You know, I feel a little bit sorry for John McCain.
He just wants to be President. He’s wanted it for at least 8 years, since he threw his porkpie hat into the ring in 2000’s Republican primaries. In that campaign, America and McCain were given their first national taste of the nastiness that is Karl Rove politics: McCain’s honorable adoption of a Bangladeshi child was twisted, through push polls and fliers handed out by Bush supporters, into rumours that the child was actually fathered by McCain, out of wedlock, with a black prostitute. (It was actually loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooongtime Republican Senator Strom Thurmond who had fathered a black child out of wedlock, but that wouldn’t come out for a few years yet.)
That horrible smear campaign in South Carolina and other places killed McCain’s hope for the Presidency in 2000, when he was still a relatively-youthful 64 years old. And it was tanked by an upstart whippersnapper who came out of nowhere (Texas, which is close enough) to have the election handed to him on a silver platter by his dad’s Supreme Court cronies and his brother’s corrupt state government officials in Florida win the election, without putting in nearly as much time in the military or in Washington as John McCain had. And this upstart has the support of people that McCain has worked with in the Senate for years? He had to come out of that feeling a little betrayed by his own party.
That’s frustrating enough right there, right?
Then comes 2004, and he doesn’t run. After all, things are good under Bush. The country seems pretty happy, though there are some rumblings in the leftist media about the war in Iraq. McCain has used the intervening years to support Bush more, curbing his previous “maverick” tendencies in a bid to gain some ground with the conservative base, which he now knows he needs to win anything ever again, and which he has pissed off in previous years.
Interestingly, McCain’s name was floated as a potential VP not for Bush, who would not need a new VP thanks to innovations in cybernetic technology that allowed Dick Cheney to retain a small semblance of life and humanity, but for John Kerry, who McCain defended against the “swiftboating” tactics employed by Rove to discredit Kerry’s war record.
Now it’s 2008.
After years of pandering to the conservative base, McCain is ready to run again. Bush can’t run again, Rove is ostensibly retired, no one but the undead would actually vote for Dick Cheney (they have to support their own, you know), and the way is clear, right?
Ummm. . .not so much.
In the years between 2004 and 2008, a lot has happened. Bush, who McCain threw support behind once he lost in 2000’s primaries, is the most unpopular President in American history. The war in Iraq has dragged on too long with no end in sight. The economy is beginning a long slide down to hell. Bush and his cabinet have been caught in lie after lie after falsehood after misleading statement, and many have been forced to resign. Some have actually been convicted of crimes (we didn’t forget you, Scooter Libby). The Republican Party has lost its majority in the Senate and the House, due to Americans just plain being tired of their crap. And Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face.
That conservative base that McCain has spent 8 years trying to earn some love from is a shadow of its former self. The Republican Party itself is splintered and fractious. Still, McCain runs, trying to unify the GOP under his umbrella and get some of the people he pissed off earlier in history back onto his side.
And, surprise of surprises. . .he does it. After short-but-nasty battle with Rudy “9/11” Giuliani, “Massachusetts Mormon” Mitt Romney, and Mike “Hey, That Last Arkansas Governor Did Good As President; Wanna Try It Again?” Huckabee, John McCain wins the Republican nomination for President! Now the path is clear!
Wait. . .what’s that coming down the Democrat Hill? Why, it’s freshman senator Barack Obama and former-First-Lady-turned-New-York-Senator Hilary Clinton, guns at their belts, beating each other with sticks so they can save the bullets for John McCain! And no matter which one wins, the Democrats will have a history-making, headline-grabbing, attention-demanding candidate, with an assumed built-in fan base among either women or racial minorities!
Look at it, if you can, from McCain’s prespective. He knows, and has known for a long time, that he would do a good job as President. He knows he’d be the best President ever, that he could fix the economy, catch Bin Laden, save health care, fix global warming, and end poverty in America within the first week that he’s in office. It’s written on his face, in Morse code in the wrinkles: he knows he should be President. He knows he deserves to be President. He’s worked a long time trying to prove it to other people, to earn their support by voting for things he doesn’t like or support, and getting well-accustomed to the taste of special-interest d*** along the way. Now he’s done it, he’s reached his moment in the sun. . .
And a freshman senator from Illinois is threatening to ruin it all.
McCain, if I haven’t spelled it out well enough yet, is hopelessly narcisstic. It’s obvious. He doesn’t understand when people disagree with him. He doesn’t understand why he’s trailing in the polls. He didn’t understand why his first choice for VP was nixed by Karl “I Have More Influence Than You’d Think” Rove (who threatened to turn the conservative base against McCain if he went with Joe Lieberman, who would have attracted moderates and some Democrats to the ticket) or what was wrong with choosing the base-appeasing, easy-on-the-eyes, moderate-scaring, womens’-vote-swaying (in theory) Sarah Palin for VP. He doesn’t understand why his running mate, a pretty woman working an ugly campaign, is actually costing him support now. And he doesn’t understand how he’s losing to Barack Obama.
His narcissism shows when he isn’t shown outright love by the media. It shows in the debates, where his disdain for Obama is readily apparent, though I think it’s a disdain born more of his own narcissism than it is any actual animosity towards Obama. That might actually make it more dangerous, though; dislike can be reasoned away.
That’s what I saw on that stage Tuesday night: I saw someone that honestly doesn’t understand why they have to be there, why they have to answer questions and clarify themselves. I saw someone who doesn’t understand why it isn’t obvious to everyone else that John McCain should be the next President of this country. I saw someone that thinks that he should be President, that he deserves to be President, and that sold his soul to his party and to Rove disciples who are running a campaign even worse than the one run against him in 2000, and doesn’t understand why he’s still losing in the polls. He was frustrated, flustered, disorganized, angry, and confused. . .and you can’t put that down to just old age. I’ve known people older than McCain that were far sharper than any six people half their age put together and multiplied by three, so no, I’m not taking shots at McCain’s age here.
The John McCain of 2000, whom I liked, and who called out Sarah Palin by name as an example of pork-barrel-spending gone out-of-control in 2001, is not the man running for President this year. The man running for President for the Republican Party is someone that sold his soul and sacrificed his principles, his honour, his integrity, and his beliefs in a desperate final bid to become President of the United States.
And that’s exactly why he shouldn’t be President.
VS – 10.09.08
P.S. Oh, I just couldn’t resist this:
McCain to small child: "Your lifeforce will sustain me for at least two weeks" (Photo courtesy AP)