Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Inexplicable John McCain

If John Kerry is called a flip-flopper, how should one characterize John McCain?

The son and grandson of Admirals, John McCain goes out to Vietnam as a Navy pilot, gets shot down over North Vietnam, and spends the next several years as an unbending POW. He returns home a hero. This is in the early 70’s.

Cut forward to 2000. Now in his third term, Senator John McCain runs for President, only to find his campaign baffled by an opponent, George W. Bush, over whom he towers in every respect except for the small matter of the campaign war chest.

To make up for the war glory deficit — for McCain has a long record in Vietnam and later leads a campaign for finding MIA’s in South East Asia, while Bush did not go to Vietnam and is MIA from nothing fancier than the Texas Air National Guard — the Bush campaign seeks to tar McCain using all available means, its surrogates letting it fall that McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi child is actually an illegitimate black baby he has fathered.

McCain skirts issues like the racial bias of Bob Jones University and the Confederate flag in South Carolina, an avoidance he later acknowledges as cowardly. Finally, throwing in the electoral towel in the face of an insuperable Bush fundraising tsunami, he endorses his erstwhile slanderer and campaigns for him like a good soldier during the general election of 2000.

Post election, an organized voter disenfranchisement effort comes to light in Florida. This reputed voice of conscience, a fixture on the Sunday morning talk shows, remains unperturbed. He is certainly not about to lend his signature (one signature from one senator would have done) to a move by the Congressional Black Caucus to force a discussion of the disenfranchisement before the ratification of George W. Bush’s “election”. The scene in Congress, as those seeking justice for the thousands of people wrongly denied the vote thrash about in vain for one lone senator’s signature, surely ranks as one of the most poignant moments of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9-11. Anyway, Mr. Conscience’s conscience gives him no trouble here (to be fair, neither indeed did Mr. Kerry’s or Mr. Edwards’).

A professed fiscal conservative and deficit hawk, McCain is one of two Republicans voting against the Bush Tax Cut of 2001. He also works against the White House to pilot the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act.

Then comes 9-11. The White House pushes through sweeping curtailments of liberties, but McCain, who worships Barry Goldwater and casts himself as a plain speaking frontiersman from the West who loves freedom and liberty, votes for the Patriot Act.

He then proceeds to furiously look the other way as the White House “Fact” Factory sends forth one false reason after another to invade Iraq, pausing only to offer support to the pushing of the War (along with one Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat). Here is a brief record of McCain’s votes during those crucial days:

–Byrd’s Proposal to Require Bush to Seek Additional Congressional Authority if Bush’s War Was to Exceed Two Years (10/10/2002). McCain votes to Reject.

–Byrd’s Proposal Rejecting Preemptive War, Regardless of Whether it is Unilateral or Multilateral (10/10/2002). McCain votes to Reject.

–Durbin’s Proposal for a Multilateral Preemptive War (10/10/2002). McCain votes to Reject.

–Authorization for Preemptive War Against Iraq (10/11/2002). McCain votes For, pushing and piloting the bill assiduously.

The war rolls on, and this proclaimed guardian of the interests of fighting men and women cannot find it in himself to criticize his own cupidity in believing the White House and sending hundreds of American soldiers to their doom in a war over supposed weapons of mass destruction that a year later are still unfound. If questioned, he too is comfortable mouthing the non-answer, “the world is better off with Saddam gone”.

Then, in 2004, McCain suddenly appears to wake up to the fact that the White House is not to be deviated from its true agenda (tax cuts), Iraq or no Iraq. He says something in opposition and is roundly ridiculed by Dennis Hastert, who questions whether he is even a Republican, hinting that McCain is unpatriotic for suggesting that foregoing the tax cut would be a small sacrifice on the part of the wealthy. “If he wants to see sacrifice”, Hastert claims with a straight face, “John McCain ought to go and visit the young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda”. You can’t argue with logic like that.

The Bush administration, of course, sides with Hastert (who is, after all, only carrying its water).

Into the middle of all this wades John F. Kerry, Democratic nominee. Said Antony, “You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse…” Except in McCain’s case, Kerry might have said it was more like seven times. A private approach (inevitably leaked) would be made for McCain to join the Kerry ticket, and a markedly public rejection would issue forth promptly from McCain.

Whatever hold Bush has on McCain, it is obviously quite potent. Potent enough to get McCain to accompany him to a thinly veiled campaign appearance at a military base in Washington state, and introduce him to the audience. And last week, McCain appeared in a campaign commercial for Bush. There are now rumors that Bush might drop Cheney and saddle up with McCain as his running mate. What’s a slander or two between fellow Republicans?

In India, they speak of an unpredictable person as a Bharatpuri Lota, a reference to the round-bottomed vessel prone to tilt unexpectedly in any direction — a hazard for anyone seeking to use it for their ablutions. The American moniker, ‘maverick’, which McCain has accrued, is by comparison far more polished and respectable. Even ‘loose cannon’ hardly approaches the lota in conjuring up the nature of McCain’s role these last few years.

For all that, there is a method to McCain’s instability. When the chips are down, he reverts to the disciplined apparatchik, with the much-bandied conscience neatly folded away for a more opportune time. In all of history, there have been such enablers who, by their support in critical moments, confer a vague legitimacy to regimes which by any reasonable reckoning should have long forfeited it. Taylor Branch’s Pulitzer winning book on the Civil Rights movement was called “Parting the Waters”. John McCain’s inevitable next work would be aptly titled, “Muddying the Waters”.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. His writings can be found at http://www.indogram.com/gramsabha/articles. He can be reached at njn_04@yahoo.com

 

More articles by:

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail