The Palin choice-10: The real McCain

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

One of McCain’s successes is the way he has managed to cultivate and flatter the press so that they have been very gentle to him and taken his self-portraits of being an honorable, independent-minded maverick at face value, instead of portraying him more accurately as a self-aggrandizing panderer who shamelessly exploits his Vietnam experiences to hide his right-wing agenda and his reckless personality.

The real McCain is a much darker figure. To start to get a better idea of who he really is, watch this ‘McCain in three minutes’ video, produced by ABC News’s Good Morning America.

The darker side of McCain has always been apparent although the media chose to turn a blind eye to it. The Keating Five savings-and-loan influence peddling scandal (which was not in the above video) is one such example of McCain’s corrupt politics, quite at odds with his claim to be an opponent of lobbyists and corruption. The Phoenix New Times also details the shady history of the origins of his wife’s family’s fortune and his participation and benefiting from it.

Meanwhile, a London newspaper lays out the story of how McCain callously abandoned his first wife after she had been disfigured in a car accident, to marry the current one.

McCain has always had an explosive temper that suggests that he is unbalanced. Jeffrey St Clair describes one incident:

In 1992, Robin Silver and Bob Witzeman went to meet with McCain at his office in Phoenix to discuss Mt. Graham. Silver and Witzeman are both physicians. Witzeman is now retired and Silver works in the emergency room at Phoenix hospital. The doctors say that at the mention of the words Mount Graham McCain erupted into a violent fit. “He slammed his fists on his desk, scattering papers across the room”, Silver tells us. “He jumped up and down, screaming obscenities at us for at least 10 minutes. He shook his fists as if he was going to slug us. It was as violent as almost any domestic abuse altercation.”

Witzeman left the meeting stunned: “I’m a lifelong environmentalist, but what really scares me about McCain is not his environmental policies, which are horrid, but his violent, irrational temper. I think McCain is so unbalanced that if Vladimir Putin told him something he didn’t like he’d lose it, start beating his chest about having his finger on the nuclear trigger. Who knows where it would stop. To my mind, McCain’s the most likely senator to start a nuclear war.”

This trait earned him the nickname ‘McNasty’ in high school and his casual hurling of obscene and ugly language at his wife and others are well known to those who work with him but largely hidden from the public. McCain also publicly made a vicious joke about Chelsea Clinton when she was still a teenager, a joke that was so mean that many major publications refused to publish it.

All these things reveal him to be a person of highly dubious character. Those supposedly religious people and Biblical literalists who like to claim that a candidate’s personal character is the most important thing and who think that plastering the Ten Commandments everywhere and praying in schools is the answer to everything seem to have no problem with these revelations, revealing that their religion is one of convenience.

When confronted with any criticism, McCain and his campaign have pathetically resorted to using his prisoner of war experience to excuse anything, a kind of ‘get out of gaffe free’ card. Steve Benen lists all the times they have invoked his prison experience as a a shield. What is worse is that they simultaneously claim that McCain is reluctant to talk about it, although campaign and the Republican convention highlights that story at every opportunity.

Rudy Giuliani’s shameless invocation of the events of 9/11 for his personal advancement was mocked by Joe Biden who said that his every sentence consisted of a noun, a verb, and 9/11. Replace ‘9/11’ with ‘POW’ and we have a good description of John McCain’s answers to awkward questions and criticisms. This trait has become so blatant that even Maureen Dowd (someone who never fails to portray Republicans as macho and decry Democrats as wimpy) became distracted from her usual pathetic obsessions with the Clintons to comment on it.

So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. His campaign is cheapening his greatest strength — and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience — by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.

McCain’s prisoner of war experience is now becoming the butt of jokes and a target of cartoonists

John McCain also seems to be showing himself to be increasingly cranky as can be seen from the Time magazine interview. It seems like he is on a short fuse and I wonder how long it will be before his legendary temper and uncontrollable rage explodes in full view of the media.

The story of McCain’s lack of awareness of the number of houses he and his wife own (we still don’t know the exact answer. Four? Seven? Twelve?), his lack of knowledge of the make of car he drives (a Cadillac CTS), his $500 Italian shoes, and his fancy lifestyle has exposed the absurdity of his campaign trying to insinuate that Barack and Michelle Obama and his wife are ‘elitists’.

If all that was not bad enough, John McCain is running a campaign that is so full of distortions and lies that Josh Marshall concludes that McCain is running the sleaziest campaign in modern history and is clearly unfit for the office he is seeking.

POST SCRIPT: The Daily Show on McCain

Here is a biopic of McCain that accurately captures his opportunism.

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