions were far fewer than most pilots aboard the Oriskany had flown, thus McCain was dubbed “Gregory Green-Ass.”

A true war hero with 23 combat missions.

“Jousting with Charlie and… Triple A?”

With the possible exception of the senior Bush, John McCain is the politician most famous for being shot down. During a bombing raid on a North Vietnamese hydroelectric plant, he deviated from tactical convention on approach. “I knew I should roll out and fly evasive maneuvers,” he wrote, “…but I was just about to release my bombs…and had I started jinking…I would have never had the time nor, probably, the nerve to go back…” at which point, according to McCain, “I released my bombs, then pulled back the stick….in the instant before my plane reacted, a SAM blew my right wing off.” Except, it didn’t. Other pilots flying the mission unanimously reported anti-aircraft fire, not a surface-to-air missile, blew the the wing off McCain’s A-4E Skyhawk. Why McCain always insisted he was hit by a SAM is perhaps an issue best left to psychoanalysts–but the official Navy report is unambiguous; he was hit by “AAA fire,” not a missile.

An A-4 Skyhawk–with both wings.

Hanoi John

Welcome to North Vietnam!

McCain again flouted protocol bailing out. Pilots were taught a specific procedure for ejecting from a stricken A-4E, but McCain ignored it. As a result, he broke both arms and his right leg even before angry North Vietnamese fished him out of Truc Bach Lake.  This later paid unexpected dividends when voters assumed news footage of the imprisoned McCain hobbling on crutches or trussed up in casts amounted to evidence of torture. In fact, as he concedes in his memoirs, McCain immediately offered information to his captors in exchange for hospitalization. Bad form, but of little practical consequence; even the toughest pilots broke at the “Hanoi Hilton,” and there is no doubt McCain was tortured and beaten, although he later wrote his treatment was “less harsh than might be accorded other prisoners,” because of “the propaganda value the Vietnamese placed on possessing me.”

Mostly self-inflicted.

McCain famously rejected an offer of early release–an offer the communists made because his father was a full admiral. TIME concertized McCain’s version of events, marveling at his decision to choose “prison in Hanoi for years rather than accept a release he considered dishonorable.”  But this story, too, is equivocal.  The senior American POW in Hanoi during McCain’s imprisonment adamantly opposed any American accepting early release, and military code required the ranking officer’s permission. McCain, then, had every reason to suppose his request would be denied.  Obviously, he could have sidestepped regulations and accepted the offer unilaterally—but doing so risked censure and even charges of collaboration down the road. Thus, although the story of McCain refusing early release is true, a dearth of workable options probably shaped his decision.

The Reaganite who schooled Goldwater

“Wait a minute, John–what’s with the hand buzzer?”

Released in keeping with the 1973 peace accords following five-and-a-half years of imprisonment, McCain retired from the Navy in 1981. Moving to Arizona, he ran for congress in 1983, campaigning as a dyed-in-the-wool Reaganite. In 1987, he ran for the senate, defeating his Democratic opponent by 20 percentage points. As a freshman senator, McCain resumed his support for the Reagan agenda. He defended “Reaganomics” despite zero grasp of supply-side theory, opposed abortion, voted in defense of school prayer, and appeared every inch the Cold Warrior. Yet, according to McCain, during a private meeting with the retiring Barry Goldwater (whose vacated seat McCain occupied), Goldwater offered, “You know, John, if I’d beaten Lyndon Johnson in ’64, you wouldn’t have spent all those years in a North Vietnamese prison camp.” McCain recalls quipping, “You’re right, Barry. It would have been a Chinese prison camp.” McCain loved telling the story, and true or not, the anecdote was subtly evocative of a deeper truth: John McCain enjoyed kicking members of his own party in the shins–especially those who represented seniority–or, one might go so far as to say, father figures.

“And anyway, John–why would Taiwan put you in a prison camp?”

When Newt Gingrich’s posse of young conservatives swarmed congress in 1992, McCain applauded their arrival but opted out of Gingrich’s “contract with America.” Instead, he gravitated toward several top Democrats, including Tip O’Neill, Paul Simon, and Mo Udall.  He soon began voicing support for various social programs, most notably the Americans with Disabilities Act. The legislation foundered when Republicans, to McCain’s considerable annoyance, took umbrage at several of its zanier entitlements.  Nevertheless, the media praised McCain’s enlightened willingness to join forces with liberals, painting him as a beacon of hope in a GOP too long wedded to grumpy intransigence. The accolades were not lost on McCain.

The reformer….

