Friday, September 26, 2008

Johnny Jumpin' Sharks


I was at work Wednesday afternoon when I heard the noise. People were already gathered at the window by the time I got there. I sidled up next to Beatmeiser, who was staring out the window, dumbfounded.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He’s finally gone and done it,” Beatmeiser answered, stunned.


“John McCain.”

“What’s he done?”

“He’s finally jumped the shark.”

I looked out the window. McCain was down in the icy waters of Punk Ocean, arms sort-of raised in victory with his leather jacket glistening in the sun. a Coast Guard helicopter was already swooping in to rescue the Senator. Fox News was already heralding him as a hero again.

“Damn,” I said, disappointed yet again in the “Maverick.”

Like a lot of you, I kind of liked McCain eight years ago. I fell for the whole “Maverick” schtick, and just loved the “Straight Talk Express.” He seemed a breath of fresh air after years of Clintonian “It depends what your definition of is is” BS.

(Author’s Note: Just because I may or may not like a politician’s mediated image does not mean I’d vote for the bastard. I like Huckabee—he’s charismatic and funny—but there’s no way in hell I’d vote a fundamentalist preacher in for president.)

But also like a lot of you, I’ve been really disappointed with John McCain these past few months. All the lies, half-truths, manufactured outrage has been taking its toll. This campaign is just meant to depress the Obama vote and probably won’t work. But it seems as though the Maverick will try anything to win this election.

Since 2000, McCain has made little concessions to Bush with his eyes on this year. It was understandable. He’s a politician, not a messiah. The problem came for me when McCain caved on waterboarding. McCain, who (if you haven’t heard) was a victim of torture during his imprisonment in Vietnam, was initially outraged over Bush’s pro-torture stance. There was some harrumphing and posturing, but when it came down to it, Bush made his intentions to torture clear, and McCain quieted his opposition. The political theater complete.

But, to me, this was more than just “politics as usual.” Here, McCain was supposed to be a moral beacon. He knew the terror and futility of torture firsthand. He could’ve provided much-needed cover for much weaker politicians to oppose Americans officially torturing prisoners. But he caved—his desire for the Presidency so strong, he was willing to violate the same Geneva Convention he probably clung to so desperately in the Hanoi Hilton.

So, why should we be surprised if McCain lies about things small (“I always buy American”—I don’t know, I’m sure Lexus, VW, and Honda have American plants) and large (“Obama will raise your taxes”—neglecting to add, “if you make more than $250K a year”)? After all, that is actually a part of politics. Though both candidates said they were above that sort of thing, they are both doing it. Besides, the chips are down for the Republicans. The war, the economy—so much GOP philosophy (deregulation, pre-emptive war, anti-environmentalism, supply-side economics) seems to be filing for Chapter 11. Even tried and true culture war tactics seem to be falling on deaf ears. Hear anything about gay marriage lately?

McCain seems to be twisting in the wind. He’s embraced “agents of intolerance” like the Hitler-praising John Hagee only to cut him loose when he actually starts praising Hitler. He’s flip-flopped on off-shore oil-drilling and the Bush tax cuts. With the picking of Sarah Palin, he’s thrown his experience argument out the window and now embraces a running mate who embraces the very same earmarks he’s railed against for years.

McCain probably no longer recognizes himself. And to cover all these reversals, obfuscations, and naked desire to “just win, baby,” to maintain his image of integrity, his camp has manufactured a campaign of outrage. The man has been outraged with Wesley Clark, personally insulted by that ultra-hippy Supreme Court, furious with Obama too many times to count, pissed at Madonna, and damned near ready to kick Jim Webb’s ass. McCain’s been so pissed so often, I’m surprised nobody’s either straitjacketed him or simply cried, “Wolf!”

And each time a new “outrage,” another lie comes out, I’m thinking, Oh, he’s gone and jumped the shark now. I’ve thought it couldn’t get anymore outrageous. But each time I’ve been wrong. McCain’s simply been practicing for Wednesday afternoon. He was on his skis, he was in the water; but he was jumping some mackerel, a dolphin or two, a stingray.

I mean, this is the same man who promised to run a campaign based on dignity and ideas. When he’s called on it, he blames Obama for McCain’s negative ads, saying the Dem should’ve debated him 10 times as he’d originally requested. This is the man who still rides around on the “Straight Talk Express.” Yet, he won’t allow the press to even talk to his running mate. And if they even think about reporting on her spotty past, they’re accused of being sexist. And if you use “lip” or “stick” in a sentence, the manufactured rage is far louder than the indignation heard over Darfur.

They apparently jumped a marlin on that one. Still a pretty big fish, and it’s got that really sharp nose.

But, even with all that subterfuge and lack of substance, McCain is falling in the polls faster than an A-4 Skyhawk over Hanoi. The Palin stunt is no longer working. No matter how hard they try, the issues keep popping up. While McCain talks about the fundamentals of the economy being strong, the Bush administration is begging for a Wall Street bailout. McCain’s own economic advisor, Carly Fiorina says neither he nor Palin (she later adds Obama and Biden) could run a company. The Maverick suddenly wants to fire the head of the SEC, the FEC, hell even the ACC! (Understandable, Duke is the root of a lot of evil—but you can’t pin this economic collapse on Coach K.)

With his stock falling with each tick of the clock last week, McCain then went back to the tried and true lie, blaming Obama for our economic woes! No, it wasn’t McCain who’s been a heavy supporter of deregulation for the past three decades. It was Obama! Phil Gramm, the architect of a lot of this deregulation, wasn’t a McCain advisor. He was Obama’s! McCain wasn’t the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee for six years. It was the four-year senator, Obama! Well, that explains why McCain earlier said the economy wasn’t his strong suit.

You could tell that Johnny was flirting with that shark jump last Friday night. You could see that fire in his eyes. But it wasn’t until the polls came out earlier this week having the Maverick down four to nine percentage points that the leather jacket, water skis, and homoerotic '70s shorts came out and you could hear the boat revving.

Then he did it. In a vain attempt to appear as though he’s got a handle on this Wall Street debacle, that he’s large and in charge, and that he cares for the middle class (or at least those of us in the middle class who make $2.5 million a year), John McCain announced that he’s suspending his campaign. As we heard the splash, we found out that the details of this suspension are just as murky as the water he’s now wading in. Does it mean he’ll air no more ads? Will there be no more canvassing? No more fundraising? What does “suspending” his campaign mean?

The Coast Guard helicopter’s dropping a line down to the man right now. No, suspending means canceling today’s debate. Ahh, now we see the real reason. But no, we don’t. Yesterday, the idea was floated that they not cancel the presidential debate, merely postpone it, to say, October 2nd. You know, when the veep debate’s supposed to be. Who wants to see young, beautiful Sarah Palin debate that crusty, old Joe Biden, anyway? She has more executive experience than Biden and Obama combined. Trust us on this one, people.

And now, it all makes sense. Look into the water and you’ll see that McCain did indeed clear a shark on Wednesday. It was a hammerhead. He’s still holding out the option of jumping a great white later. It all depends on how this latest ploy works.

Hey pilot! Why don’t you leave the old bugger in the water a little while longer? Maybe he’ll grab the Straight Talk dinghy and float off into the sunset. I’m sure Fox will laud him as hero as he majestically disappears.

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