Wednesday, November 5, 2008

John McCain should have won (updated)

Wait, hear me out.

John McCain should have won last night.

Internationally, America is a country at war on two fronts or more. We've been at this war longer than we were in WWII. America is a country in the throes of a deepening recession - or economic downturn, or Wall Street meltdown, or economic retrograde motion, choose your own non-panic inducing euphemism here. America is a country that has burnt a lot of bridges in the last eight years; we've alienated many of our old friends, and snuggled up against some new allies who aren't the most reliable. America is a country facing the loss of its long standing position in the world and our dollar doesn't buy nearly what it used to - which is going to have some serious consequences when you consider that our gas comes from the Middle East, our cars from Japan and Germany, our minerals from Africa, our tech support from India, our clothes from Mexico, our consumer electronics and seafood and lumber from China, our porn from Russia, our beef from Argentina, and our fresh produce from Latin America.

Domestically, Americans face a crisis at every turn, public education, mortgages, health care, agriculture, failing infrastructure, energy, industry and manufacturing, social security and vanished retirement funds, job security, in the inner cities, in the suburbs, environmentally.

There are damned few American voters who aren't aware of these things. And there are damned few Americans who, at least in their hearts even if they can't admit it out loud, don't know that the last eight years are the result of dishonorably weak, willfully ignorant, proudly illiterate, blusteringly jingoistic, and just plain cowardly piss-poor leadership from the White House.

Many Americans are afraid. David Klecha over on Midnight Highways said, "I’m tired of fear and despair" and I think he speaks directly to the general sentiment of most Americans. We're tired of fear. We're tired of being afraid of terrorism. We're tired of war. We're tired of being hated. We're tired of fearing our government. We're tired of being ashamed of our idiot leaders who tell us to be afraid. And we despair that this is the best we can expect and things will only get worse unless we do something. We need a leader of vision and verve and determination who we can follow with trust and admiration and confidence.

And so we entered this presidential election with two choices: 1) a relatively unknown, inexperienced Democrat, and 2) a well known Republican war hero, experienced and savvy in the military, foreign relations, domestic issues, and economics. Obama is young, handsome and popular, intelligent, and well educated - but a neophyte in many of the problem areas facing America, and with unproven and unknown leadership skills in a national crisis. McCain is older, extremely experienced, intelligent, and a powerful leader with proven skills and fortitude in crisis both large and small - and on the face of things a far better choice to solve the problems before us in a decisive and immediate manner.

McCain should have won.

And yet, he didn't. And, in point of fact, McCain lost his bid for the White House by a very large margin, one that cannot be significantly contested in any way shape or form. I don't want to get into the argument of mandates or landslides, but the truth of the matter is that a black man, the son of a foreigner, one generation removed from Islam, with the strange alien name of Barack Hussein Obama beat the ever living snot out of a military war hero and the very epitome of the traditional American presidential genotype.

McCain should have won.

So, how come he didn't?

There are many dynamics here, and ones that the pundits and grad students and political analysts and historians will debate for decades - but in my not so humble opinion, it comes down to one simple thing:

John McCain forgot who he was.

See, John McCain is the son of Admirals, he was a graduate of the US Naval Academy and for 22 years he was a US Navy Officer. We in the navy hold most dear as our core values three things: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. And the simple truth of the matter is that Captain John McCain USN(ret) forgot that. He gave in to desperation, he gave in to the whispers and advice of small cowardly men who never knew the strength and power of such ideals, he gave in to those who told him that he needed only the support of his party and not the support of all Americans, and more than anything he gave in to the urge to pander to the far right radical fear-mongers. He gave in to dishonor and fear and a commitment to the politics of hate.

