Nov 06 2008

What happened to John McCain?

Published by at 12:51 pm under Current Events

When J-bird and I were up north, the conversation veered into politics, and Dr. Mom remembered that I had not always been the fervent Obama supporter that I ended up being.  I had a hard time believing that, but no, she reminded me that in the early days of the campaign I said I’d never vote for Obama.  He was too inexperienced, too new, too raw.  I was impressed with him as a Senator, but felt he was unready to go further.  As a matter of fact, way back then, I was leaning more toward McCain than toward any Democrat.

I used to really like Sen. McCain.  Several years ago, when the Republican party had completed its transition into our evil robotic overlords, John McCain seemed like a relic from the Old Guard of the GOP.  He was a Republican the way that I wanted the Republicans to be: fiscally conservative, in support of small government, and unafraid to cross party lines when things got too far from where he felt he could comfortably stand.  The Man never liked him, feeling that McCain tried too hard to please everyone and therefore had none of his own opinions, but what he saw as unrepentant kow-towing, I saw as impressive moderation in a time when the two parties were polarized.  I especially liked his willingness to be outspoken in his disagreement with many of the President’s policies, which he felt went too far.  Of course I didn’t agree with 100% of his policies, but I don’t 100% agree with Sen. Obama, either.  I never expect to find a politician who shares all of my views, I just expect to find someone who I feel can do a good job.  And back then, I felt that McCain could do a good job.  I felt that way up until he decided that he wanted to be President.

For some reason, John McCain, arguably the most popular politician in America, felt that in order to run for President, he had to change who he was.  I guess he didn’t want to be passed over by his party, a party which seemed to me to be swinging out of control.  And unfortunately for him, the leader of his party was George W. Bush, a man he had been criticizing for years.  So, John McCain bit the bullet and kissed ass.  Or at least, that’s what it looked like to me.  The picture that the Democrats point to with barely concealed glee – that of McCain snuggling up to the President’s chest – put a bitter taste in my mouth.  As time went on, things got worse, and McCain became to me an unrecognizable figure.  He went from being the voice of reason in the Republican Party, to just another voice box droning out the same old party bullshit I was hearing from those I had come to loathe.

His choice of running mate I found appalling.  I realize that hardly makes me unique, but I was expecting him to choose someone who was more in line with the moderate stances and need for reform that the old McCain would have chosen.  That he chose a woman was nice – that the woman was Sarah Palin was. . . repugnant.  It was like a joke – or an insult.  I knew that McCain was anxious to pick up Clinton supporters who swore they’d never back Obama, but did he really think that those supporters would rally to any woman, as long as she was a woman?  Could he have found someone more unlike Hillary Clinton?  I couldn’t even understand why Republicans rallied to her.  She was ridiculous.  They deplored Obama’s lack of experience, but clustered around Palin as though being a mayor and a two-year governer made her an elder statesman.  And they protected her from the media as though she were a delicate flower – or a bomb waiting to explode.  Never has so much been said about someone who we saw so little of.  All we got of her were glimpses and sound bites, and those were enough to horrify a goodly number of people, including many Republicans.

I saw an interview today in which Sarah Palin was described as a “Hail Mary play”, but it seemed to me more like McCain was trying to shoot a slam dunk with a hockey puck.  Yes, it’s technically feasible, but it’s retarded and in the end won’t count.  As the months wore on, McCain got weirder and weirder.  He had always been so open with the media, but suddenly he shut down.  He had been generally accessible to the public, but he was getting meaner.  He had been praised for his thoughtfulness and his bridge-building, now he seemed determine to widen the gap many Americans were already feeling until it was a gaping wound.

By the time Barack Obama won the nomination, I had already left the McCain campfire.  He was no longer anyone I recognized or wanted to see win.  I didn’t see the old John McCain again until he was giving his concession speech Tuesday night.  It was as though the bowels of the Republican party had vomited up the guy they swallowed months ago, and here he was:  looking tired, confused, worse for wear, but willing to do what he had to do.  He conceeded with grace and honor, giving a speech in which he implored his supporters to work with the new president.  He tried to calm the seas that he himself had stirred up.  He attempted to urge unity, but it was too late.  Bizarro McCain had done too much damage.

I don’t know what happened to John McCain.  I have the feeling that he wanted this so badly that he was willing to listen to handlers that were too anxious to cast him as a “real” Republican.  He, the maverick, suddenly was trying to get ahead by being someone he was not, by playing with someone else’s rulebook.  I believe that Obama would have won me over anyway, but if the real McCain had shown up to fight, it might have been a harder decision to make.

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