You wouldn’t think a man who had been shot down over enemy territory, captured and subjected to torture and deprivation for five and a half years would later be described as having led a charmed life. Yet one might be tempted to say that about former Navy pilot and Vietnam veteran John S. McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona and heir apparent to the Bush dynasty as presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for president of the United States.
McCain reminds one of the saying, "Get a reputation as an early riser and you may sleep ’til noon thereafter." Get a reputation as a straight talker and you may prevaricate thereafter. But considering the future he will face if he is successful in his quest for the White House, a little deviation from the truth may well be a psychological necessity for McCain.
Try putting yourself in the place of semi-honest John. Imagine being greeted at the White House by Bush the "Dubya," son of the New World Order. Imagine being taken on a tour of the place, the grand tour ending at a ledger book showing annual deficits in the range of $400 billion or more, extending through the "out years," not only as far as the eye can see, but as far as the mind can imagine. Then you get to look at the war projections. Casualties continue to mount in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no end in sight and no plan for an end. And the report from Gen. Westmore — I mean Petraeus — says the gains in Iraq are fragile. The losses, meanwhile, are substantial and permanent.
Then you would view the economy tumbling into a recession, Social Security heading toward a cliff, costs mounting at everything from the Veterans Administration to the Department of Education. Nearly everyone, you learn, hates the No Child Left behind Act, yet no one knows how to either mend or end it. Gay Marriage is breaking out all over. Antiwar and antiabortion activists are crowding each other out on the Mall. The border problems are only getting worse. Meanwhile, the courts are interfering with the powers of the surveillance state that Bush, Cheney et al., have created.
Earmarks are multiplying in Congress, despite all your lectures against them. Worse, the senior senator from Alaska has an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office of how many bridges to nowhere could be built for less than it will cost to stay in Iraq for another ten, let alone 100 years. And the price of gasoline is heading toward $5 a gallon.
You’re beginning to feel your age and some members of Congress are clamoring for a bailout of the makers of Geritol, as well as increased subsidies for seniors dependent on Viagra. Everything is falling apart, you realize, and then the president turns to you and says…
"Soon, John, all this will be yours." Guess what. There’ll be a bull market on Pepto Bismol.
Or maybe we need to invest in ulcer medicine. Or sedatives. McCain is known to have a fiery temper and the coming years will create an abundance of acid indigestion for any president. So with his head spinning, it is not surprising that Sen. McCain may forget each day what the previous day’s "straight talk" line was.
John started in ’02 and ’03 backing the policy of the Bush-Cheney gang and said, sure, by God, let’s go to war, have regime change, get those weapons of mass destruction, have our cakewalk and get it over with. Then when things started going badly in Iraq, he became the No. 1 critic of Rummy the Great at Defense and was out front in calling for "the surge" of U.S. troops in the country. (I mean Iraq, of course. We never need troops to defend our country.) More "boots on the ground" were needed. So whereas he once supported unquestioningly a U.S. military operation that Rummy had said would last "weeks, not months," McCain is now in it for the long haul, which could be 50 or 100 years, or a thousand or a million. Since we already have bases all over the world and a U.S. overseas military base is even closer than a federal domestic program to eternal life, what difference does it make?
And while our flyboy hero was once opposed to the use of torture, he has more recently opposed a bill to ban the use of waterboarding by the CIA. And even after the war party’s favorite "Independent," Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, corrected him on his misstatement about which gang of "extremists" Iran is training, "Honest" John said it was al Qaeda a couple more times anyway, just to make sure the misstatement got fair play.
After opposing the Bush tax cuts because they exacerbate the deficits, McCain has become a firm, nay fierce, advocate of making those tax cuts permanent, now that the deficit has reached a robust $400 billion. And, of course, Sen. McCain has withdrawn his support for an amnesty plan on immigration that has been so unpopular with the Republican base.
Having deliberately and continuously distorted Mitt Romney’s statement about a timetable for withdrawal, accusing his former GOP rival of "waving the white flag of surrender," McCain and his surrogates now complain that the senator’s "100 years" statement about staying in Viet — er, Iraq, has been taken out of context.
Let’s face it, McCain has his own timetable for withdrawal from "Vietraq" and he has carelessly made it public. We have been there five years now. So if we take McCain at his word, we may conclude that if peace and stability for Iraq and its neighbors have not been achieved in another 95 years, McCain will likely remove the troops, anyway. He will "cut and run." He will "wave the white flag of surrender." But he will want to do so in a way that is not "precipitous." He won’t want to give either the terrorists or the Democrats the opportunity to outdo the GOP in "supporting the troops" by starting another war. ("All the wars of the 20th Century have been Democrat wars," Bob Dole reminded us.) McCain will be very old in 95 years, so we hope he will be careful. We hope he doesn’t do anything rash that could lead to an outbreak of peace.
Maybe he should consult with Sen. Dole.
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.