For months now, I have had this recurring nightmare: the Bush/Cheney junta figures out how to stay in power. I used to think they’d come up with some version of an our-national-security-is-at-too-high-a-risk-to-permit-elections scenario and refuse to leave, just hanging on to the reins themselves, hunkering down against all critics. That, however, was apparently too big a leap for even these most calloused of neo-Cons to attempt (though I’m not confident the American people couldn’t have been cowed into doing without elections). Now their strategy is apparently to do what a year ago seemed beyond belief: they’ve actually found a candidate to run under their banner who promises to keep the Ship of State on the precise course they’ve steered for the past eight years.
That was certainly a very tough search. Even more incredibly, they managed to find someone to do so that seems capable of doing it with a straight face! There is in my estimation no more straight-faced person in American politics today than John McCain., and after hearing some of his recent public pronouncements, there may be no more boring politician on the American scene than John McCain. The guy seems capable of making even Fred Thompson at his most somnambulant sound comparatively exciting. However, we’ve had yawn-inducing candidates many times before. That is part of the price we pay for Democracy. What is scary about McCain is not that he is capable of putting us to sleep but that he is hell-bent on replicating every blunder of Dubya’s administration…and tacking on a few doozies of his own for good measure.
Concerned about the economy? John McCain isn’t. He thinks more tax cuts may be needed but mostly all we have to do is tough it out. Just like Dubya. Of course the economy mostly bores old John, so he puts most of his concentrated thought onto foreign affairs…like Iraq. His prescription? More war. Up to fifty or even a hundred years of war if that’s what it takes to secure “victory” in that abused locale.
Iran? His prescription? Start a war. Famously, he quipped in faux Beachboy rhythm: “Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran…” And he wasn’t joking. This guy doesn’t joke about bombing. He means it. That’s what he did for a living in Vietnam. He believes if we had just done a little more bombing there we could have secured “victory”…whatever that means.
The Palestinian dilemma? Nothing going on there that a few good Israeli bombing runs wouldn’t solve. In fact, waging war is pretty much the John McCain prescription for anything that ails this troubled world. It is the cowboy solution to every dilemma. And it is the farthest thing imaginable from what we need today.
Throw in another quirk of the Arizona Senator, his volcanic temper, and you start to get the full potential for disaster that electing him would entail. As New Mexico's U.S. Senator Pete Domenici is reported to have said some years ago (though he is too loyal a partisan trooper to admit it today) “that’s the last guy I’d want to have with his finger on the trigger.”
Yet the national press has a crush on McCain that is really hard to understand. His relationship with the reporters, print and television, who traipse around the country relaying the stories of the campaign back to the rest of us, is universally positive. He has charmed them, practically to a person. Apparently he likes them, spends time with them, fosters their easy access to him…and it pays off: they like him and cover him favorably.
We like to believe that our system for selecting a President is the best one ever devised, the model against which other democracies can measure themselves. However watching the torturous route that this campaign has traveled, the two solid years of debates, television appearances, fund-raisers, caucuses, primaries and examinations under the investigative magnifying glass that have gone on in order to winnow the crowd of wannabes down to the three finalists staggering toward the conventions this summer, I have my doubts.
I am especially dismayed that the President whose clumsy conduct of his office and whose unmitigated series of disastrous international initiatives has left us less secure than ever before in our history, this most unpopular of all Presidents since that measure began being recorded, George W. Bush, would now have in McCain a worthy successor who promises to push forward in exactly the same vein if we have a national brain lapse and elect him, something that is actually possible. Someone who visits Iraq (as the GOP candidate did a couple of weeks ago) and comes back talking about “victory” being within our grasp needs to be medicated, not lionized. Yet lionizing him for his “confidence” is what the pundits and reporters are rushing to do. We need to all take a deep breath and count slowly to one hundred whenever anyone starts foaming on about “victory” in Iraq.
This military fiasco has already cost a trillion dollars and we’ll be paying the bills for decades, even if we were to bring all our troops home tomorrow. It is already the most costly mistake in human history, politically and financially. It has the potential to wreck even the super-economy of the United States if it is not ended quickly. But John McCain has no interest in ending it. The slowing of American fatalities since September, when Bush finally dumped Rumsfeld and instead sent over the 40,000 additional troops the Pentagon had been requesting for two years, may be a welcome development, but in no way constitutes a validation for the occupation nor a signal that we are succeeding.
We are not waging war in Iraq, we are occupying it. The distinction is crucial. You cannot “win” an occupation, you can only prolong it, delay its inevitable result: at some point the occupiers (us) will eventually go home. Even the British ultimately left India. John McCain, though, is comfortable with an occupation of Iraq that could last as much as a hundred years. That’s very scary. I just wish the press was probing this guy for some real answers, because I don’t think he has any. And neither does Dubya.