Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain as Maverick? My Ass.

I used to like John McCain. Not his politics, just him. Alone among all the Republicans (and virtually all the Democrats) he seemed like someone who had his own thoughts and spoke his own mind. He didn't seem to test out his sentences in front of focus groups before they dropped from his lips. He called it “straight talk,” and it was a welcome relief from the bullshit that comes flowing out of the Beltway on an hourly basis.

The John McCain who ran against GW Bush in the 2000 primaries seemed like a guy that, even if I disagreed with him on 90% of social issues, I could support and respect in other ways. He was the quintessential maverick, or so it seemed. Heck, even Jon Stewart liked him.

But not anymore. What changed?

At some point over the last three years McCain sold his soul to the White House. He traded public support for “the surge” for a promise of help rallying the Bush Base (billionaires + flat earth conservatives) behind him. He began to walk, talk, and crap like every other politician in Washington with his eye on the big prize.

The choice of Governor Sarah Palin as running mate is, publicly at least, a desperate attempt to resurrect that Maverick image. "Look at Johnny go, making a pick completely out of left field. He's still his own man, by golly."

But the reality is just the opposite. Palin is not a serious choice for vice president. She's Dan Quayle with tits. OK, maybe she's a little smarter than Dan Quayle. But imagine just for a moment the croak or stroke scenario: McCain suddenly kicks the bucket or goes into a persistent vegetative state, and we have President Sarah Palin. From mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 6,000), to leader of the free world in less than three years. What a great story for Hollywood. What a disaster for the planet.

Does anyone on the GOP side honestly relish that thought? Well, yes – the power brokers in DC who would use Palin as a hand puppet the same way they used W. (I wouldn't rule out Dick Cheney re-emerging to pull the strings. I still believe they're going to have a hell of a time evicting him next January.) Then god help us.

Palin is cute, no doubt about it. She has an appealing back story. She's like that chick from Northern Exposure – Janine whatshername. But what she really is, at heart, is a sop to the evangelicals that McCain desperately needs to turn out in force if he has a chance of derailing Obama. She's the female Huckabee. And if that isn't politics as usual, I don't know what is.

(I can't say I'm thrilled by Obama's choice of Biden, either. It seems a step backward in the wrong direction toward DC. But I also can't think of any really good alternatives, despite how pissed off my wife is that he didn't pick Hillary.)

When I was young, Maverick meant two things. It was a comedy-western TV show from the 50s starring James Garner. And it was a compact car put out by Ford in the early 1970s when Detroit was trying to compete with Toyota and Datsun. The show was great – Garner was charming, funny, and always two steps ahead of the other guy; the car sucked and was discontinued shortly after it debuted.

McCain as Maverick is much closer to the car than to Garner. He is a tired wannabee product put out by a factory town that lost its way decades ago. He's a lemon destined for the junkyard. And no amount of new paint – or physically appealing running mates – can change that.


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