Saturday, August 25, 2018

JOHN McCAIN, 1936-2018.

A lot of reactions to the death of John McCain have been bitterly negative -- and even when they speak well of him it comes with demurrers. I understand that: McCain was a great advocate of the senseless Iraq War, and a foreign policy belligerent in general; he also foisted on us Sarah Palin, the progenitor of the trend toward wingnut kabuki GOP candidates that got us Trump. And he left a series of fuck-yous to decent democratic governance that persisted right down to the end.

I would say in his defense that, for a mainstream politician in our low, mean age, he could have been much worse. When George W. Bush smoked McCain in 2000, it wasn't the black baby bullshit that did it; that never would have made a difference if W. hadn't bought off the fundamentalists, and he wouldn't have bought off the fundies if they hadn't tumbled that Bush was as corrupt and vicious as they were. (We see in their current embrace of Trump just how low they've always been.) McCain couldn't even pretend to make that sale. To me that's a big point in his favor.

Also, McCain had strict limitations on what he could get voters to accept, notwithstanding his famous bravery in the face of detention and torture during the Vietnam War. (Americans affect to love their vets, but for the most part haven't given them much advantage at the polls unless they share their principles -- or, as in the case of Tom Cotton, lack of same.) While, for example, I understand why Vox's Jennifer Williams finds McCain's legislative stance on torture "complicated" -- leaving wiggle room as it did for CIA depredations -- I would answer that for any Republican to go as far as he did then was extraordinary, and now that he's gone it's unimaginable.

Picking Palin was a crime, for sure. When I think of that, though, I think of McCain's concession speech on Election Night 2008 -- thumbnail-covered by me here -- and his rueful reference to "the most challenged campaign of modern times." I look back at the crowd for that speech. I referred to them at the time as a "gang of angry honkies," and I remember thinking they wanted more of something a lot more primal and sick than McCain was willing to give them, then or ever. You can see those people now in the slavering crowds at Trump rallies. They were the deluge that came after.

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