Nobody at McCain’s farewell service mentioned the Senator’s first association with campaign finance reform, otherwise known as the Keating Hearings. It was 1990, and the Washington Post reported grim news: “The Senate Select Committee on Ethics today will open what are expected to be exhaustive and contentious public hearings in the highly publicized ‘Keating Five’ case…” According to the Post, the hearings promised “a rare tour of the netherworld of campaign fund-raising and its impact on Washington’s official business.” Of the five, the only accused Republican was John McCain, whose earliest associations with campaign finance cast him as a poster child for its abuse. Accused of inappropriately intervening with federal regulators on behalf of Keating, a major campaign donor, McCain took a beating in the press, but avoided more serious consequences by agreeing to confess poor judgement.

Approaching the nominative contest of 2000, McCain recast himself as a campaign reformer par excellence.  Crossing the aisle in search of allies, he found a ready accomplice in Russ Feingold, (D-WI). While McCain thundered demands for action, Feingold’s staff crafted legislation. One telltale indicator of the bill’s toxicity was the selection of its co-sponsors as recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. McCain, of course, was the real point of the conferral. The bizarre idea that collaborating with liberals constituted heroism precisely fit the establishment’s long-maintained flimflam that joining it demands guts.

McCain always considered the act among his proudest achievements. In reality, it not only subjected political campaigns to a host of big-government intrusions, but also increased the media’s power to sway elections. The Heritage Foundation called it “wrongheaded and unconstitutional.” Even the Washington Post disapproved, noting that “…perversely, the ban on ‘soft money’ left individual and corporate donors free to direct their funds to outside groups, where donations are concealed from public scrutiny.” In 2010, the Supreme Court struck down the act’s more odoriferous sections, ruling that, “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” The Left howled indignantly, as did McCain, as did President Obama, who managed to cram “Big Oil” “Wall Street Banks” and “Health insurers” into a single denunciatory sentence.  (READ MORE)

Standing tall against Big Oil!

The environmentalist….

During the ‘90s, McCain voted five times to defund nuclear research and scrap federal loan guarantees for additional plants. In 2005, newly convinced that planetary survival hinged on capping greenhouse gas emissions, McCain reversed himself and called for taxpayer assistance to nuclear developers. In 2007, despite a decade spent stagnating nuclear development, McCain advanced legislation to underwrite 45 new reactors in the United States, amounting to $3.7 billion in subsidies. To his dismay, environmentalists voiced outrage.

Some leading authorities on the threat of nuclear power.

In response, McCain announced senate hearings on “climate science,” (during which Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, straight-facedly congratulated him for “speaking truth to power”).  McCain co-sponsored three bills addressing global warming. Naturally, this meant additional regulation of businesses accused of greenhouse gas production, but McCain’s bill, co-sponsored by Al Gore’s former running mate, Joe Lieberman, included cap-and-trade proposals amounting to generous allowances for companies wishing to buy or sell permissions to pollute. Like so many climate activists, McCain and Lieberman obviously considered global apocalypse tolerable, provided substantial revenue could be raised in advance. The bill was defeated, after which its second iteration, relabeled The Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, was killed by an even larger majority.  Again, McCain found himself at odds with his party’s worldview, his frustrations soothed by accolades from the liberal mainstream. Oddly, during a 2010 radio interview, McCain solemnly denied ever supporting cap-and-trade–an assertion that, although factually dismissable, may have been heartfelt. As so often in such instances, the fine points of his own legislation may have eluded him.


Jake Tapper, pondering the significance of “other technologies.”

As recently as 2017, the Senator appeared on CNN, nodding fervently as Jake Tapper assured viewers that “hurricane Irma was more intense…because of climate change,” and pressed McCain to explain his party’s irrational opposition to what Tapper called “the overwhelming scientific consensus…that [global warming is] real and it’s man made,” McCain shook his head, perfectly conveying his vexation. In a less-than-perfect syntax, he sighed, “I don’t know because I can’t divine their motives; but I know this: There are things happening with the climate in the world that is unprecedented.” Tapper wondered aloud what measures might yet preserve life on Earth.  McCain paused, perhaps recalling the legions of incensed environmentalists dunning him for promoting nuclear power. Wiser for the experience, he assured Tapper the problem could be solved with “solar power and other technologies.” Tapper nodded so emphatically, one might have thought McCain just salvaged the unified-field theory.

The reproductive mugwump…

As early as 1999, McCain was softening on abortion, saying of Roe v. Wade, “I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.”  He offered the same canard in a San Francisco Chronicle interview, insisting that overturning Roe v. Wade meant forcing untold numbers of women to illegally abort their children. Realizing, however, that he could not wrangle the GOP nomination in 2000 with such rhetoric, McCain repackaged himself for the occasion as emphatically pro-life, even voicing support for South Dakota’s particularly aggressive ban on abortions.

Peerless

“So in other words, John, I am selecting John Edwards as my running mate, because you’re not quite hypocritical and sleazy enough for me!”

