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The Real McCain
Not only is the supposedly "straight-talkin'" John McCain clueless that condoms help stop the spread of AIDS, he doesn't even know what his own position is on contraception. Here, let me help, Mr. McCain. Next time, just say:

"What Bush said."

And here, from Adam Nagourney in The New York Times, is a little quote showing what McCain's made of ("Brian" is his press secretary):

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

To get to know what a "greatest generation" fascist the guy really is, read Matt Welch's excellent piece on McCain in the April Reason magazine, "Be Afraid of President McCain -- The frightening mind of an authoritarian maverick." An excerpt:

McCain’s dazzling résumé—war hero, campaign finance Quixote, chauffeur of the Straight Talk Express, reassuring National Uncle—tends to distract people from his philosophy of government, and his chumminess with national journalists doesn’t help. There is a more useful key to decode how he might behave as president. McCain’s singular goal in public life is to restore citizens’ faith in their government, to give us the same object of belief—national greatness—that helped save his life after he gave up hope as a POW in Vietnam.

Although Bill Kristol and David Brooks coined the phrase “national-greatness conservatism” in a 1997 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, the sentiments they expressed and the movement forefathers they chose would have been right at home in one of the Chamber of Commerce speeches about the virtues of patriotism that McCain gave in the 1970s. Kristol and Brooks wrote that “wishing to be left alone isn’t a governing doctrine” and “what’s missing from today’s American conservatism is America.” McCain, then an ambitious pol-to-be working the rubber chicken circuit as a famous ex-POW, would deliver inspiring sermonettes about the value of public service and restoring America as an international beacon. All three men would eventually come together on such National Greatness projects as the “forward strategy of freedom” in the Middle East, trying to drive money out of politics, and, not least or last, getting John McCain elected president.

Like Kristol and Brooks, McCain regards Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as political idols; like them, he never hesitates in asserting that government power should be used to rekindle American (and Republican) pride in government. Unlike most neoconservative intellectuals, however, McCain is intimately familiar with the bluntest edge of state-sponsored force. A McCain presidency would put legislative flesh on David Brooks’ fuzzy pre-9/11 notions of “grand aspiration,” deploying a virtuous federal bureaucracy to purify unclean private transactions from the boardroom to the bedroom. And it would prosecute the nation’s post-9/11 wars with a militaristic zeal this country hasn’t seen in generations.

Whatever it takes to be gleaming and great. Perhaps he, like George Bush, is just waiting for everybody to say thank you, as Fred Kaplan writes about Bush on Slate:

As Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at the City University of New York Graduate Center (and generally a Bush supporter), puts it, "Gratitude is something you give to somebody who's superior. It's very different from, say, appreciation, which is something that equals give each other."

Apart from his view of Iraq, Bush may have a point when he complains that America gets too little credit for its generosity (though this is hardly new). He doesn't acknowledge, however, that governments give aid or go to war for their own interests, not just for the interests of others, and therefore don't generally require thank-you notes. Nor does he seem to realize, whatever his motives, that nobody likes a whiner—that donors who demand bowing and scraping are often resented, if not despised.

Not to put the president on the couch, but personality probably plays some role here. I remember watching a White House press conference (looking it up, I see that it took place on April 5, 2004), where an Associated Press reporter started to ask Bush a question without first uttering "Mr. President," the customary preface when addressing the leader of the free world. Bush snapped at him: "Who are you talking to?" The reporter corrected his discourteousness, reciting the honorific, before restarting his question.

It was a startling display of a president who seemed insecure in his authority, bitter that some piddling reporter wasn't treating him (the president of the United States, damn it!) with the proper respect. The same complex may be triggered when piddling nations don't repay his good intentions with the proper "gratitude."

But this tendency reveals something deeper, and more worrisome, than some hypothetical character quirk. It reveals a basic misunderstanding of foreign policy and of the modern world.

Great! Let's elect another one just like him!

Posted by aalkon at March 17, 2007 9:32 AM

Comments

Whatever happened to "I'd run naked through the streets to vote for McCain"?

