Warning: The following is a deeply personal opinion about this year’s election. The short of it is this. The long of it follows.
You’ve been warned.
I’m a professor at The Citadel, one of the most traditionally conservative institutions in the South, in the heart of one of the reddest of the red states. I earned my undergraduate degree at the world’s largest Baptist university, and I’ve knowingly given money to only one (1) political candidate in my lifetime: John McCain.
I was still pretty fresh out of college in the year 2000, living in a small college apartment in Kalamazoo, Michigan while working to get my first graduate degree at the Medieval Institute. There was precious little extra cash to be had, but we nevertheless scraped up some to donate it to McCain’s presidential campaign. We did so because, like a lot of folks, we were profoundly frightened by the prospect of George W. Bush becoming president of the United States of America.
McCain actually won the Michigan primary in 2000, but the Bush/Rove machine of lies that we feared eventually steamrolled him out of the race — most tellingly with a vile whisper campaign here in South Carolina.
I wish I’d been wrong in my fears about Bush back then.
And I wish the John McCain of 2000 — the man I gave money to eight years ago — was the man we were seeing in this year’s election.
But it isn’t.
Oh, I’m not really surprised, hopeful though I was. McCain’s campaign of the last few months has been a Rovian orgy of lies and deception: the same script that we’ve had for eight years running. His campaign managers are now the very same
men individuals who built that demonic whisper campaign eight years ago.
The John McCain of 2000 really did believe — as near as I could tell, though I’m doubting it now — in putting the country first. He really did. But when you’re 72 years old — with a history of health problems and a habit of ranting about how Barack Obama doesn’t have the experience to lead — and you choose an incompetent and inexperienced nobody from Alaska because (1) she’s a woman and (2) you want the headlines … well, you’re not putting country first. 2000-era McCain doesn’t do that. 2000-era McCain gets rightly pissed about that kind of political nonsense.
And make no mistake: McCain has always been a hot-blooded, temperamental man. In 2000 this was something I applauded as a lesser evil. His anger at Bush and the status quo was, I thought, rather justified. The source of his anger now? Look at the debates. He rarely acknowledges Obama. Rarely looks at him. Certainly doesn’t listen to him. That’s not a man acting from some high moral position; it’s a man jealously angry at being upstaged by some perceived upstart, threatened by the loss of a power that he already presumes is his by right. Yes, we’ve seen that imperiousness before.
And then there’s the lies. Oh, the lies. Politicians on both sides of the aisle lie, of course (and isn’t it sad to be able to state the truth so plainly?), and Obama’s hands certainly aren’t pristine in this campaign (McCain’s definition of “rich” as those who make more than $5 million was a joke!), but let’s be clear: McCain has bought into the Bush script hook, line, and sinker. They’re now the McPubliCains. I hate to admit it — really, I do! — but he’s one of them now: just a bit of black eye-shadow shy of being the Hamburgler. And he’s taking the mud to a new level.
Don’t believe me? Check any independent source (i.e., not MSNBC or Fox). Among the best: factcheck.org. Some of the lies you’ll see spelled out there are traditional (“The Democrats will raise taxes!”), but those at least have some measure of being rooted in reality at some distant level, lies though they are at present. (For a look at the actual break-down of the candidates’ respective tax plans, check this out.) These new McPubliCain whoppers, though? Just plain crazy. It’s like the Swift Boat insanity all over again, except this time with extra cheese (and racism?).
Again, none of this really surprises me. We just went through eight years of an administration that has consistently refused to tell the truth about
damn near anything. Those eight years of McPubliCain leadership has netted us:
— not one but two wars (one on a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11, terrorism, or WMDs);
— the largest deficit in our nation’s history;
— the most bloated federal government in our nation’s history;
— the lowest international standing in our nation’s history;
— an economy facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression;
— the lowest degree of public trust in the government since Nixon;
— and the biggest disparity between rich and poor in our nation’s history.
So what surprises me — what truly shocks me — is that anyone in this country other than the super-rich would want to give the McPubliCains another four years at the helm. For crying out loud, it’s like having the first mate on the Titanic offer to turn around and ram another iceberg.
“Thank you, sir! May I have another?”
What made me realize that the maverick had become a McPubliCain, intent on burgling power no matter the cost? Any objective viewer could point to any number of moments in McCain’s increasingly vitriolic
lusting grasping campaign for the presidency. But here, as one example, is the exchange on Iran from the first presidential debate:
OBAMA: Look, I mean, Senator McCain keeps on using this example that suddenly the president would just meet with somebody without doing any preparation, without having low-level talks. Nobody’s been talking about that, and Senator McCain knows it. This is a mischaracterization of my position.
When we talk about preconditions — and Henry Kissinger did say we should have contacts without preconditions — the idea is that we do not expect to solve every problem before we initiate talks.
And, you know, the Bush administration has come to recognize that it hasn’t worked, this notion that we are simply silent when it comes to our enemies. And the notion that we would sit with Ahmadinejad and not say anything while he’s spewing his nonsense and his vile comments is ridiculous. Nobody is even talking about that.
MCCAIN: So let me get this right. We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, “We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,” and we say, “No, you’re not”? Oh, please.
OBAMA: No, let me tell…
MCCAIN: By the way, my friend, Dr. Kissinger, who’s been my friend for 35 years, would be interested to hear this conversation and Senator Obama’s depiction of his — of his positions on the issue. I’ve known him for 35 years.
OBAMA: We will take a look.
MCCAIN: And I guarantee you he would not — he would not say that presidential top level.
OBAMA: Nobody’s talking about that.
MCCAIN: Of course he encourages and other people encourage contacts, and negotiations, and all other things. We do that all the time.
LEHRER: We’re going to go to a new…
MCCAIN: And Senator Obama is parsing words when he says precondition means preparation.
OBAMA: I am not parsing words.
MCCAIN: He’s parsing words, my friends.
OBAMA: I’m using the same words that your advisers use.
Now, one of these men was trying to carry on a substantial conversation. One of them was sticking to the facts. One of these men actually knew what McCain’s “friend” — for a self-styled, quarter-century-on-the-inside “outsider” he sure has a lot of those in Washington, doesn’t he? — Kissinger actually said less than a week ago on CNN:
Kissinger: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we — we know we’re dealing with authentic…
Frank Sesno: Put at a very high level right out of the box?
Kissinger: Initially, yes. But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.
Obama knew the facts. McCain? Not only was he just repeating a lie, he refused to even engage with the man who was standing ten feet away from him on the stage. Wouldn’t even listen to him. Hell, he wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
Is that leadership? Is that the man to be a “steady rudder” to guide us through the terrifying shoals our country faces? Or is it just more of Bush’s blind cowboy gunslinging?
And outright lies? Anyone who would stand up and lie to the people of this country — to the working families watching at home, to the proud men and women of our Armed Forces — on the presumption that Americans are too stupid to look up the facts is, in my damn-straight-I’m-an-elitist opinion, categorically unfit to be president of the United States of America. This isn’t an election for student body president, folks. It’s an election in which the future of our national fate stands in the balance.
As I said at the top, I’ve knowingly given money to only one political candidate in my lifetime. That man is not running for president this year. And rather than face another four years of McPubliCain tomfoolery, I think it’s past time that I gave money to a second candidate.
Obama had my vote in the primary, and he can count on having it again in a few weeks.
Want a less personal explanation on why you should vote for Obama? Here’s the editorial endorsement from the New Yorker.