In the aftermath of “W’s” election, McCain took especial delight in playing the gleeful obstructionist to Bush as often as circumstances permitted. In the Atlantic, Joshua Greene gushed, “As a reform-minded foe of corporate welfare, Big Tobacco, and the Republican right, he is peerless,” noting that McCain was “Bush’s most vociferous critic, [having] voted against the president’s tax cut, forced his hand on campaign finance reform…[and co-sponsored] “numerous bills with Democrats…” In fact, after his primary defeat in 2000, McCain gave serious consideration to bolting the GOP. He even approached John Kerry, suggesting himself as Kerry’s running mate come 2004.  Challenged about the matter on Good Morning America, McCain sputtered,”John Kerry is a very close friend of mine. We’ve been friends for years. Obviously, I would entertain it. But there’s, I see no scenario, no scenario, no scenario where I, I foresee no scenario where that would happen” (read: Kerry said ‘no’).

The Rainbow Warrior

McCain’s ping-ponging views on homosexuality were dizzying. In 2004, he voiced support for Gay marriage, but shifted in 2005, supporting the proposed federal ban of Gay marriages. In early 2006, his views evolved in a fashion presaging the per saltum conversions later experienced by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  McCain now waxed eloquent in opposition to the ban, but spoke supportively of it during the nominative campaign. In 2008 he won the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans who applauded his recrudescent support of same-sex marriage and “Gay rights.” In 2013, McCain assured Anderson Cooper he had never changed his position on Gays, adding somewhat ambiguously,”I have admired your forward position and stand on this issue!” 

Anderson Cooper–pondering the implications?

The infamous GANG of FOURTEEN

By 2005, “W” wearied of Democrats sandbagging his judicial nominees, and urged Senate Majority Leader Frist to pursue “the nuclear option.” Frist began preparations to circumvent Democrat filibustering against numerous long-overdue judicial appointments. But at the crucial moment, John McCain went—maverick.  He and six of his fellow Republicans huddled in secret with Democrats, devising a “compromise” that would “preserve the filibuster”—or, less disingenuously, preserve the Democrats’ ability to apply it unconstitutionally to blockade Bush’s appointments. But if Republicans felt sucker punched, the media were positively aglow. The New York Times trilled “The bipartisan ‘Gang of 14’ that struck a deal to save the filibuster could start to be a powerful force for centrism…” Centrism, then as now, meaning that impulse–unique to Republicans–to dissemble capitulation as bipartisanship.  For John McCain, it was an annealing moment. He had stumbled upon the perfect formula for stiffing kindred authority figures without risking political damage: Hotfooting the GOP. The media called it “going maverick,” and the GOP didn’t call it anything, because Republicans, then as now, were terrified of the media.

2005: The usual suspects take a bow, the press goes wild!.

Losing gracefully.

That’s right, Sonny–and don’t get up, or I’ll REALLY hit you!”

If the 2008 presidential race had been a boxing match, it would have been the second Clay/Liston fight, except that Liston didn’t punch anyone in his own corner. Candidate McCain’s eruptive oppositional traits often resulted in kidney shots delivered to would-be allies, while Obama and his coterie of Marxian ideologues were spared even glancing blows. During a town-hall meeting, McCain handed the microphone to a supporter who told him, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.” McCain immediately snatched the microphone back and proceeded to scold her, telling her, “I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments, I will respect him. I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are.” Naturally, the establishment waxed effusive, and just as obviously, the woman misspoke, substituting “”Arab” where “Kenyan” was intended.  But many wondered what sort of political campaign permitted nothing ill to be spoken of the opposition candidate.  Pitted against a radical leftist raised by a dedicated communist ideologue, a parishioner for 20 years in Reverend Wright’s rabidly anti-American, antisemitic church, an author whose weird duo biographies brimmed with communist motifs and racial biases, and whose political career was launched by unrepentant terrorists, McCain could only shout his praises. “I have to tell you,” he assured another audience,  “…[Obama] is a decent person and a person you do not have to be scared as [sic] president of the United States.” Distracted, perhaps, by the passion of the moment, McCain neglected to add, “So vote for me!

Mark McKinnon–sending “a great message.”

Meanwhile, McCain’s senior media adviser, Mark McKinnon, informed reporters he would quit the campaign if asked to issue any criticism of  Obama–a departure from his job description alarming enough, one mighty suppose, to draw McCain’s ire–but no.  Next, despite helming the most phlegmatic presidential bid in American history, McKinnon resigned anyway. Campaigning against Obama, in and of itself, proved too much for his conscience, thus McKinnon bade the McCain camp farewell. As a parting gesture, he paused to remind reporters that Obama’s election “would send a great message to the country and the world.”

