“You got a lotta nerve
to say you are my friend
when I was down
you just stood there grinnin'
You got a lotta nerve
to say you got a helpin' hand to lend
you just want to be
on the side that's winnin' ----Bob Dylan “Positively 4th Street” (1)
“My friends”, the old Marshall of Tombstone says before he issues yet another savage attack on an honorable man. It is said of McCain that he addresses all of his adversaries with this disclaimer. The words are spoken with a tight-lipped smile and often through clenched teeth. The tone is ironic and full of sarcasm, but is always a prelude to a statement dismissive of either his opponent, the matter at hand, or both. The pattern is so pronounced that his real friends recoil at its use preferring instead to be referred to as his enemy or not at all. There is a certain disingenuous quality about his use of the term. It isn't simply that John McCain comes across as a grumpy old man it is that when he tries to enamor himself with his audience by addressing them as “My Friends” a certain chill goes down the spine. Those assembled think that perhaps the good Marshall has confused them with his North Vietnamese captors.
In any case it is the penultimate irony that the good Marshall should, at this late date in the campaign, now find himself in a position wherein he must address those of middling means as his friends. For nearly thirty years McCain stood grinnin' as the middle class was savaged by the public policies of his party. Now that he finds himself about to be hoisted on his own petard, he suddenly has an epiphany discovering at a time in life well past retirement that something has gone terribly wrong;; perhaps that his conservative “principles” weren't principles at all but mere window dressing for greed; that all those platitudes pronounced with such conviction at the conventions and the 'rubber-chicken' circuit were, in the end, simply lipstick on a pig.
The problem that is John McCain is that he is arguably the most ethically challenged member of the United States Senate. Yes, the Senators of Louisiana and Idaho have had their sexual malfunctions but they can be relied upon to vote the party line and stand for good old pachyderm principles however misguided they be. The Marshall, on the other hand, is driven by blind ambition and will resort to unlimited political expediency in an effort to achieve what his father and grandfather could not—become “commander-in-chief”.
To achieve the ultimate prize the good Marshall must be on the side that's winnin'. To that end, McCain early joined the Republican party, aligning himself with the politically and economically well placed. Blaming the Democrats for “losing” Vietnam, he joined up with the Republicans becoming an eager water carrier for the well-heeled K-Street lobbyists and the military defense contractors. No sooner had he warmed his newly won congressional seat then he set about selling himself to Charles Keating (2) and other moguls of the financial industry. Today his entire campaign is run by lobbyists, men who are still on the payroll of their respective companies and who regularly conduct business from the bus of the “Straight-Talk Express”. From the moment he stepped into the political arena John McCain was a wholly owned subsidiary of K-Street.
Epiphany always, it seems, comes to desperate men in moments of desperation. Dukkakis and the Clinton's always discovered the “unwashed” when clear defeat was on the horizon. So it is now with the good Marshall as he tells us with a straight face that he now has a helpin' hand to lend. McCain displayed a lot of nerve in the debate last week. Between clenched teeth and prefacing his proposal with the inevitable “my friends”, the Marshall of Tombstone unveiled a 300 billion dollar plan to buy up bad mortgages. Like the selection of the the Guttersnipe as his running mate, and his “withdrawal” from the campaign to confront the financial crisis, this was yet another attempt to reset the clock and put himself and Obama back on the starting blocks. It didn't wash, post-debate polling showed Obama the clear winner and winning independents by 15 points, 54-39.
By the end of the week it was back to the old Rovian tactics of smear and fear. In an unprecedented spectacle would-be First Lady Cindy McCain took to the stump smearing the differences between the Democratic nominee and her husband. Calling attention to her own son's service, she accused Obama of not protecting her child saying that if the Democrat were to, if only briefly, stand in her shoes, he would feel a chill run down his spine. The chill, however, is running down the collective spines of the entire Republican ticket. By week's end some polls, Gallup and Newsweek among them, had Obama up by 11 points, roughly 52-41% nationally. With Republican fortunes dropping faster than the Dow Jones Industrials, so desperate had it become for the McCain camp that Indiana is fast becoming a contested state. With a bit more than three weeks left before the election the Republicans are losing and losing ugly.
The McCain's own more mansions than John can literally count. Cindy, it has been reported, spends as much as a quarter million dollars a month on credit card purchases. They find themselves now representing the party of wealth, the stock-jobbers who have systematically gutted the American industrial and commercial base; the party of corruption and greed. Now as the Republican ticket stands before us seeking a new lease on the White House, they have once again reverted to the politics of smear and fear.
“It won't work, not this time...” says Barack Obama.
As we watch the sorry exhibition that are Cindy and Sarah and John, I'm once again reminded of the words of Bob Dylan:
“I wish that for just one time
you could stand inside my shoes
and just for that one moment
I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time
you could stand inside my shoes
you'd know what a drag it is
to see you.”