John McCain had the audacity to look surprised when his chickens came home to roost - the same as any parent who uses the term "nigger" in their private home conversation, and then acts shocked and surprised when their own children use the same term in public at the most inopportune moment, "Oh! Sorry. I don't know where he picked that up!" Oops, how embarrassing - but we all know exactly where that child picked up that word, don't we? I'm speaking of course of the defining moment of the McCain campaign: Gayle Quinnel's now infamous statement, "I've read about Obama ... and he's an Arab!" during a McCain rally on national television. McCain didn't look surprised, only embarrassed and irritated, and replied "No ma'am. He's a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." The expression on his face and the tone of his voice said clearly, "Oh my! I don't know where she picked that up!" Oops, how embarrassing.

Yes, how embarrassing indeed. For all of us.

Especially when I'm quite sure that John McCain knew exactly where old fearful conservative Gayle Quinnel picked up that thought - directly from the McCain campaign itself, from McCain himself, from Sarah Palin, and from every Neocon who was out there stumping for them. The McCain campaign's statements are a matter of public record, Obama is a terrorist, Obama consorts with terrorists, Obama is a racist, Obama consorts with black supremacists, Obama is an Arab, Obama is a Muslim, Obama is a radical Islamist, Obama isn't an American, Obama wasn't even born in the United States, Obama doesn't have a birth certificate, Obama is the anti-Christ (no, seriously), Obama's wife hates America and hates white people, Obama is a Marxist, Obama is a Socialist, on and on ad nauseam. Conservatives can deny this all they like, but they know that I'm right and they damned well know what was said. Many of them still believe those statements, many of them are still repeating this nonsense and will until they die, despite all evidence to the contrary. McCain's campaign made Obama the enemy, not simply the political opposition. McCain's campaign wasn't in a race, they were at war, and just like in any war they set about vilifying the enemy just as we've always done, except this time it wasn't the krauts, or the nips, or the gooks, or the slopes, or the camel jockeys - it was Obama.

Certainly John McCain himself didn't say all of those things in public, but his running mate did, and members of his campaign did, and his party did, and his supporters did. And John McCain let it stand, taking exception to the rhetoric and the fear and the hate only when confronted directly with it on national television - and then only in a half-hearted ambiguous manner, one that showed he knew exactly where that frightened old lady picked up that thought, one that showed quite clearly that he was depending on a lot of frightened Americans just like Gayle Quinnel in order to win the White House.

Any Navy Captain worth his salt understands this one thing above all others: you are personably responsible for everything that happens under your command. Everything. And the conduct of your crew is a direct reflection on you. Period. And it makes me wonder exactly what kind of officer John McCain actually was. I'm not so crass as to stand here and judge the service of a man I've never served under, but I have to wonder, where were those who did? Where were his fellow EPW's? Where were the Chiefs and Officers who served under his command when he returned from Hanoi? Because many of them them are remarkably silent.

John McCain could have won, and won easily, if he had been true to his training, if he had held true to the principles of Naval Leadership. He called himself a Maverick, but the simple truth of the matter is that he acted more like a stable nag - that old gelding at the YMCA summer camp who has trodden the same worn trail so many times that it will not deviate from the path no matter how hard its 8-year old rider yanks on the reins. Round and round and back to the barn for a pan of grain. Every day, more of the same, year after year, until the glue truck comes to take it away. And in this case that old worn trail is the politics of hate and fear and xenophobia.

John McCain should have won and he could have if he had held true to his oath as a Naval Officer, if he had spoken out forcefully against the failed Bush doctrine of torture, secret prisons, rendition, extra-constitutional surveillance of Americans, preemptive war, the degradation of the Constitutional Bill of Rights, the Nuclear Option. If he was a true maverick, then he would have defied the radical elements of his party and directly supported the right to choose, the strict separation of church and state, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, life, liberty, and happiness for all Americans - even the gay ones. He should have lived up to the basic ethic of any Navy captain and taken responsibility for the actions of his crew, he should have stated clearly and forcefully and as many times it took: "Barrack Obama is my opponent not my enemy, and I will not see him vilified on my watch and I will NOT allow anyone in my campaign to do so. If you must hate this man then you should join the American Nazi Party, I do not want your vote. I will win this election on my strengths, not on Obama's weaknesses, and if you don't believe in me enough to believe that I am that man, then don't vote for me." John McCain should have done what any Navy Captain does with his crew, give them hope, make them believe, inspire them, remind them of their duty, make them proud, and always lead them by example.

