David B.




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October 13, 2008

McCain Chooses Defeat With Dishonor


Well, so much for simple human decency.


So much for the “straight talk” and the honorable campaign America had been led to believe it could expect from so-called “war hero” John McCain and his fellow also-ran. Even for a party that has long specialized in broken promises – anyone remember “compassionate conservatism”? – it is a little surprising to see the Republicans’ standard bearer seemingly not only willing but eager to jettison the last scintilla of moral respectability his party and campaign once supposedly possessed.


In place of the rugged “maverick” nobility and statesmanlike gravitas the country had anticipated, it got fearmongering, innuendo and scarcely contained idiot rage from McCain, his febrile running mate and the increasingly unhinged mobs attending their rallies.


The McCain campaign methodology, if one really must use such an overly-rich term, has come to consist of staging a succession of incendiary race-baiting rants from Sarah Palin designed to whip America’s mouth-breathers into an agitated xenophobic froth. As Palin mouths dog-whistle phrases about her opponent “not being like us,” and “diminishing the prestige of the presidency,” the assembled crowds shout niceties such as “terrorist,” “bomb him” and “kill him” in response to mentions of Barack Obama’s name. Meanwhile, McCain smiles serenely, smugly content with Palin’s Goebbelsian ability to manipulate a mob. The hope seems to be that somehow – through cloning, perhaps? – these thuggish devotees will multiply into a sufficient number over the course of the next three weeks to win them the election.


Barring divine intervention, this seems highly unlikely to happen. As a succession of ever-widening poll numbers would indicate, America would evidently rather commit collective hara-kiri than allow McCain and Palin anywhere near the Oval Office. Politically, John McCain is well beyond finished: Any lingering months or years left in his senatorial term will be served as a spent force, dominated by the shadow of this final, monumental, career-capping failure. McCain is done, and he knows it.


So why, with inevitable ignominy staring him directly in the face, would Mr. Straight Talk choose to sully himself by condoning the cultivation of racism and social division, renewing a form of uniquely American ugliness largely unseen since the darkest days of the Jim Crow era? Is this really how he wants his career, his campaign and himself to be ultimately remembered – as a noxious belated coda to the bigotry of the 1950s? What can McCain possibly hope to gain?


Denied the victory that he seems to consider his birthright, he is evidently determined to drag the nation he wished to lead down with him. If he and his party are turned away from the corridors of power, McCain seems to want to make occupancy of those hallowed halls as uncomfortable as humanly possible for the man who defeated him, even if he tears America’s social fabric fully asunder in doing so. “Country First” was a nice mantra at the St. Paul convention, but it is telling that this vapid feel-good slogan has scarcely been uttered since.


As McCain drifts into political irrelevance and comparative anonymity in his twilight years, he will doubtless have plenty of opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of this final, failed pitch for the biggest prize in politics. He will have the opportunity to recall that it was his campaign that motivated everyday citizens to bring stuffed monkeys wearing Obama pins to his rallies, to remember the succession of brazen lies told on the stump and the thinly veiled racial innuendo engaged in by his surrogates, the echoed shouts of “kill him.”


A man of true character would hang his head in shame. John McCain will simply regret that it wasn’t enough to get him what he wanted.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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