The next George Wallace…?

Old Reliable: John Lewis grapples with the “seeds of hatred” McCain is sowing.

If McCain was attempting to preserve his romance with the establishment, it was a fool’s errand. His media admirers dumped him the moment he entered the general election, and no wonder: They discovered McCain was a racist. His painfully genteel political advertisements were labeled “racially tinged attacks” by the New York Times. Bill Press of CNN denounced them as “deliberately and deceptively racist,” while Keith Olbermann, whose fulminations issued from MSNBC in those days, admitted the ads might not appear racist, owing to McCain’s diabolic reliance on “almost subliminal racism.” Georgia Representative John Lewis, always available to affect outrage when nudged by the DNC, traipsed dutifully to the microphones, warning Blacks that McCain was “sowing the seeds of hatred and division.” “There is no need for this hostility in our political discourse,” Lewis moaned. “What I’m seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history.” By way of emphasis, Lewis branded McCain an infamous segregationist, comparing him to Alabama governor George Wallace (who was, in fact, a Democrat, but never mind).

Iseman on CBS–“can you prove you didn’t have the affair you say you didn’t have?”

Worse, McCain turned out to be an adulterer–a trait the Left deplores, if exclusively in Republicans. The New York Times broke the scandal, quoting unnamed sources detailing McCain’s extramarital fling with lobbyist Vicki L. Iseman. It was fake news of the kind America’s “paper of record” would perfect a decade later, but it must have dumbfounded McCain, who not only discovered he was embroiled in an illicit romance, but one described as so lurid that “some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself.”

Why, those pork-rind munching NASCAR watching hayseeds wouldn’t know a true conservative if they had a power lunch with one at Charlie Palmer!

But if groveling to the leftist media was suddenly ineffective, it also made solidifying McCain’s presumptive base nearly impossible. Ironically, the only politician firing up conservatives voters in 2008 was Barack Obama. McCain’s strategists realized that while conservatives would rather vote for McCain than Obama, they didn’t have to vote at all. True, McCain made a point of professing his ardent conservatism on talk radio whenever elections neared, showering hosts–whom he privately despised–with folksy accolades on the order of, “Ahhh, your doin’ Godsh work, Sean, yer doin’ Godsh work!” But if placating crackpot radio listeners with a few disingenuous soundbites wasn’t closing the deal, something more was needed.

Palin to insignificance….

Nobody in McCain’s camp wanted Sarah Palin on the ticket. Her inclusion was a means to an end.  Unaware she was viewed as a necessary evil by a staff that considered her values and lifestyle primeval, Palin accepted the invitation to be McCain’s running mate and, as anticipated, provided an immediate boost in the candidate’s poll numbers. She also caught the Left completely off guard. At first, the ex-Miss Wasilla, and runner-up Miss Alaska ignited a national craze. Hair salons teemed with women demanding the Palin hairdo, glitzy magazines and tabloids made her face unmissable at check-out counters, and everyone wanted to hear about Alaska.  But then came the counterattack, and every conduit at the establishment’s disposal began gushing venom.

Killing Sarah

Late night comedians, the ladies on The View, Charlie Rose, Time and Newsweek, NPR, every “respectable” TV news network, every “reputable” newspaper, plus the usual swarm of glittery Hollywood ninnyhammers, set the record straight. Sarah Palin was a risible clodpoll, completely unsuited to national office, embarrassingly uncultured, frighteningly reactionary, cruel to wildlife, opposed to women’s reproductive rights, politically psychotic, and prone to uttering the most bizarre nonsense at the drop of a hat. True, she might be attractive, in a cornball sort of way,  but she’d  brazenly capitalized on that genetic happenstance by objectifying herself in chauvinistic beauty pageants, thereby implicitly body-shaming women the world over. Saturday Night Live did  yeoman service, enlisting comedienne Tina Fey–who resembled Palin–to impersonate her each week as a ditsy, inarticulate bumpkin.

Tina Fey–the reason every liberal in America still thinks Palin said she could see Russia from her house.

Then came the CBS interview. Were it not for Katie Couric’s finely honed journalistic skills, Palin might never have been exposed as–well–vague on the details of the Bush administration’s economic bailout plan, and even more appallingly, disinclined to enumerate for Couric what books and periodicals she relied on for information–a question every conservative candidate should expect, and no Democrat need ever fear. Those few observers within the fold brave enough to criticize Couric’s blatantly calculated hatchet job only stirred the anchorette to fits of righteous indignation. The former TODAY hostess shrilly ostended her journalistic integrity, a quality she reiterated on the Tonight Show while guffawing with David Letterman at Palin’s buffoonery. Shortly afterwards, Couric received the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center’s Walter Cronkite Award, which rather tellingly cited ” the impact the interview had on the election…”

Remember, people: Good journalism just slants the facts, but GREAT journalism wins elections!

