Rethinking John McCain

In 2000, I was briefly a John McCain supporter.

The year 2000 seems like a century ago and I don’t remember precisely what attracted me to his campaign. I do remember, however, that one smear Bush used on McCain was that he was “crazy” from having been tortured as a prisoner of war. I already intensely disliked Bush before he was elected the first time, and felt very, very angry that this creature — Mr. AWOL himself — had been allowed to get away with it. Of course, he did it again to John Kerry in 2004, and once again got away with trashing a veteran on the subject of military service. For Bush, that issue should have been too hot to handle. But for some reason it wasn’t, and for some reason it was effective.

Anyway, there were times in the last year when I wondered if Bush may have been right about McCain. The person who ran for President in this year did not resemble the one I supported years ago.

But now I wonder how much of what I observed was actually John McCain and how much was the result of John McCain getting frustrated with too much manipulation by the RNC and the people running his campaign.

I know the man is heavily flawed — he’s a definite gold-digger, was apparently horrible to his first wife, is a gambler, and has a terrible temper. But I’m tired of George Bush and his sort being allowed to be heavily flawed while anyone who opposes them has to be nothing less than a saint, or else — and sometimes even being a saint isn’t enough. So to McCain’s flaws, I say, “big fat hairy deal.”

Then again, some words did come out of his mouth that were unfortunate, if not downright stupid, and he was rude and told a lot of outright lies during his campaign. Too often he appeared to be ill-informed and indecisive, a la Bush. That, I have trouble with.

But I’m wondering if he fell or was pushed. Take the case of the pit bull, for instance. I’m coming to believe that McCain may not have had much of a say in this particular disaster. I would not have believed that just a few days ago, but his gracious concession speech — and the revelation that he would not allow his campaign to make issues of certain facts about Obama, such as Obama’s lack of military service — showed me the old John McCain, the one I admired. He still exists, then.

So what happened here?

We’ll probably never know. There is an attempt being made to make Sarah Palin look even worse than she actually was (which admittedly was incredibly bad), in an effort to exhonerate John McCain. I think that may not be necessary. Not that she doesn’t deserve to be demonized, but the thing is, the people who are now demonizing her are the same ones who may have chosen her to be McCain’s running mate.

If that is true, she herself comes out looking the victim. In some sense she may have been — being a woman, I have experienced some of what I gather she went through — but she doesn’t deserve the sympathy that comes with that status. If there were anything worthwhile behind the designer frames, heavy makeup, and expensive clothes, I have obviously failed to note it. She may have been manipulated, but after a certain point her decisions were her own. Those decisions reveal a great deal, and are the reason my opinion of her is unlikely to change even if I do (to a point) understand.

On the other hand, there’s John McCain, and the question of who is the real John McCain. And it is a valid question.

I’m guessing it all comes down to who was in control of this mess, and what it says about McCain that he himself may have lost control of it, or what it may say about the state of the Republican party that he may never have had any control.

Whatever happened, I am rethinking John McCain. The graciousness of his concession speech tells me that someone worthwhile was still lurking behind the messy facade we saw in the last year. Now that it’s unlikely he will ever run for President again, I guess it’s easier to wish him the best. And I do.

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