John McCain should have won - if he was the man he claimed to be.

John McCain should have won - if he had acted like the Naval Officer he once was and held true to Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

John McCain should have won - if he was a true maverick.


But see, John McCain is not a maverick, and - if we have to use the horse analogy -he is merely the second coming of the same old neocon cavalry. His message is the same message we've been hearing since September 12, 2001, and it's a message that the American people are tired of.

It the final analysis, it was Barack Obama's message that resonated with the American people. In the end, overwhelmingly last night, Americans said experience is nothing if not tempered with wisdom. John McCain had many things going for his candidacy, age, experience, heroism - but he offered us nothing that we didn't already have.

Obama offered us hope.

[end update]

Today, well, today is an amazing day. Today the American flag is being waved by singing Muslims in the streets of Kenya. Today the America flag is flying above joyous crowds in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and even in the Middle East.

Today, for the first time in a long, long while the majority of Americans feel hope, and the world is hopeful with us.

Today, a very clear message rings forcefully over our nation, We are tired of fear and despair and we have chosen a new path.

Today, we have sent a message to the White House, the House of Representatives, and to the Senate and that message is this: You work for us.

Today, we have sent a message to the NeoCons: You don't own this country, you do not speak for us, you are not the majority.

Today, we have defined exactly what history will write of George W. Bush and his presidency of hate, fear, and despair.

Today, we have elected not a maverick, but a true leader.

Today, is a good day.


*I updated this because I received an email from Jon in California who said that he wasn't sure if I was upset at McCain's loss or not. Rereading it, I realized that I'd left out a connecting paragraph due to an interrupting phone call (no, it wasn't Uncle Ted). So, I put that paragraph back in.

But just so I'm completely clear, no I'm not in the least upset that McCain lost. In fact, I'm overjoyed.


  1. When I saw the headline, my first thought was, who kidnapped Jim and stole his passwords?

    I figured out where you were headed fairly quickly. The odd thing is that he did what the GOP base demanded of him and then those same people stayed home in droves. The figure I saw was that Republicans voting was down by 30% from 2004.

  2. the very epitome of the traditional American presidential genotype

    "*snork* tradition my fuckin' ass. Fuck that."

    ... is what we minorities have just said, I think. :p

  3. As usual, well said, Jim.

    To be honest, one of the reasons I'm glad McCain didn't win is for John McCain's sake. The political machine was eating him alive and it was horrible to see. I know there were some people who were voting for the pre-candidate McCain, hoping he would switch back afterwards.

  4. Of course it isn't over yet.

    Over on my blog I relate the story of the woman on West Michigan talk radio who said:

    Michelle Obama had better be sent off to school to take classes in etiquette and loyalty (presumably to the country) -- that she "looks like a militant". WTF is that supposed to mean?


    Dr. Phil

  5. It means she doesn't have a fake socialite smile.

    Thank god!

  6. Anne, I could not agree with you more.

    I've had several conversations today with people that heard McCain's concession speech last night and were amazed that it was the real McCain speaking, not the robo-politico we've gotten since the primaries ended.

    I suppose like many Americans I use an overly simple formula for presidential elections - I ask myself am I better off now than I was 4 years ago and good, bad or indifferent, what can the other guy do for me that can make my life better. Although I have lived in the South for many years, I bring my solid Yankee ideals with me to the voting booth, which for the last few terms has meant being blue in a bright red state.

    The thing is at this point in time the Republicans are considered the "old guard" and obviously too many things are broken now for the old ways to fix them.

    The problems we face now did not occur overnight, and there is no magic wand to wave to fix them instantly. What we need is a change agent.