Posted by: LYT at March 17, 2007 2:00 AM

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 17, 2007 2:19 AM

There's GOT to be a Youtube of that Bush/AP exchange.

Posted by: Crid at March 17, 2007 5:36 AM

Posted by: Crid at March 17, 2007 5:41 AM

That's quite a leap in logic. Can you imagine a previous time in history when a media turd would not address the President with the appropriate honorific? If you're searching for neurosis, I'll wager that you'll find a lot more on the other side of the podium from Dubyah.

Posted by: Casca at March 17, 2007 8:43 AM

It saddens me that so many people blame the person they put in office, never having learned anything substantive about him or her. Every citizen has a bigger problem than who is President looking back at them in the mirror.

And spare me the noise about whom you voted for. Not only is there no sign that "your" guy was or is more competent, your vote doesn't change the degree of apathy of the majority of voters, who can't even recognize that CNN doesn't even spell-check any more.

Posted by: Radwaste at March 17, 2007 9:02 AM

> a media turd would not address
> the President with the appropriate
> honorific?

Perhaps it's my own youngest-child neuroses coming to the fore, but this is as grotesque a piece of video as the man's ever produced, and there are tens of thousands of contenders. Is there any, any doubt who the reporter was talking to?

Is "Sir" insufficient for any male human being?

You want an honor-goddamn-rific? You've come to wrong country. He's not to be honored: He's hired help. Presumably the AP guy is an American citizen, and is therefore Bush's employer.

You know, we think about the billions that are being spent and squandered, and the riskiness of the venture that he's asked us to invest our children's lives in, and the gruesome costs being tallied --costs under discussion in the seconds surrounding this moment of quintessential pomposity-- and we wonder how a former alcoholic could find ENERGY to give to such trivial protocols. Snot-blowing is of such precision is never a reflex. It requires a lot of focus, and this guy doesn't have the attention to spare.

Next time he --or anyone in your private circle-- mentions something about Christian humility, be sure and speak up.

> And spare me the noise

We really, really should have been given a better choice. This moment was Kerryesque in all respects.

Posted by: Crid at March 17, 2007 9:24 AM

I prefer the Jimmy Breslin belief: "If his salary comes from the taxpayers... you can call him every name in the book. That would include dog catcher to the President of the USA."

Casca, the journalist didn't say: "Hey, you. I have a question fer yah." I do recall the expression 'sir' was mentioned.

An asshole in high office is still an asshole.

Let us not forget these particular comments:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
--President-Elect George W. Bush, CNN News, Aired December 18, 2000

Posted by: Joe at March 17, 2007 9:35 AM

What Crid said, but not as effectively or cleverly.

McCain doesn't trouble me too much - I don't think he'd screw things up too badly if he were elected. But his clueless attempts to pander to the religious right are pretty pathetic. He doesn't naturally speak their language, and he sounds ridiculous doing so.

Posted by: justin case at March 17, 2007 7:23 PM

I agree Justin. Can anyone see the religious right being energized with any of the GOP front runners?

Posted by: Joe at March 17, 2007 7:32 PM

Joe: No. And that's a good thing.

Posted by: justin case at March 18, 2007 12:56 PM

I was busy this weekend, and didn't have a chance to notice the bilious eruption at my comments. Dubyah may have his faults, and you may call him what you like, but the President of the United States is always addressed as "Mr. President", even if he has just finished blowing his load in an intern. Now THERE's a fellow who should have been paying attention to more important things.

Crid - I didn't know that your offspring were in uniform in Iraq?

Posted by: Casca at March 19, 2007 10:08 AM

Casca, I don't think anyone is implying that the president is not due the respect of being called "Mr. President." But some of us think it is is far more rude to make a grown person repeat themselves like that than it is to forget the title in the first place. The president called the reporter out on what is only a slight breach of custom. In fact, the constitution forbids titles of nobility. Besides, if Bush thinks he's a nobleman now, he can afford to exercise a little noblesse oblige.

