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The Maverick Has No Clothes

by CHARLES R. LARSON

So John McCain wants to change the political climate in Washington? So John McCain wants to usher in a new era of change?  So John McCain wants to cut the partisan logjam and work with both parties?  So John McCain wants to reduce the influence of lobbyists?  So John McCain wants to restore ethics to politics.  Fabulous.  Few people can disagree about these noble objectives.  So John McCain believes that he’s a maverick capable of bringing out the best in all of us.

Why does a maverick, then, need to embrace the tactics of distortion, of outright lies in the current political race that looks as if it has become as down and dirty as any election in recent years?  Doesn’t a maverick refuse to join the herd, to march to a different drummer?  If John McCain has already employed the tactics of the last eight years of the Bush administration (lies and deceit as in Iraq’s WMD or that Iraq was responsible for 9/11), hasn’t McCain already shown that his administration (should he win the election) will simply be a continuation of the untruths and distortions that are a hallmark of George Bush and Company?

In truth, the maverick has no clothes, which may have been true from the beginning of his political career.  Yes, the heroism of being a political prisoner is indisputable (although John Kerry and Max Cleland might have different insights about this), but that is the only thing that sets McCain apart from any other number of reformers in Congress and the Senate who have bucked the trend of their compatriots.  If John McCain is a maverick, then can’t the same be said of Joe Lieberman who, at the Republican Convention, kept distinguishing himself from his Democratic Party yet repeatedly calling himself a Democrat instead of an Independent?

And shrill Sarah Palin, currently being identified as another maverick in Republican attack ads: does she bear any resemblance to what the dictionary defines as “maverick”?  Reformer she is not, as the press has already demonstrated of her many distortions in her speech at the Republican convention.

Against the Bridge to Nowhere?  C’mon, give me a break.  Tell the truth about something.  Against “earmarks” (business as usual in Washington)?  Give me another break.  The Alaska gas pipeline, which her speech implied was close to completion, though it hasn’t even been started?  Crying that children of politicians are supposed to be off-bounds for reporters while placing them in the spotlight and parading them in front of millions of viewers in order to gain sympathy for the morally and physically handicapped?  Will the delivery of Bristol Palin’s baby be televised on FOX TV in order to exploit this pathetic teenager for all she is worth?

And what about John McCain’s celebrated patriotism for America?  In a democracy, is it appropriate for a candidate for the Vice Presidency to be so closeted that she cannot be asked a question at any of her party’s rallies?  Is this McCain’s idea of freedom of speech?  Is this the kind of government McCain will embrace if he is elected—one with no accountability because no one will be able to ask any questions regarding decisions made by his administration?  Or, is Sarah Palin’s muzzling simply a matter of getting her lipstick on straight before she’s ready to stand in front of reporters and answer questions?

Senator McCain, though I am a Democrat, until a couple of years ago you  actually convinced me that you had some integrity, that you stood for something of value in our country–perhaps even that you had tried to buck the trend of the same old divisive politics of your party. Apparently not.  Rather, it looks as if the Straight-Talk Express has been hijacked by Karl Rove and Joseph Goebbels.

Does nakedness have no shame?

CHARLES R. LARSON is Professor of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. His books include Under African Skies, Worlds of Fiction, The Ordeal of the African Writer and Academia Nuts. He can be reached at: clarson@american.edu

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Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

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