It Was The Week Of April 1st...Yes APRIL 1ST, 2007
Everybody experiences the moment at some point in their lives.
You realize the job's goin' under the moment you go to cash your paycheck and the fucker bounces.
The relationship's done the moment you find the gift box of freaky Vickie undies under the bed with a note from "Dave". Your name? Glen. :(
The car is finished the moment you see orange flames dancing in the dashboard air vents.
The Moment --the moment you know something important is over, is a helluva thing. A "wow" moment. In politics though, it's a mixed bag. It can be a toast-clinking, schadenfreude-fest, like the Gingrich and Livingston sexual, self-immolations at the height of GOP Clinton hysteria. It can be plain, old, flaming wreck on the road shoulder rubbernecking like the Dukakis "Big Helmet" photo-op gaffe. And then, you have the kind where even if you don't necessarily like the politico/victim, you may respect him. He may have even been at some point been a halfway honorable person who fought through some serious difficulties in his life.
Senator John McCain of Arizona is one such fellow, and his "moment" came ironically enough during the week of April 1st of this year.
You probably remember it well--it was the week he strolled through a "safe "marketplace in Baghdad with “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.”
It was also the week McCain said "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today"
That week...was John McCain's "moment" in this Presidential election, almost certainly his final bite at that electoral apple. It ended him as a contender, as a voice of so-called truth-telling, and as a serious voice on the war--a subject that a man of his pedigree should have owned outright. I mocked him rather harshly in a post that week, using the altered pic of that fateful walk shown at the top of this post, matching it to a rather mean-spirited song parody that summed up what a lot of people were thinking upon seeing him get it so willfully wrong:
Sung to the tune of Glen Campbell's "Galveston"
Charlatan, a Char-la-tan...
My menda-ci-ty's a' showin'.
I know my legacy I'm blowin'...
And still I run...though I'm a Char-la-tan.
Charlatan, a Char-la-tan...
I can't stop my campaign's crashing.
Remaining integrity I'm trashing...
I'm damn near done...'cause I'm a Char-la-tan.
Helplessly, I see my fiefdom totter,
Without a care--sold my soul selfishly.
And pity poor war-whore, meeee.
All the "Straight Talk" sh*t I used to run...
Charlatan, a Char-la-taaaaaaan!...
I can't help my pro-surge lying...
'Bout who is, and who ain't dying...
'Bout a senseless war, I know deep down cannot be woooooon...
I'm a Char-la-tan! A Char-la-taaaaaaan!
(With apologies to the great Jimmy Webb)
I wasn't kind. I also wasn't alone in my derision. It was nearly universal, and was "the moment" when he stopped being taken seriously, and effectively became a two-pronged punch-line of Mr. Magoo-like myopia and Sergeant Schultz-ian willful idiocy. And with yesterday's news about the utter collapse of McCain's campaign staff, I'll be honest--on a strictly human level, I kinda feel bad for him. Via Kos:
"Things are looking pretty dismal for the once pre-ordained Republican nominee. Last week he laid off some 50 staff members. Today we find out that his two top campaign staff are out. Marc Ambinder has an in-depth look at the inside workings of the McCain campaign that led to this implosion."
But it was actually worse that that as we would find out later in the day.
"As the news was breaking, McCain took to the Senate floor not to step aside but rather to speak about his recent trip to Iraq.
The McCain campaign has had money problems of late, reporting lackluster fundraising numbers for the second quarter of the year and laying off a number of campaign staffers.
In addition to Weaver and Nelson, The Fix has confirmed that deputy campaign manager Reed Galen and political director Rob Jesmer have also resigned their positions with McCain effective immediately"
In less than 48 hours, the top five people in his campaign ran away like a crazed, rabid, killer rabbit was attacking them and tearing out their throats.
It's been quite the geek show, watching the GOP candidates debase and demolish themselves, this election season. But McCain's special act of Seppuku is eminently watchable and sad as hell all at once. That Baghdad stroll was the culmination of a half-decade of flagellation of whatever dignity the man had left. A groan-inducing, and futile attempt to grab at the brass ring of the Presidency one...last...time.
Remember the hell he went through as a Navy flier in Vietnam? Reading up on it is like digging into the roughest parts of Stephen King's "Misery"--only this shit was for real. Shot down, both arms broken in the crash, shoulder rifle-butted into powder, foot and gut bayonetted. Sleep and food-deprived, and when that wasn't enough, just beaten into unconsciousness for the what-the-fuck of it. Somehow, he survived all that, his body broken like a G.I. Joe callously shattered by a child against playground asphalt. Survived and went on to the Senate, where he was a staunch conservative, yes--but one who would actually, occasionally challenge his party's status quo.
"Maverick", he would be called for those baby-steps he took away from the party dogma. But he did it juuuuust often enough to earn the ire of the truly troglodytic ballers and shot-callers in charge of the GOP. And that ire would rear it's ugly, jug-eared and empty head during the 2000 primary campaign when George Bush and his patrons in the Republican party would savage McCain in ways generally reserved for dirty fucking hippie Dems.. He was spun as a shell-shocked, loose-cannon, philandering baby-daddy of a mystery BLACK infant.
In...um, South Carolina. Yeah.