Cherchez la femme! 

McCain adviser Wallace–with helpers like her, who needed opponents?

Who marched the freshly arrived vice-presidential candidate into Couric’s minefield? Senior McCain staffer Nicole Wallace did the deed. Overriding Palin’s request to enter the journalistic shark tank by degrees, Wallace insisted on CBS, and lined up Couric for the interview. “Katie really likes you,” Wallace told Palin, “She’s a working mom and admires you as a working mom. She has teenage daughters like you. She just relates to you. … Believe me, I know her very well. I’ve worked with her.” Only the last parts were true. Couric openly despised Palin, mainly because of the Alaskan’s staunch opposition to abortion. Why, then, would a top McCain staffer send her own candidate into an obvious ambush?

With friends like these…

After Palin’s media mauling, McCain said he’d really wanted Democrat Joe Lieberman for his VP; but Lieberman would have driven off Red-State voters–and was no fun to look at.

Nicole Wallace co-hosted The View, and works for MSNBC. She teamed up with Brian Williams (of SEAL Team 6 fame) for MSNBC’s live election coverage in 2016.  She currently serves NBC as a chief political contributor, frequents Morning Joe, and guest-hosts the TODAY show. In 2011 Wallace told MORE magazine, “Katie nurtured and mentored me professionally…our friendship grew out of that.” Sarah Palin, then, was prepped for her interview with Couric by an unregenerate liberal who was Couric’s compatriot and outspoken admirer.  Yet, rather than express outrage at such treachery in his ranks, McCain turned on Palin as soon as her political utility waned. Blaming Palin for the failure of the most willfully self-negating campaign in political history became a team sport among McCain advisers. In post-election interviews McCain made a point of expressing his regret about tapping Palin, grumbling that he wanted Joe Lieberman on the ticket, but was “talked out of it.” When he publicized his regrets in a book, Palin admitted feeling “gut punched,” but withheld criticism. When McCain found himself embroiled in a tougher-than-usual reelection struggle at the height of the Tea Party’s drive to extirpate RINOs, he begged for Palin’s endorsement and she gave it, despite all the cheap shots, and snarls from her own supporters. McCain ultimately repaid the favor by barring her from his funeral.

Palin’s 2016 endorsement of Trump obviously rankled McCain, who probably found it less amusing than depicted here. This once-viral, now conspicuously dated TWITTER meme is surely a contender for the Internet’s “most-embarrassingly-premature-and-awkwardly-unretractable miscalculation” award. Except, do they even have those?

The Obama years…

After winning the Nobel Peace Prize and installing the freshly rehabilitated Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, Obama set about so thoroughly destabilizing the Middle East that only a shamelessly complicit media could call the result “Arab Spring.” First, Obama focused on radicalizing Egypt. where President Hosni Mubarak, America’s longtime ally, found himself abandoned and all but dragged out of town by Hillary Clinton. Republicans should have demanded explanations, but Obama’s popularity left them dumbstruck. John McCain, on the other hand, spoke out confidently, telling reporters. “The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power.”  After Mubarak’s departure a hastily staged election handed the presidency to Mohammed Morsi, a rabidly anti-Semitic, Hamas-affiliated, Muslim Brotherhood terrorist to whom Obama promptly dispatched 400 Abrams tanks and a squadron of F-16 jets as palace-warming gifts.

On to Tripoli!

Having fundamentally transformed Egypt, Clinton and Obama set their sights on neighboring Libya. Citing the Libyan dictator’s terrorist past, Clinton declared Muammar Qaddafi an intolerable menace to civilization. In reality, the Libyan despot was no threat at all, having been pummeled into neutrality by President Reagan, who responded to the dictator’s terrorism in the 1980s by blowing up his air force, sinking his navy, and bombing his palace. Given time to consider, Qaddafi renounced terrorism, normalized Libya’s relationships with the West, and agreed to pay reparations to  victims of his past exploits. In turn, the U.S. dropped Libya’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. During the second Bush presidency, Qaddafi unilaterally abandoned his nuclear program as further evidence of reform.

Obama was criticized for shaking hands with guest-of-honor Qaddafi at the White House–but he made up for it shortly afterwards by killing him.

Obama acknowledged Libya’s progress by inviting Qaddafi to Washington, making Obama the first American dignitary to shake the Libyan’s hand, and the first to throw him a White House dinner. But no sooner had Obama’s guest returned to Tripoli than he found himself prey to the implacable—if often incomprehensible– wrath of Hillary Clinton, whose profound disapproval was shared, it transpired, by the President.  By way of emphasis, Obama secured a UN resolution authorizing NATO air strikes against Libya, declared a no-fly zone over the country, persuaded the British to impose a naval blockade augmented by the USS Enterprise, and fired no fewer than 110 cruise missiles at the country. For these exertions, the only rationale specified was “to deny the Libyan regime from [sic] using force against its own people.”

