Friday, September 05, 2008

Where is the John McCain of 2000?

Hope versus Experience. Change versus Maverick. Brash, charismatic, inspiring young pol versus the war hero. Historic election. Two people who couldn't be farther apart vying for the top-spot. What does it say about our country? What does their selection for Vice President say about them?

Last night, John Sydney McCain III, scion of the McCain naval family, long-time Senator from Arizona, and self-proclaimed "Maverick" politician, accepted the nomination of the Republican party for the Presidency of the United States of America. This has been a long journey for Senator McCain. He ran for president in 2000 and was ultimately defeated by George W. Bush for the nomination. The candidate of 2000 was markedly different than the candidate who claimed the nomination last night. In many respects, the current version of John McCain fits the recent mode of the Republican party. He is avidly pro-life, pro free market, in favor of lowering taxes and of course, a staunchly pro-military candidate. His bonafides are without repute. Everyone knows his story of his time as a Prisoner of War in the Hanoi Hilton. If you don't, you haven't been paying attention. I'll make it easy for you. Click HERE.

The problem with recent candidate McCain is that he is a significant different candidate than the one who ran in 2000. That candidate was fiercely independent. He challenged Republican orthodoxy in several areas such as immigration, the fealty given to the religious right, the wastefulness of the republican politicians as well as the democrats. He was a darling of the media, and they couldn't get enough of the "Straight Talk Express".

Something happened between 2000 and 2008. No, it wasn't 9/11, although many people would like to think so. What happened in my opinion in the interval between the Straight Talk Express and the "Say Anything to Get Elected Express" of 2008 was that McCain sat by and watched as George W. Bush ran his country into the toilet. I'm convinced that the switch flipped in his head and told him, "Do whatever it takes, say whatever you have to, do anything you must, just don't let another moron like this become the republican candidate for president".

I think John McCain truly loves his country. His speech last night was a strong reminder of how tragedy can change some one's perspective. It certainly did with him. The McCain prior to the stint in the Hanoi prison was a ne'er-do-well playboy from a well-heeled military family who's granddad and father were both flag admirals. McCain had a reputation as someone who didn't work very hard, played much harder, and basically was sliding by. Oh, he was brave. He was and probably still is a very courageous man. Don't think so? Just look up the story about the fire on the USS Forrestal, where McCain risked his life to pull comrades to safety.

His refusal to take special treatment after the Viet Cong found out about his dad was was the commander of the Pacific fleet is another example of courage under-fire. All in all, quite a heroic example for our soldiers.

However, John McCain of 2008 has turned his back on those times. Oh yes, he'll use them to remind you why you should vote for him. He'll show flashes of this when lobbying against some popular opinion (e.g. anti-immigration). But for the most part, he's simply an old politician now, trying desperately to win the job that he feels he was bypassed for a petulant, frat-boy whose daddy kept him out of the war that forged McCain's storied past. I can't imagine how much resentment McCain has for Bush. Not only did he lose the presidency to him, but he has had to watch as Bush's complete disdain for the government, the Constitution and rule of law have damaged our country beyond measure. How much better it would have been had a democrat been in office. McCain certainly would have been more vocal about the path that we have taken. With Bush, he had to hold his tongue. Oh, he yelped when Bush and Cheney were advocating torture as policy, and even put a bill forward that banned the use of torture. He rolled over on this however, likely due to some notion that Bush would be there for him when his time rolled around.

He's also come full circle with the lunatic fringe of the Republican party: The Evangelicals. Formerly the "agents of intolerance", McCain has reached out to John Hagee, Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, and other religious leaders who have advocated all sorts of nonsense. All of this, including the recent selection of Sarah Palin as his candidate for Vice President and the subsequent sham of saying she was the best qualified candidate for the job shows how desperate McCain is to win. He knows, the independents can't carry the election for him. So, what does he do? He caters to Crazy Town USA. He goes after those who would continue to torture, deny a women the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy even in the event of risk of her life, those who would teach creationism as science, and those who believe that the state of Israel must be protected to fulfill biblical prophecy.

This image of McCain is a far, far cry from the man who endured unspeakable pain, misery, horror in that cell in Hanoi all those years ago. It is a shame.

Tell me what you think.



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