A few days ago, Doc suggested that John McCain had a variety of winning strategies; all involved putting his own admirable qualities forward. He had devoted his life to national service; he had spent five long years as a prisoner of war, and had been maimed in the process; he had a political born-again experience after he was caught shilling for a financier in the Keating Five scandal; he had charted his own course relative to the Republican establishment and (especially) its unscrupulous tacticians. Had McCain leaned into his strengths, calmly and confidently, he’d have had a strong appeal to independent voters, and the Republican base (however dissatisfied) would have had no viable alternative to Obama. If a few hard-line right-wingers stayed home from the polls, McCain would still have stood to pick up far more independent votes. As Doc says, that’s the high road: McCain equals experience, service, track record, non-partisan, honor, respect, a plain dealer, a straight talker. That’s the McCain that the media loved and protected, that was a McCain who ran a high-road campaign against George W Bush (and who could have parlayed that opposition into a winning campaign to remedy what his predecessor screwed up), and that was a McCain who had mustered a reputation for integrity and statesmanship.
Instead — for whatever reason, and I’m no campaign wonk so I won’t pretend to see into the planning — McCain began last year to pander to the same right wing of the Republican Party that had slandered and attacked him four years ago, and that questioned his credentials well after his nomination. He ran away from his strongest points by identifying himself strongly with the failed Bush presidency, by selecting a manifestly unqualified candidate for vice president (how can he look Kay Bailey Hutchison in the eye after nominating Palin?), and by staffing his campaign with lobbyists and practitioners of Rovian ethics. Rather than burnishing his own status by treating Obama with respect and honor (“for a young fella,” “for a misguided liberal,” “for someone without military service,” “for someone who wasn’t already wired into foreign policy networks”), he sullied and eventually dismantled his integrity with deceitful attack ads and by exacerbating the latent racism that scars this country’s recuperation from the evils of its past.
As David points out, even McCain’s efforts to rein in the rabid ignorance and xenophobia he inflamed smack of the bigotry he’s ostensibly trying to check. McCain ought to listen to more They Might Be Giants:
Can’t shake the devil’s hand
and say you’re only kidding
I guess November 4 is where the party ends.