With Hillary in Benghazi….

Muammar Qaddafi, just dead after his whirlwind tour of Misrata.

Despite meeting with Qaddafi outside Tripoli in 2009 and promising him military assistance in appreciation of his mended ways, McCain now endorsed bombing him. He applauded Hillary’s no-fly zone, demanded still-tougher sanctions, and urged Obama to arm the local takfiris–bad actors already running amok amid the havoc. Qaddafi ultimately fled the capital in a convoy of military and civilian vehicles, but NATO aircraft attacked, killing 50 Libyans and scattering the rest into the hills.  Captured by the jihadist Misrata militia, Qaddafi was shot in the stomach, stabbed in the anus with a bayonet, dumped in the back of a pickup truck and driven around town while various factions took turns shooting, stabbing, punching, and buggering him. As the AP photos emerged of his mutilated carcass, Hillary famously cackled “we came, we saw, he died!” Libya, of course, dissolved into a cesspool of warring Islamic radicals, human traffickers, and drug cartels. Earlier in the conflict, however, John McCain dropped in on a “fact finding tour” during which he expressed every confidence that deposing Qaddafi would inaugurate an age of peace and tranquility for the region. He then paused for a photo op with a group of area rebels, telling reporters, “They are my heroes!” As it happened, McCain’s heroes that day were armed militants from the obscure eastern-Libyan township he was visiting–a place called Benghazi.

Standing tall in Syria….

“Da, Mr. President, da, your thoughts on geopolitics are endlessly fascinating–is that a Four-in-hand, or a Half Windsor?”

Obama next targeted Syria, already a terrorist state by any rational valuation, led by Bashar Assad, a Jew-hater’s Jew-hater who also despised America and Europe, financed aggression against our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, tortured or murdered political opponents, and routinely bombed or gassed his own people; but despite such portfolio enhancers, Obama mistrusted the dictator’s western attire, education, sexy, westernized wife, and the crafty alliances by which he assured his survival—so secular–so distinct from the fanaticism of a proper jihadist. Offputtingly, one of Assad’s crafty alliances was with Vladimir Putin, who showered him with advanced Russian antiaircraft missiles as soon as Obama made threatening remarks. Since a major loss of American planes and pilots over Syria would oblige a level of retaliation Putin knew Obama couldn’t stomach, the ploy seemed ironclad. But from Obama’s standpoint, a surrogate ground war against Assad was even better than getting NATO to bomb him; it allowed Obama to arm and train every band of  jihadists in the vicinity and re-brand them “freedom fighters.”

“And now that I’ve mastered the technology, it’s way better than belching or making farting sounds with my armpit!”

Unless one grasped Obama’s worldview, the Syrian action made even less sense than its Libyan antecedent. John McCain, however, thought it was brilliant. His support was instrumental in persuading the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs to approve aid to Obama’s freedom fighters. Only three members of the committee proved obdurate enough to resist McCain’s impassioned call to arms–namely, Tom Udall, Chris Murphy, and Rand Paul. During Paul’s speech enumerating the high risks and inherent illogicality of Obama’s war, McCain took pains to be observed playing poker on his iPhone. Once again, McCain ‘s only complaint was that Obama wasn’t pouring enough money, advisers, and materiel into the region fast enough to supply the “good guys,” who in this instance comprised a hodgepodge of militant Sunni factions variously affiliated with Hamas, ISIS, Iran, Al Qaeda, and Ansar al-Sharia–an Al Qaeda affiliate.

 “…that would be regrettable.”

Freedom fighter update: The jihadists formerly known as Northern Storm recently merged with the larger Islamic Front, whose name pretty much says it all.

Never one to sit idly by when impulsivity beckoned, McCain personally (and in point of fact, illegally) flew to the embattled region to “ascertain the facts on the ground.” Once in country, he managed to press the flesh with more anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli jihadists than Bashar Assad normally hugged in a fortnight.  The Senator made sure to demonstrate solidarity with the “freedom fighters,” posing with their leaders for several publicity photos.  In doing so, he managed to grin his way through group shots with such notables as Mohammed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, both members of the Sunni “Northern Storm Brigade” just back from kidnapping eleven Lebanese Shia pilgrims after undergoing terror training in Iran.

“Say–none of you guys are, uh, ‘kidnapper terrorists,’ or anything, right?”

