Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Portraits Of John McCain


For those still sitting on the fence (and, oh, at this late stage of the campaign, your ass must be hurting!) is two feature articles that, depending on your degree of independence, show an even-handed portrait of Sen. John McCain and another that may feature straight talk on the conductor of the Straight Talk Express.

Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic cover story on McCain, entitled, "The Wars of John McCain" does a fine job of revealing the senator's illustrous family background. His grandfather was an admiral in World War II, while his father was a rear admiral during Vietnam.

One poignant story reveals McCain's father would travel at Christmastime as close to his son's place of captivity as he could.

You still may not agree with McCain's reasons for continuing war in Iraq, but the similarities between getting out of Vietnam and leaving Iraq at this late stage of the conflict is though-provoking.

While Goldberg is somewhat even-handed with McCain and even writes of a long-time relationship with the senator, Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson is out for blood in an entertaining and revealing look at the real McCain, unencumbered with political mythmaking

The Dickinson piece is a bit reminiscent of Sen. John Kerry's swift-boating with quotes from a few of McCain's fellow POW's downplaying his heroics in Vietnam.

Among the other highlights is a revision of McCain's early military career that includes carousing, multiple plane crashes and graduating just five places from the bottom of his class.

Of note, is a nice collection of McCain's greatest hits when it comes to chewing out fellow Washington insiders and loved ones.

During his 1992 campaign, at the end of a long day, McCain's wife, Cindy, mussed his receding hair and needled him playfully that he was "getting a little thin up there." McCain reportedly blew his top, cutting his wife down with the kind of language that had gotten him hauled into court as a high schooler: "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." Even though the incident was witnessed by three reporters, the McCain campaign denies it took place...

In 1992, McCain got into a heated exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley over the fate of missing American servicemen in Vietnam. "Are you calling me stupid?" Grassley demanded. "No, I'm calling you a fucking jerk!" yelled McCain. Sen. Bob Kerrey later told reporters that he feared McCain was "going to head-butt Grassley and drive the cartilage in his nose into his brain." The two were separated before they came to blows...

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" McCain asked.
"Because her father is Janet Reno!"

McCain has called Paul Weyrich, who helped steer the Republican Party to the right, a "pompous self-serving son of a bitch" who "possesses the attributes of a Dickensian villain." In 1999, he told Sen. Pete Domenici, the Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, that "only an asshole would put together a budget like this."...

Last year, after barging into a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation and attempting to seize the reins, McCain was called out by fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "Wait a second here," Cornyn said. "I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line." McCain exploded: "Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone in the room." The incident foreshadowed McCain's 11th-hour theatrics in September, when he abruptly "suspended" his campaign and inserted himself into the Wall Street bailout debate at the last minute, just as congressional leaders were attempting to finalize a bipartisan agreement...

McCain's frequently inappropriate humor has also led many to question his self-control. In 1998, the senator told a joke about President Clinton's teenage daughter at a GOP fundraiser. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" McCain asked. "Because her father is Janet Reno!"


Click here to read Jeffrey Goldberg's, "The Wars of John McCain" at The Atlantic Monthly

Click here to read Tim Dickinson's "Make-Believe Maverick" at Rolling Stone.

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