The Tragedy of John McCain
During my years as a banquet waiter, I met or was in the presence of many politicians including every President starting with Gerald Ford. Granted some were out of office or were just campaigning to get in at the time. It got so common to meet these big shots from many different fields that I used to imagine a wish list of people I wanted to meet next. For example, in sports, after Mohammed Ali came through town, and I got my picture taken with him, there was a time when I hoped to meet Joe Montana. It was just a little mental game to try and keep the job interesting. Montana never made it here, although I did meet Jerry Rice.
For years, the politician I most wanted to meet was John McCain. What a tremendous example of courage. Who can look at that film of him right after he was captured in North Vietnam and not be amazed at how much personal strength he showed? That is some remarkable footage. He just seemed to intersect with history on an elevated level. Then there's the footage from when he was right in the middle of that horrendous fire on the aircraft carrier from that era. This guy just seemed to have been picked for a starring role.
Indeed, John McCain was everything George W. Bush was not, so when McCain won the New Hampshire primary in 2000, the wretched attack dogs of Karl Rove and company went after this genuine American hero in South Carolina in a way that made even seasoned political operatives gag. One of the great "what-if's" is the missed opportunity we faced by not having McCain carry his momentum in New Hampshire to the Republican nomination.
When the desperate Bush supporters who comment on this site criticize my political leanings, it's usually to say that I am blinded by anti-Bush hatred, and that I always take the Democrats' side. This is a standard tactic of people who have little substance to defend their teenage puppy love for Bush so they try and define the argument as a Republican-Democrat divide.
First, let me say that I did meet Al Gore several times and worse yet, I heard him speak. It's cute how fashionable he's become again, and I attribute most of it to the unbelievably horrible job President Bush continues to do. Okay, plus the movie. But Al Gore used to drive me comatose with his speeches. I could hear individual brain cells in my head popping and committing suicide. He would say a few jokes and that would be fine, but when he shifted into that plodding serious tone, it was so boring you just wanted to scream.
Based on how I felt back then, if John McCain had run against Al Gore, I would have voted for John McCain. It's hard to imagine after 6 years of disastrous Republican rule, but I always put the individual ahead of party affiliation. For example, if George W. Bush were a Democrat, I would still see him as a shallow, vicious clown.
It's also hard to imagine voting for John McCain after how he's acted since then. This is a guy I have heard many times on the Imus radio show and he can be a very funny, together person. John McCain used to be cool. What happened to him?
It started when he forgave George Bush so easily for South Carolina. There was something wrong about that. Somewhere I believe John McCain made a compromise of huge proportions. I hate to say it, but he might have put his presidential ambitions ahead of the good of America. That really hurts me to suggest, and I hope I am wrong.
I loved when John McCain fought for the torture bill. That was the last time I saw the real guy. But then when he realized President Bush was just going to sign it, and announce he wouldn't follow it - you know, the standard Bush approach - I thought McCain would go ballistic. Instead, he rolled over, and it hurts me to say that. Maybe he just felt powerless to challenge our pretend king.
Now, he's so locked into supporting President Bush's version of Iraq that he seems to be carrying out a back-room deal: Support the White House, and we'll help you become President later. It's so sad. That scene in the marketplace in Iraq was so phony and weird that it almost looked like McCain was deliberately confessing. His remarks at the press conference were delivered in such a down tone, that it sounded like someone who is miserable with himself. It sounded like someone who had sold out his soul for political ambition, and was beginning to realize it wasn't going to work.
I still would be honored to meet John McCain. That's never going to change. But I'll always see him in a similar way as I see Colin Powell - as a casualty of the Bush Years. In times this sleazy, a genuine American hero can turn into a tragic figure, but I'm still surprised they let it happen. Frankly, I think McCain's surprised he let it happen.
It's such a missed opportunity. We should be in the second term of President John McCain right now, and George W. Bush should be back in Texas wondering what he can possibly do to salvage his pathetic, wasted life.
Instead, we have an American tragedy on our hands, and it's only going to get sadder to watch.