Over the news cycle, the Senator’s office produced four disparate (and mutually exclusive) rationalizations for their boss’s unfortunate group shots, none of  which seemed necessary given that  McCain’s communications director, Brian Rogers, clarified matters when the scandal first broke, telling reporters nobody in McCain’s office had any idea whom the Senator met, or with whom he was photographed. McCain had no idea either, Rogers admitted, adding “if he did meet with kidnapper terrorists, that would be regrettable.”

Whacko-birds…

“Two things, Rand! First, I didn’t call you a whackobird this time–and second, I made it perfectly clear there’s a strong possibility your election was legitimate!”

During Barack Obama’s presidency, McCain voted in support of Obama’s policies more than half the time, while his contempt for other Republicans, especially any who questioned his positions, intensified. During Rand Paul’s oracular effort to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as Obama’s CIA director, McCain (and bff Lindsay Graham) pointedly walked out to enjoy a convivial White House dinner with Obama.  Asked subsequently about the efforts of Paul, Ted Cruz, and Rep. Justin Amash, to block Brennan’s appointment, McCain sneered that his fellow Republicans were “probably legitimately elected,” but were nevertheless “whacko-birds.” Why it took whacko-birds to resist the installation of an Islamophilic, pro-communist, serial prevaricator as top man at Langley, McCain didn’t say. Asked about his whacko-bird status, Paul told reporters, “I treat Senator McCain with respect. I don’t think I always get the same in return.” McCain soon removed any doubt by taking the senate floor to claim Paul was “working for Vladimir Putin,” an accusation that, if dumbfoundingly absurd, was at least less puerile than “whacko-bird.”

First blood…

McCain’s hostility toward Donald Trump dated from January, 2000, when Trump first considered a presidential run.  A media darling in those days whose political aspirations might well prove subversive to GOP interests, Trump enjoyed generous coverage. During an appearance on CBS, the interviewer asked Trump’s opinion of Senator McCain, and Trump, who shot from the lip then as now, mused, “He was captured, Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.” Trump’s Socratic approach did nothing to assuage McCain’s fury, but the Senator bit his tongue manfully. After all, Trump was a clown, undeserving of attention from a man of the Senator’s stature. 

Ask an honest question and it’s the end of the world!

“The, quote, Mexicans….”

A serious candidate!

In 2015, however, Trump invaded McCain’s preserve, officially entering the primaries. Even then, McCain restricted himself to reprimanding Trump for his quote “about the, quote, Mexicans.” The reference was to Trump’s statement that Mexico didn’t send its “best people” across the border. “They’re bringing drugs,” Trump told his audience. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Maladroitly phrased by any standard, the characterization blatantly transgressed the statutes of political correctness. An ebullient press chorused “gotcha!” McCain was content to affect concern–after all, Trump had slit his own throat–the clueless outsider was doomed to weeks of apologizing to notable Mexican Americans, kissing immigrant babies at the border–and even then, he was done for.

The Senator complaining Trump rallies fire up the crazies.

And indeed, a veritable task force of media doyens visited the full wrath of the nation’s elites upon Trump’s miserable brow, deploring his “racially charged comments” by tumult. But Trump’s numbers went up, even as his mouth remained in overdrive.  In Iowa, he further provoked McCain, saying of him, “He’s not a war hero because he was captured.” In response, McCain informed reporters that Trump rallies “fired up the crazies.” Trump, in turn, called McCain a dummy (whacko-bird might have been funnier), and aimed a twitter storm at the Arizonan. Again, decrees issued from the the standard array of incensed experts, reminding everyone that questioning John McCain’s character was prohibited, and tantamount to political suicide.

Detente

McCain, endorsing Trump for president–while looking less enthusiastic than at any time since Truc Bach Lake.

But by April it was clear Trump would slide by Cruz for the nomination. McCain announced he would boycott the Convention. Then he thought he wouldn’t. Then he told reporters he would vote for Trump in November, “because I’m a proud Republican and I support the Republican party.” Trump, true to form, reversed himself on the spot, declaring, “You know, frankly, I like John McCain, and John McCain is a hero.” In October, when Trump mismanaged a point about soldiers with PTSD, journalists seized the opportunity to claim he’d called returning soldiers weaklings. McCain, however, defended the candidate, citing the obvious distortions of his remarks by the press. Trump thanked him. For a moment, it seemed detente might prevail. But two days before Trump’s debate with Hillary Clinton, the Washington Post and NBC simultaneously leaked the infamous “Access Hollywood” video featuring Trump’s porcinely salacious dialogue with Billy Bush. 

Billy Bush–the bush leaguer crucified for Trump’s sins.