    Jim is right, Obama gives us the HOPE that he can lead us to that change. His win came from all races, creeds, nationalities, ages, and party affiliations. And for one bright shining moment last night we were united in that moment of victory. And it was GLORIOUS!!!

    Now, if everybody that voted for Obama rolls up their sleeves, gets their hands dirty, and works together to start to clean up this mess, we could do wonders in this country.

    Someone much wiser than me tells us to be the change we wish to see in the world. Obama is already headed there, he needs us come and help build that better future.


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  8. Anonymous,

    There's a link on the top of this blog - Ten Things to Consider Before You Comment Here. Read it - especially the part where I explain how I have the means to find out exactly who you are - even if you live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

    One thing, Anonymous, take your ignorant, racist bullshit and shove it as far up your pimpled hillbilly ass as your hand can reach.

    The simple thought of cowardly simpletons like you pissing in your white sheets makes me laugh.

    Go away, don't come back.

  9. Wow. I wish I could put all of my roiling thoughts and emotions down on screen (or paper) as well as you can, Jim. You said what I was thinking, especially on Tuesday night, when I watched John McCain's concession speech and thought "Where the hell have you been?"

    Unfortunately, I had the displeasure of speaking with my father last night, Mr-I-vote-Republican-because-they-cut-taxes-and-give-me-money. He literally said to me, "Now we'll see how this guy that you elected will screw things up." And then he zipped off into a screed about how the financial meltdown is entirely due to the machinations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their executives who basically bought Obama into power. And that he will sit by and watch the LIBERALS screw things up yet again...

    Is he on a completely different planet from me?

    Although we are political polar opposites, I've never been been offended by his views (bemused, but not offended). I also am not one to surround myself with only similar-thinking people. I am grateful that I am free to vote for who I think will do the best job without fear of reprisals, etc. But I had to cut him off and tell him that from now on politics is a topic-non-grata with him.

    As I write this, I realize that I am not conveying well my dismay, discomfort, and almost nausea from the things he said. It is too bad that he is computer-phobic, because I would send him a link to this post.

    Thanks again for your clarity of thought!


  10. Neurondoc: people who are emotionally upset NEVER make sense. Best you could have done, made it a taboo subject. Also, from what I have observed, there are people from at least ten to fifteen different planets on Terra. And that is only the major groups (please refer to "Men in Black." Remember how all the REAL news was in the "rags"?)
    Thanks, Jim, for your balanced thoughts. I'm from Oklahoma too... (eeeep!)

  11. Well, see, Brenda, I feel comfortable picking red staters - being from Alaska and all ;)

  12. If the McCain from the 2000 race had shown up, my decision would have been harder. And halfway through the the race, McCain was on some talking head show and passed responsibility for a staffers quote down the line, and I had that same thought. He was a captain, you're always responsible for those under your command. And those that he did fire were all after they were caught out in public spouting their idiocy and called on it.

  13. So true, indeed. I was waiting for McCain to show in 2008. Finally, I said, we will see real progress in the GOP. but then he was gone, and in his place, a Party hack with no real direction to be seen. waffle, waffle, and here is Palin. WTF? says I. This can't be happening. Well maybe she is more that she appears, if The Captain thinks she is worthy, she must have something real to offer.
    But, then, she opened her mouth to speak. Was this ameteur night at the Comedy Club? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
    Where did The Captain go? What have you done with him. Who is THIS guy who took his place? That was the last, best hope for the Republicans in this country to be The Party of the Future.
    Ashes. All ashes now as the The Orange One combs the rubble.

  14. I think what we are in the USA, our true selves, is idealists.
    We start where we start and we agonize and we watch and listen, and if we remember who we truly are, we choose the one we can respect.

  15. I really hate being right when I didn't want to be, as well. My condolences.

  16. I think you can go a bit farther back to find a similar surprise. Bob Dole might have beaten Bill Clinton if he had pushed back against the Republican Party spin doctors. Every time he said something sensible in a speech, the next day there was an explanation from the Party on what he really meant to say and it wasn't sensible at all. We couldn't vote for a President who always had to have others explain what he meant.