Posted by: beansworth at March 19, 2007 12:01 PM

> but the President of the United States
> is always addressed as "Mr. President"

That's the issue under discussion, isn't it?

No kids. But if I'm going to be paying for their deployment, or rehabilitation, skin grafts, or psychotherapy, or if they could come to me a (somewhat) senior citizen and ask why I didn't do something to stop a bad use of military force, then I'm responsible for them and to them. Again, they don't get to select their gig.

Posted by: Crid at March 19, 2007 1:20 PM

You're rhetorically crafty cridder, and if you're to be taken at your word, a niggardly ass. If you understood anything, you'd understand what a dispicable twerp you are. There is nothing lower than dishonoring the honor of honorable men.

There's a great scene in The Best Years of Our Lives where Dana Andrews, the former Army Air Corps Captain is working as a soda jerk, and the sailor who has hooks for hands is sitting at the counter, and the self-righteous crid of the day is spouting the usual anti-war it's-all-about-money nonsense, basically telling the sailor that he was a sucker. Dana Andrews punches him in the mouth, and gets fired. Some serve, some sacrifice, a few do both. What have you done?

Let this comfort you. The combatant military, Army & Marines, walked away from Vietnam with the lesson that they couldn't trust the media. They can't display this in the open. It's simply understood that "you can't trust those fuckers." The media isn't in the Combat Operations Center getting the CG's brief ala WWII. They get a media brief tailored for them, or if they dare leave the Green Zone, wander around with small units, where they get to see how the auto is assembled, but not what the problem is with the plant, let alone the company, or the industry. Add to that, that they don't know the beast. They don't know the questions to ask. Would you hire a podiatrist to represent you in court? That's who most of your reporters are in Iraq.

The fallout of all of this is that the reporting overall in the GWOT is horrid. Militarily, that works, since reporting the truth would simply be spying for the enemy. On the downside, pseudo-intellects with more opinion than fact spout fiction based nonsense back home. The fact is that you know almost nothing of the conduct of this war, as it should be. So if you won't pick up a rifle and stand a post, either say thanks, or shut up.

Posted by: Casca at March 19, 2007 11:32 PM

You're fun to offend.

Why are you always getting cranked about things people say in movies? I watched a movie again over the weekend, Four Weddings and a Funeral. That's a great movie! Hugh Grant is like rilly cute in it. It has problems with plot, dialog, pacing, casting, acting, climax, score, editing, characterizations, lighting and craft services, but it doesn't matter, because it's still a great movie. Everyone should buy the DVD! I got nothin' against the movies. But you make too much of them... It's just pretend.

It would amuse anyone in my (small but loving) circle to hear me described as anti-war... They think I'm a warmonger with dripping fangs.

It wasn't our topic, but I too am eager to critique the role media have played in events of recent years. But one reason they've done so badly is that baboons in DC have promulgated clumsy concepts like the "Global War on Terror" and "Homeland Security." Offered in pursuit of trivial political points, they cheat the nature of our enemies and our own American ideals.

> There is nothing lower than dishonoring
> the honor of honorable men.

What do you mean by that?

> either say thanks, or shut up

No.

Posted by: Crid at March 20, 2007 6:31 AM

When you're in savant mode, you can be witty and insightful, but when you pick up the kant of the crowd, you revert to intellectual retard. Amy does the same thing.

The difference between good fiction, and bad fiction is an obvious hole in your education. You should do something about that. You could begin by not watching chick-flicks.

To send young men to war, then second-guess the prosecution of said war, then try to tell them that their leadership was stupid, or what their sacrifice was for, or worth, is dispicable. It is the practice of the ignorant civilian, and has been since time immemorial. Kipling captured it when he wrote Tommy Atkins, and Wyler did too in The Best Years of Our Lives.

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Posted by: Casca at March 20, 2007 8:43 AM

Wow.

Posted by: Crid at March 20, 2007 9:50 AM

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