Smitten with equal degrees of jubilation and high-mindedness, the punditry unanimously ruled Trump’s candidacy annulled. Commentators immersed themselves in debates over which more suitable Republican should replace Trump on the ticket. Trump, however, apologized, and resumed his campaign. He not only weathered the crisis, he regenerated his mojo and forged ahead without further avertence to the elite’s established protocols. Flummoxed yet again by the cretin from Queens, establishment nabobs resorted to killing him in effigy–turning their wrath on Bush.  A first cousin to “W” and Jeb Bush, Billy was always viewed askance by his media comrades, but now he was toast. Officially aghast by Bush’s abject willingness to listen–eleven years earlier–to Trump ‘s lewd braggadocio, the Today Show’s producers fired him, after which the entire NBC network fired him. The hapless Bush regained visibility only briefly, in 2017, when he was hospitalized after being hit in the head by a golf ball.  In retrospect, the only significant casualty of the Access Hollywood fracas was the McCain/Trump treaty. The Senator un-endorsed Trump, declaring it, “impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

“Stronger Together?”

“A very emotional and touching thing…”

McCain told reporters he refused to vote for Donald Trump, suggesting he might write in his “old, good friend,” Lindsay Graham–a gesture so futile it made the effort of voting seem pointless. McCain denied any intention of voting for Hillary, but never made a secret of his admiration for Mrs. Clinton, whom he more than once insisted “would make a good president,” and at least once claimed “would make a good Secretary of Defense.” Producers of an HBO documentary about McCain confessed shock that he and Clinton were so close. “She genuinely loves this guy and thinks the world of him,” gasped producer George Kunhardt. “They both lit up when we discussed them with each other. They…genuinely love each other. It was a very emotional and touching thing from our point of view.” Anyone apart from producer Kunhardt shocked to learn John McCain was outspokenly enamored of Hillary Clinton, has been shockingly inattentive. That Hillary got McCain’s vote in 2016 is unprovable, but highly probable.

A Deep State of delusion?

Fiction author Michael Steele–selling the dossier at least once to everyone.

In his final memoir McCain acknowledges alerting the FBI to the so-called Steele dossier, this century’s most famous work of spy fiction, and responds to his critics with characteristic churlishness, huffing, “I did what duty demanded…I discharged that obligation, and I would do it again. Anyone who doesn’t like it can go to hell.” Of all the conspirators involved in the golden-shower hoax, McCain is probably the the one player who genuinely fell for it. His insistence that a staffer fly to England to purchase a physical copy of Steele’s fantasy, his belief that “duty demanded” handing the FBI leadership a copy (one of which they’d already paid for and obtained), his decision to leak a copy to BuzzFeed with no apparent sense he was passing along hogwash, and his wide-eyed eagerness to supply Hillary Clinton with the document her own campaign commissioned and financed, bespeak an almost touching naivete. Exactly when McCain realized it was all rubbish goes unrecorded, but appearances suggest he was callously diddled into fronting for the same coalition of swamp dwellers that beguiled and exploited him for decades.

The final eye poke….

From its earliest manifestations, Senator McCain vociferously opposed Obamacare. He not only voted against the Affordable Care Act, he voted for repeal in 2011, 2015, and 2017, twice riding pledges of repeal to reelection. During his final campaign in 2016, Politico complained, “John McCain is running for reelection like it’s 2010,” adding, “the Arizona Republican has made his opposition to Obamacare…a central point of his campaign, by all accounts, the toughest reelection fight of his career.” McCain told Politico, “Eight of the counties in my state will now only have one [health insurer]. They’re staring at 65 percent increases in their premiums. They’re very upset.”

But when it really mattered, the principled conservative threw the game. Reporting from the senate floor, Cheryl Chumley of the Washington Times recounted events succinctly: “Just feet from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, McCain stands, extends his arm. The chamber is silent. Suddenly, McCain cups his hand and with a quick flick, turns his thumb downward. Gasps echo and McConnell’s mouth draws tight. McCain lumbers back to his seat, and Obamacare repeal fails, 49-51.” Perhaps McCain’s terminal diagnosis liberated him from catering to voters. After all, his 2008 presidential platform included a government healthcare initiative similar to Obama’s. Perhaps he valued the opportunity to inflict one last spectacular kick to Donald Trump’s shins above keeping faith with his constituents. By any measure, the defense McCain offered for his double-cross (that skinny repeal lacked a replacement plan) is nonsense. The putative necessity of  swapping Obamacare for some bigger, better, socialist plan, is more reminiscent of Trump in his less discerning moments than anything McCain is on record demanding. No, McCain’s grandiose moment of thumbs-down duplicity was his final digitus impudicus in the face of…who? Trump? The GOP? Daddy? The temptation to say McCain’s true motive was interred with his bones is probably unwarranted. He probably wasn’t sure what it was either.

 

 

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