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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The gargoyle behind the hero
Posted by Jill | 5:58 AM
I'm sure that when Regnery publishes its hit job on Barack Obama this summer, every smear, every lie, will be covered exhaustively by the mainstream media as "an alternative view". Meanwhile, the media's love affair with All Things McCain continues -- at least here in the U.S. Here, as if to squelch any notion that that uppity Michelle Obama is "the new Jackie", Newsweek puts Cindy McCain, airbrushed so that she almost looks like the 25-year-old her husband no doubt wishes she still was, in a Jackie-esque pink suit on its cover and inside pens a story of a brave, noble woman who's had a Really Tough Life™. In the press' world, Cindy McCain is someone who's been like a single mother, with her husband off in Washington. The Washington wives were mean to her, treating her like a trophy wife. I'm not sure why this would be seen as inaccurate, given that McCain made a beeline for the 25-year-old beer heiress while he was still married to his first wife (whom he had already in his mind dumped because she'd had the temerity to age five years, get into a disfiguring car accident, and gain weight as a result). The stealing drugs from her own charity is barely touched, and the involvement with a married man is equally brushed aside, under the IOKIYAR rule.

But it's Cindy McCain's likening of herself to a single mother that got my goat. I keep thinking of the 21-year-old from Bergen County with a new baby who's being shipped off to Iraq. Her life can't be all that easy here, and now she's being sent to a combat zone because she joined the National Guard to try to go to college. NO ONE joins the Guard thinking s/he's going to see combat in a war zone, because historically that isn't what the National Guard does -- unless the President wants to fight a war and refuses to take the political heat of a draft. THAT is a single mother; not a beer heiress worth $100 million who could hire all the help she wanted, who doesn't have to lie awake at night wondering how she'll have enough money to feed the kids for the rest of the month and whose husband "borrowed" $169,000 from her trust fund to run for Congress.

It's even more difficult to feel sorry for a woman with her own charitable foundation who runs the family beer distributorship whose husband calls her a "trollop" and a "cunt" in public, because she, unlike many women married to shitty men, has the resources to leave if she wants to. So don't play me any Songs of Sorrow for Cindy McCain.

But why shouldn't the press build an elaborate mythology around this woman -- another deer-in-the-headlights zombie who'll be seen and not heard any more than absolutely necessary (as opposed to that awful Obama woman™, who dares to think she's entitled to have an opinion of her own). They've already built one around her husband. The War Hero. The Maverick. The Man Who Marches to His Own Drummer. And at one time, all of those might have been true, but they aren't any longer. The problem is that if you only get your news from the likes of Newsweek, Time, newspapers, and cable and network news, you'd never know.

Cliff Schecter has tried to get the other side of John McCain out there in his new book, but you'll notice that Schecter hasn't exactly been invited onto the Today show and Hardball and The Situation Room (though you can bet that the author of the Obama smear book will be). On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Paul Harris in the Guardian writes for a population that can't vote in this election:

Welcome to the John McCain show 2008. It's powerful stuff, portraying McCain as the decent patriot of the middle ground and a steady hand for difficult times. For a lot of Americans - including many Democrats - it is a beguiling vision. They see a war hero whose courage was forged in a North Vietnamese POW camp. They see a maverick who spoke against the tortures of Abu Ghraib. They see a reformer who acts against lobbyists and political favours. They see a politician who has spent a lifetime serving his country and won a place in the hearts of the nation.

Now McCain is also trying to win the White House. He has taken his campaign to places far from the projected Republican road map to victory. He has spoken in the 'black belt' of rural Alabama. He has toured Appalachian coal country to talk about poverty. He has gone to the hippy enclave of Oregon to lecture on global warming. In short, he is a Republican that even liberals can love. And many do. McCain's appeal to America's vital middle ground could easily propel him to the Oval Office.

But there is another, very different side to John McCain. Away from the headlines and the stirring speeches, a less familiar figure lurks. It is a McCain who plans to fight on in Iraq for years to come and who might launch military action against Iran. This is the McCain whose campaign and career has been riddled with lobbyists and special interests. It is a McCain who has sided with religious and political extremists who believe Islam is evil and gays are immoral. It is a McCain who wants to appoint extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and see abortion banned. This McCain has a notoriously volatile temper that has scared some senior members of his own party. If McCain becomes the most powerful man in the world it would be wise to know what lies behind his public mask, to look at the dark side of John McCain.


