Alas, Poor Maverick. I Knew Him Well
I had to feel sorry for John McCain as he gave his gracious concession speech in Arizona last night. Here’s a guy who has served his country with distinction (give or take the occasional banking scandal) for the last fifty years, who was smeared by the current president during his first ill-fated presidential run in 2000, who had to sell his soul to win the nomination in 2008, who picked the worst vice presidential candidate imaginable, and who then had to face the most dynamic presidential candidate in memory – all while dealing with two lengthy wars, an economic meltdown, and the same president who cost him the nomination in 2000 dragging him down by the gravitational force of his own leaden approval ratings. How was he supposed to win? Answer: cheating.
John McCain simply doesn’t cheat as well as his predecessors. Where were the butterfly ballots? Where were the angry hooligans shutting down polling stations? Where was the president of the Diebold Voting Machine Company promising to deliver the election for him? Where was the Ohio Secretary of State purging the voter rolls? The Florida Secretary of State stopping recounts? The Supreme Court? How is a Republican supposed to win an election without their help? They were as MIA as federal relief during Hurricane Katrina.
Not that McCain didn’t try to cheat. He did. But he did it the old-fashioned way. With sneers and innuendo. With thinly veiled racism and xenophobia. Even the jingoism which worked so well for W fell flat; it turns out Americans, real or otherwise, are tired of having their patriotism questioned. Who knew? This is the age of YouTube. Where was Obama’s “Macaca moment?” His embarrassing emails? His sex scandal? Isn’t there even one semen-soaked dress out there? The closest we got to genuine scandal was a sixties radical and a “terrorist fist jab.” Boooo-ring.
Senator McCain, maybe you thought you didn’t have to cheat. Maybe you thought you could win this election on the strength of your “ideas.” Your “character.” No. Because your ideas stank and your character vacillated daily between angry Vietnam vet and crazy homeless guy. Maybe you thought your vice presidential pick would win you the election. Perhaps if fetuses had the right to vote she would have. But I think most of the electorate came to the same conclusion that I did about Sarah Palin: we wouldn’t trust her to run a Girl Scout meeting, let alone the nation. Why? For one simple reason: she’s a loon. So that didn’t help.
There were certainly moments for optimism. Like when Obama had the audacity to become loved and you released a commercial criticizing his celebrity – that was good. Because the last thing we want is a president that people like. If only you had won, we wouldn’t have had to deal with that problem. Or when you suspended your campaign to solve the economic crisis? That showed bold leadership. Sure it didn’t work out but for a minute there it kind of looked like you knew what you were doing. Or when that modern day Johnny Appleseed, Joe the Plumber, endorsed you – that was a good day. After all, what’s folksier than a bald guy who doesn’t want to pay taxes? Or when Colin Powell endorsed you? Oh wait, my bad. There were probably other good days, but at the moment it’s hard to think of any.
Not that you have anything to be ashamed of, Senator. You won some terrific states. Alabama, for example. And Mississippi. And South Carolina. Louisiana. Is there a theme to the states you won? Perhaps. But I don’t think anybody should read too much into it. After all, not everybody can win the “cool” states. Somebody’s got to win the shitty ones. And that was you, Senator McCain. Even better, you did it without cheating. You won those states just by being not black.
The truth is, I used to like John McCain. And for a moment last night when he stood in front of his supporters, I liked him again. He was humble and gracious and offered a hand of friendship to the new president-elect. Where was that guy for the last year and a half? Pandering. Groveling. Scraping the bottom of every barrel that rolled his way. Appealing to our fears instead of our hopes. In short – sucking. So go back to the senate, Maverick. Make some noise. Rouse some rabble. Maybe even do some good like you used to do. But the next time you run for something, I’ve got some advice – learn how to cheat.