They kicked his heart out and fed it to him. The campaign was done. And McCain was damned angry about it--but he was also a pragmatist. After a few hard words at the expense of his take-no-prisoners, racist tormenters, McCain decided then and there "If you can't beat 'em, join your take-no-prisoners, racist tormenters". In a sad, pride-swallowing spectacle, from the beginning of Bush's presidency, McCain decided to suck up to the same crowd who sought to destroy him, thinking that keeping his so-called "enemies closer" (his unspoken personal strategy), shutting his mouth about transgressions he previously would've called 'em on, and embarrassingly, even vocally backing the President's every shitty, backwards policy would somehow give him cachet with that king-making/career-breaking crew of puffed-up, gangster-wonks.
Guess it sorta goes without saying, what the shittiest, and most backward of all of Bush's policies has been thus far, right? :(
McCain signed on for it...so hard that his pen pierced the paper and dug through the top of the fucking desk. Bought into it like a zealot, he did. You'd almost think that something was promised to him for that kind of support, but looking at it closely, I don't think it went down like that.
I think he simply tried to cut a deal with the Devil, and didn't notice that the Devil was too busy just tryin' to keep the place hot to even care about his offer. McCain was always, in spite of his conservative bona-fides, an outsider to this crew of petro-oligarchs and longtime members of the Reaganite cocktail-weenie set.
And don't forget, his being accepted into their circle would have highlighted a glaring macho deficiency in just about everyone in that circle's résumé save for his--namely, that McCain served in the military, and they didn't. It would've given him some seriously elevated status with that bunch--and they were never gonna let that happen. But, "The Maverick" was too blinded by ambition, and the misguided thought that his lengthy service--to the GOP and country was due to be rewarded by these vipers.
So he humped it for IraqWar, Pimped IraqWar. Laid down and let IraqWar pee on his prostrate body, and yes...tossed IraqWar salad, un-asked, in the insane belief that come '08, this resoluteness-cum-masochism would pay off with a nod and a pat on the head--and who knows?--Maybe the voice of James Baker with heavy reverb and echo from on high saying "It's yer's Johnnie."
That electronically-procesed "God" voice never came. But while waiting for it, McCain did all he could--spun, lied, shaded, baited, chided, howled and railed--to support every talking point of the war, and caught a lot of hell for it. From pundits who could read the tea leaves, and in the polls where the people clearly were saying "you're out of touch, sir."
And that brings us to April Fool's Day, 2007. The moment for John McCain.
The war, three months into the surge was going worse than ever. The American people had tipped decisively into the camp of seeing the bed-shit of a war for what it was--not a faded skid-mark on the top sheet, but a mother-lovin' eat-through-the-mattress-right-through-the-box-spring-and-burn-the-finish-off-the-hardwood-floors, bed-shit of a war. The White House's P.R. campaign was in overdrive, trying to spin a ten-ton granite boulder of reality with a hummingbird's feather of lies. McCain dutifully did his part for the effort in that trip to the marketplace in Baghdad, strolling with his comrade-in-con-mannery Lindsey Graham. Bought a few rugs...nibbled a fig. Sipped a cuppa sweet tea.
And then proclaimed all was well, as though he'd just wandered through the Park Place Mall in Tucson, casually sampling TCBY and Cinnabons as he browsed.
Let's go back to his statements that week:
"There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today."
Then...that picture was released..of the flack in the flak jacket, with 100 Army Rangers flanking him, fingers on triggers--Blackhawks and Apaches swooping overhead like hungry buzzards. It was a DAY where we lost seven troops. The first month of the last three where U.S. casualties topped the century mark--104 in April, 126 in May, and 101 in June. But that moment, came at the worst possible time for McCain. National disenchantment with the war now had no flyover states. From Albany, to Akron, to Abilene, to Anaheim, the blinders of fear fell away and people began--albeit belatedly, to see the war for what it was--a debacle. And that week, John McCain embarrassed himself, and rendered his voice on the war as reliable as the voice of the dude down by the river with the matted hair, who stinks of piss and potted meat, ranting about how near we are to the fucking end. That moment. That picture. That exposé of what his stroll entailed?--was the end of his campaign, and maybe him as a political player for all intents and purposes.
He's been Bruce Willis in "The Sixth Sense" ever since, walking along analyzing someone else's crazy problem with seeing dead people...until yesterday, when his campaign staff booked like the 400 meter relay team, and he realized "Oh shit. I'm dead people." You see, it was one thing when he was busy deluding himself and insulting his own intelligence on Bush and the war. That's a sad, personal hell that only he--with some time to think and maybe some professional help--can fix.
But in that moment, he decided to insult the intelligence of the American people. The pundits who usually hung on his every "Maverick" word, too. And not only did they not let him slide...they savaged him. Maybe worse yet, they laughed at him along with us. You have to really fuck it up--being a mega-decorated war vet, a body still showing the effects of its hideous breking at the enemy's hands almost forty years later, a senior statesman--really, really fuck it up in a big way to pull the handle and send everything he had going for him, swirling "glug-glug-glug" down the shitter.
And that's what McCain did in that moment in April.
The moment. We've all experienced it. John McCain did. He just didn't want to admit it. So his top five staffers decided yesterday to tell him. And us.
From "The Sixth Sense:"
Cole Sear: I see dead people.
Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?
[Cole shakes his head no]
Malcolm Crowe: While you're awake?
Malcolm Crowe: Dead people like, in graves? In coffins?
Cole Sear: Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead.
Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?
Cole Sear: All the time. They're everywhere.
And sometimes...they're you. :(