McCain's campaign bus - dubbed the Straight Talk Express, just as it was in 2000 - is filled with journalists who travel at the back with McCain, relaxing on a U-shaped couch. McCain recently hosted a barbecue for journalists at his Arizona ranch. As TV anchors and newspaper reporters sipped beer and cocktails under a desert sun, McCain stood at the grill and literally served up their daily nourishment. He is someone you could have a beer with, in stark contrast to Barack Obama, who keeps his press entourage firmly at arm's length. Yet McCain's riskier strategy has worked like a dream. Reporters often overlook McCain's errors and flaps - especially in national security - clinging instead to the narrative of an unconventional patriot. 'The media love him, especially his war record. He is the GI Joe doll they played with as kids,' says Professor Shawn Bowler, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside.

There is also a little-reported back-up plan for reporters who do not toe the line: sheer aggression. A recent Washington Post piece on a land deal by one of McCain's allies prompted a brutal response from the McCain campaign. Without disproving facts, they labelled the story 'shameful' and a 'smear job'. When Newsweek ran a story on the Obama camp's perception of McCain's weak spots, McCain's team struck again. This time the story was 'offensive' and 'scurrilous'. The campaign is willing to strike out abroad, recently persuading one European newspaper editor to scrap a review of Schecter's book. For the fact is, McCain's benevolent public image is no accident. It has been carefully crafted and is forcefully policed. 'This has gone on for years. This is an image he has worked very hard to maintain,' says Professor Seth Masket of the University of Denver.

(More here.)

And of course that's exactly what it is -- an image. Even Jack Kemp has said that McCain is too unstable to be president. You would think that having had one gargoyle in the office disguised by an affable exterior would have taught us. But with McCain running within six points in some recent polls, despite his gaffes, his many lobbyists, his willingness to sacrifice however many young Americans it takes in order for him to resolve HIS issues with his father, and his chief adviser opining that another terrorist attack on the U.S. would be great for his campaign (nothing like the corpses of a few thousand Americans to create political benefit, eh, Mr. Black?); it's all too clear that the image is all most Americans see. And that's exactly how the press wants it. Because they sure do love them barbecue ribs.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thank you so much for printing up a tear-down of that schlocky damned Newsweek story on Cindy McCain. I turned a color brighter than her suit when I read it, cause what a dose of sweetness and manure that was!

Blogger Bob said...
I disagree only with the notion that anyone is foolish enough to enlist in the National Guard believing they won't be called to active duty. Because if they do, they are foolish indeed.

Blogger dguzman said...
Beautiful piece. When I heard Black's comment, I couldn't believe that none of the talking hairpieces on TV, corporate/Bushco shills though they may be, did not say, "Are you CRAZY? Truly, are you? Because only a sociopath would say such a thing." But no, the idiots on Faux were only moments ago discussing whether it was TRUE that a terrorist attack would benefit McFossil.


Blogger Fran said...
Wow- what a great post. Amazing. Your blog has been recommended to me so many times... how and why it took me this long to get here is a mystery to me.

I am glad I did.

This is brilliant.

That Newsweek is sitting here before me and I have yet to have the stomach to open it. Now I can.

Blogger Unknown said...
Well done! And I second what Fran said about finally getting over here.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
what a load of lefty B. S.

Blogger Batocchio said...
Good summing up. I had missed that Jack Kemp bit. Yikes!

And personally, Jill, I think you deserve a higher quality of troll. ;-)

Blogger Unknown said...
That batshit-crazy Weathervane McCain can kiss my hairy ass. And his little dog toto..er, wife can too. Cindy McCain was a major drug addict and thief who's husband apparently knew it because he fired the guy that tried to warn him about her addiction and her stealing from the company.

Any republican worth his salt has said McCain is a tool. Kemp and Hagel are two of the most prominent, and both are very conservative.

McCain is to Bush as Cindy is to Laura.