[Two things, here, and this is partly in response to everyone who says to me, "Gee, Riley, you must spend hours planning out these little rants of yours": first, I was never fully in the grip of Bush administration paranoia (speaking of things which the Psychiatric Industry doesn't feel there's money to be made by shilling). I didn't use the phenomenal power of this blog to warn anyone that they were about to suspend the 2004 elections, or that an attack on Iran was imminent. This is not to say there's no reason to think it capable of just about anything; I'm just trying to add some perspective to the observation that every time I type something about "nearing the end of the Bush II administration" it feels like whistling past the graveyard. While a bug crawls down your back. The other is this: I have a lot of things to say about this country, this culture, and these times that may be fairly regarded as scabrous, or the ravings of a comic, or not so comic, sociopath. Like all men, as Borges said, I have been given bad times in which to live. But, so help me, I could watch a Real World marathon and still not believe this country deserves the politics it actually has. Okay, that's not quite true. I could never watch a Real World marathon.]
I do remember watching George Wallace block the door to admissions at the University of Alabama (funny, though, I don't remember where or how I first heard that the whole thing was theatre; I was nine at the time, and it seemed vaguely threatening, like Wallace might be prepared to order his bodyguard of State Trooper Golem to shoot it out at any moment). I spent my teenaged years with Nixon in the White House, when for the first time, historians tell us, we had people installed at the highest levels of the Executive branch who thought "ratfucker" was a compliment. This was followed, far too closely, by the disheartening ascension of Ronald Reagan, who is sometimes thought of as Barry Goldwater with brain bubbles, but who I think is more accurately described as the Reverend Carl Macintyre with charm. All of this was embroidered with the figures of Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms, John Stennis and James Eastland, the desiccated sons of Jubal Early, and the--again disheartening--cadre of Confederate bummers that followed in Nixon's wake like hookers in, well, Hooker's: Lott, Gramm, Gingrich, and their Prairie cousins, Dicks Armey and Cheney. (What was disheartening about this bunch of toads was that what would never qualify as crypto-racism in rational society--they, at most, generally remembered not to say "NIG-ra", or "wetback", when the cameras were rolling--was, in the Press, combined with their collection of bumper-sticker slogans and a savvy about television presence equal to the average midsize-market carpet remnant retailer who does his own commercials--apparently, to the Press of the 1980s, any backwoodsman who had mastered the Teevee, or, for that matter, the mysteries of the electrical outlet, was a veritable Technological Pioneer--to form something New! and Different! and Masterful! and never mind it was a tenth-generation Xerox of what States' Rights arguments were left from the 50s and 60s. The disheartenment of Ronald Reagan, meanwhile, had much less to do with politics--those were bad enough, but, beyond his collusion with Democratic Congresses to help bail out the Wealthy, mostly ineffectual--and more to do with a desperate national self-hypnosis to the effect that we could stand Truth on its head, just this once, and, since we weren't really doing anything else important, all pretend to be dress extras in The Space Age Finds Andy Hardy. With Ronald Reagan as the genial uncle with the henna-ed hair who teaches Andy a lot about life, before stealing his car and running off with Polly bound and gagged in the rumble seat.)
So, y'know, to me McCain's a minor leaguer with bum wheels. Sure, his record on the King holiday is shameful, but, let us be honest here, in this he was at least following the will of what seems to have been every single resident of the state of Arizona with the possible exception of Barry Goldwater. And since the major newspaper in those parts was the then-Pulliam-family-owned sister to the Indianapolis Racist Star, I like to imagine I have some insight, however doleful. I have no interest in, and really little tolerance for, the standardized left-blogosphere attacks on McCain, which have come to resemble the worst sort of Kos diarist on a three-day sugar bender. He's a reliable "conservative" vote with a mule streak. He's used his POW experience to further his political career. Of course. He overstates his military expertise. Of course. His reputation as a maverick is overblown, and is contingent upon sharing his party's notion that anyone who speaks civilly to a liberal Democrat--even in the Senate!--is a treasonous rat bastard. He didn't just flip-flop on major issues; he dove into an empty pool hoping to impress the yahoo "wing" of his party. Yes, yes, and yes.
I don't give a fuck how rich his wife is, or if he can remember how many houses (s)he owns, and I don't care if he knows what ROM stands for or if he's ever opened a jewel case. These are double-edged light sabers, batteries not included. I understand the impulse to scratch and claw, and I realize it's worthless to tell anyone not to, but there has never been a plummier election for issues-based harvesting. Maybe the belated recognition of that will not prove fatal.
And if it doesn't, there's John McCain to thank. I may admire the courage of the politician who speaks truth to potulent mobs of his own supporters, or even, in this case, "truth", but I'll be damned if that speech last night didn't half convince me the man would rather rub James Dobson's nose in dachshund dirt than win the election. Which may be the single best reason anyone could have to vote for him. Or at least admire him, with grudge.
The man wanted Lieberman. God knows Holy Joe is ready to help sink another major political party. Instead he had a "conservative" "religious" Veep thrust upon him, and we might now speculate whether he choose Councilwoman Palin the way you'd check the point of a stick before jabbing someone's eye with it. This, of course, might have been made clear had the announcement been met with a serious, and appropriate, round of "Th' fuck?" when the Press knew the mikes were on. And the choice got away from him, and pooches were screwed, first in the vetting, and second in the fact that Commander Palin turned out to be a lying nutjob hypocrite, which, of course made her immensely popular with that 30% of Americans who still tell pollsters they think George II is doing a bang-up job, and, anyway, history will absolve him. This was exponentially increased by the fact that the Press a) pays what passes for attention to these things and b) loves a good roll in the hay, provided there's a nice moral at the end to make them seem less prurient. The result, you may have heard, was a convocation of white people roaring as That New, Hot, Cub Reporter read someone else's wordsmithery off a teleprompter.
And yes, this is the way it's been going for the McCain campaign ever since the polls started telling them they had a chance to win. And yes, one may have flashed a secret smile last night, watching as much of the thing as one could stand, at the fact that McCain would use His Night to remind the religious whackjobs they still had to pull the level with his name on it in November if they wanted that Date With Sarah to materialize. Or one might have admired his brave trust--which had to be called into question when a protest broke out (imagine, Reader, a protest on the Disneyfied American political scene!)--that not one of a barnful of Republicans had smuggled in a handgun.
But, y'know, he deserves those compromises he's been forced to make. If he were a real maverick he wouldn't have to, and he wouldn't be the Republican nominee. He had the standing, in 2000, to blow the lid off our filthy politics, and to strangle the Bush administration in its cradle. He's had the chance, all along, to denounce the hate-filled, thieving charade of the Republican majority; instead (like my boy Dick Lugar) he crafted himself a mask so he could keep voting with them reliably. It suggests that the McCain of "because her father is Janet Reno"; the McCain who reversed himself on torture--on torture!--and hugged George W. Bush, is the Real McCain. At the very least, his hatred of one extremist sect of his extremist party doesn't make him sane. It just means he might be part-way there.