...made a brief appearance at a Town Hall meeting in Minnesota yesterday. That was John McCain, man of honesty and integrity and honor. That was the John McCain who drove the Straight Talk Express and was, in fact, a maverick because he said what was true for him, even when not politically expedient. We could trust that he'd tell us when the emperor was wearing no clothes, because he'd done it before, and that meant that we could send him out in the world to do right by us, even when we didn't so much like the sound of it.
Then he lost his viable bid for the presidency to the dirty tricks of the GOP in 2000. That hurt him, and eight years later, we know how much it hurt the United States, not to mention the rest of the world. But now, in 2008, it's his last chance to do for his country what he believes should be done. The Maverick is driving the Straight Talking bus again. Except, the Dirty Tricksters are now whispering in his ear. He may be working the pedals, but they're steering the course. And he's letting them. Which is understandable for a only-too-human man, with a Top Gun ego.
Understandable, yes, but not allowable if, that is, we want to cut the free fall into disgrace of our nation. When John McCain picked Sarah Palin to assuage the GOP base, he sold himself out. In so doing he forced himself into a situation where he had to claim that the empress was, in fact, wearing clothes, and that he liked her gown very much. This is not a criticism of Palin; it is a criticism of McCain himself. They say that every person has their price, and winning the election was McCain's, I suppose. Except he probably won't win now (barring an Al Quida crisis, something I can't help thinking the Dirty Tricksters are praying for, if not outright planning. Remember Wag The Dog, won't you).
I have found it increasingly difficult to listen to McCain. He sounds like a parody of a person running for office: "my friends...my friends...." is how he begins too many statements that are clearly sound bites. I'm not your friend, John, I want to yell at him. I'm an American citizen who wants the best of and for her country. Fomenting class and race wars--that's not the best; that's the worst. The pundits are saying that McCain has no choice but to go 'dirty'. It's his last chance to change the topic of this conversation to one that suits him better. Then the pundits correct themselves to say, "well, he does have a choice, but this is the direction he's going in."
Yes, he did have a choice. If he wanted to appeal to many independent voters, the ex-Hillary voters, the Purple State Voters, it was only going to happen by virtue of our belief in the man himself. That meant not pandering to the lowest of the Conservative base, not accepting as fact that he could not win without them. If all the Rovian Republicans had stayed home, what difference would that have made in this campaign? Might John McCain be in a different place now if he had maintained his integrity and trusted himself?
That integrity was on display yesterday in Minnesota when he took the microphone from a woman who was calling Obama an Arab. "No, ma'am," he said. "He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with." But the rage at that Town Hall meeting, rage he tried to calm, is a product of his campaign. It's the consequence of going dirty. It made me sad to see the McCain I thought he was on display again. I thought of how much was wasted in the name of political expediency. And I thought too of how John McCain has forever besmirched his good name by sending the Straight Talk Express down that rutted, potholed, axle-breaking shortcut.