  17. It was...a bit nostalgic, and a bit surreal, to re-read this post from '08 and remember how optimistic we all were back then when Obama won. Since then, we've had eight years of obstructionism and vitriol, and while we have made some social progress, we're still stuck with the GOP trotting-out the same tired strategy. Whackjob pandering to the whackjob base they sold their souls to in a bargain to get Reagan elected back in '80 and who they're shocked and awed to discover have taken over their party a quarter-century later. Trickle-down ("Voodoo") economics. Massive military spending. Saber-rattling. Gerrymandering. Racism. Disenfranchisement. Tearing-down financial regulation. Tearing down the wall between religion and government.

    I agree that folks refusing to vote is insipid, when the ballot box is the only avenue of change which reasonably exists. But I'm not surprised that some folks -- especially the younger set who can't remember things being different -- have gotten the idea that their vote is useless and therefore not worth casting.

    (And for those folks who're crying that revolution is imminent, may I respectfully recommend that they take a close look at what the U.S. Civil War did to the nation, as well as what modern-day revolution has done to countries who could afford to fight with fairly modern weaponry? I'll agree with Jim's previous statements that we're nowhere near that point, as a nation, but I keep hearing it, from both extremist camps, and the other thing they seem to have in common is that neither bunch appears to have even the remotest clue what an actual "Second American Revolution" or Civil War would actually entail or resemble.)

  18. This. This kind of thing is why I really want to be able to comment on your fb. (Plus yesterday's book thing. I really wanted to comment there.) I remember that day, and how glad I was. I voted for Hope. I was pretty disappointed in Obama's actions, or lack thereof, until after the last midterms: then he became the President I voted for. But I might have voted for McCain, if, as you say, he had been the person he was supposed to be. If not for Palin. My name is Lori L. Gorman, and my address is lori628@hotmail.com. I don't know how to make a profile. Best to you, in Alaska, in Florida, and in between.

  19. Yesterday, I read someone claiming that the president basically sat on his hands with a Democratic majority in the Senate and Congress for the first two years and failed, FAILED, to pass legislation he'd promised to get done once elected. What a liar Obama was. The complainant was done with this president. Someone else spoke up and said, yeah, wasn't that about the same time period he was desperately trying to pull the country out of the ditches, which he actually managed to do before we slid into a complete hell of Bush and Company's making? Well, of course it was! Anyway, I admire our president's diligent efforts "to right the ship" in spite of all the vitriol, cruelty and lies against him and his family. I wish he'd been able to accomplish more, but I appreciate what he has managed to accomplish in spite of all the vicious obstructionism and racism he's been pounded with from the GOP and its followers.

  20. Most of the stuff that has come out on McCain does not bear even thinking about him being President. In 2007 and the campaign for President, I never had any doubts about Obama becoming President and in-spite of all the obstruction from the day he was inaugurated he has accomplished a heck of a lot for our country. Could have done a lot more if the Republicans loved their country and it's people as much as they proclaim. Roberta Anderson

  21. In 2008, John McCain had my vote. When he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate I was dubious, and thought "wait and see." Within two weeks I was at the point of "are you FUCKING kidding me?!!????"

    That's when he lost me. The thought of her being a heartbeat away from the Nuclear Option? The only thing scarier now, with the line-up we have, is Trump having access to the football. Just picture it: "What, Putin unfriended me on Facebook?!?!? I'm gonna nuke that asshole!!"

    A lot of military leaders have come out and said emphatically that they would NOT follow illegal orders of an elected CIC. Is there the potential that a Trump win in November could foment a military coup by those who swear their allegiance to the Constitution, not the fuckwit who wins the popularity contest? Scary thought. I believe I will pour myself another Bushmill's and sign off for the night.

    "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

  22. Thank you Jim for reposting this. I will link to this and share it, as I think it perfectly describes why I felt such a sense of disappointment with John McCain -- I expected better from him because of his military training and service.


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