Did you also know that he was a POW, and that he was a POW?
Now that I’ve recapped seventy percent of the Republican Convention last week, let me fill in the remaining 30 percent: hypocrisy, arrogance, lies and bullshit.
What an unbelievable ride the last week has been, though that will be the fundamental question of this election: Will it be believable? Can Republicans use the old magic successfully one more time? Has the American public, even an angry American public, been dumbed down sufficiently in recent decades to vote against its own interests, yet one more time, even under conditions like those of 2008?Really, nothing less than American democracy lies in the balance, and the fact that so many folks are still susceptible to this horror show is dispiriting in the extreme. Watching the Rovoclones at the RNC in action was such a scary sight. Orwell had it so right. Of course we’re at war with Eurasia. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia. If you can fool people under these conditions with patriotic peacocks and über-elite fake outrage over ‘liberal elitism’, you can basically fool them anytime.
McCain began the week with an act that, in any healthy democracy, would have instantly disqualified him to be the city dogcatcher in Wasilla, Alaska, let alone leader of the free world. He has been telling us for years that the fight against Islamofascism is the transcendental struggle of our time. He has been telling us the most important job of the Vice President is be qualified to run the country at a moment’s notice (not least because this particular dude is a seventy-two year-old four-time cancer survivor). He’s been telling us over and over that Iraq is the central front in the war against terrorism. Then he chooses someone who has admitted that she doesn’t really know anything about Iraq, ‘cause she’s been focused on Alaska state government. Given that the war has been the premier foreign policy issue for America for half a decade now, we also can safely assume, I’m sure, that she knows even less about the rest of the world.
This definitely demonstrates two things about John McCain. First, that his judgement is deeply impaired. We know, for example, that he had hardly vetted Sarah Palin at all, other than within the last couple of days before the announcement. We know, from Alaskan Republicans no less, that no one from the McCain campaign was up there asking questions prior to the choice (but they are now!). We know that McCain had met her all of once before making the choice. Americans really need to ask themselves, do we truly want another four years of a president who goes on gut hunches and politicizes every decision?
Even more importantly, though, this choice tells us that McCain was more than willing to do something that would benefit his personal career ambitions, regardless of the consequences for the country and the world. Palin may help him have a shot at winning the presidency – perhaps by attracting the votes of unsophisticated women, certainly by rallying the regressive freakoids in his party – but it is ludicrous to believe that she is remotely qualified, let alone most qualified, to handle what McCain himself says is the most important project of our time. The man who sickeningly implies that his opponent is less patriotic than he is has exacerbated that base assault on decency and the fabric of American democracy by hypocritically doing exactly the opposite of what he claims as his campaign theme. The Palin pick was definitive proof that McCain puts country last – even by the standards of his own formulation.
Equally dispiriting was to see the regressive robots in action this week. Within hours of McCain choosing a candidate they had never heard of before, they were giddy with fanatic support for her, and foaming at the mouth with indignation that anyone might actually have the temerity to apply the rules of Republican sexual morality and gender rights to a Republican. Those are meant strictly for other people, don’t you know?
Palin’s speech was also nauseating in its condescending and disrespectfully mocking attitude. Indeed, she, herself, as the nominee supposed to attract women voters, is condescending in the extreme to those very women, just by her existence on the ticket. What an insult. One can only hope that they see it that way themselves, but after the last eight years I can’t put any insanity past the American public anymore. The fact that McCain is essentially tied with Obama in the polls right now is a really scary thought. After all this, are people still so lacking in critical faculties to discern the choices here? Can they really be so readily fooled, yet again?
The rest of the convention was an otherworldly experience for me. Often, I felt as though I had fallen through the looking glass into some alternative universe. Did you know that regressive Republicans are actually big-time feminists? You could have easily reached that conclusion watching this convention, and the indignation directed toward anyone who dared question Palin’s qualifications or challenge the lies her handlers were peddling about her. Did you know that these GOP folks are big supporters of Hillary Clinton? McCain actually ran television ads criticizing Obama for supposedly dissing Hillary when he picked Biden as his running mate. Amazing. Like McCain really gives a sh*t about Hillary. Like his ideological clan hasn’t spent the last two decades absolutely savaging her mercilessly at every opportunity. Like McCain really, really wants the Democrats to pick the ‘best’ VP nominee they can to run against him. Like the guy and his movement, who oppose equal pay legislation for women, is genuinely offended that Obama would pick someone else. I shudder to think what it says about America that the McCain camp didn’t see it as a ridiculous waste of money to run those ads.
An equally mind-bending episode from the theater of the absurd was Mitt Romney’s hallucinatory rhetorical journey in which he savaged liberals for putting America in the sad state it’s in now. My goodness, have I ever been deluded. All these years I was thinking that the right-wing controlled all three branches of government. I can now see how wrong I am, what with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ending the Iraq war, jamming national healthcare through Congress, dealing aggressively with global warming, forcing Christian girls to have abortions, impeaching the president, and so on. And Mitt, too, what a reliable source he is! There’s a guy of principle who never, for instance, would radically change his political stripes depending on, say, whether he wanted to be governor of Massachusetts versus win the GOP nomination for president. You can take it from him, that’s for sure.
Often this week, I felt like I had been fully immersed in a John Lennon song, circa 1967 (though the remarkably uptight GOP rank-and-file – afraid of every conceivable bogeyman out there, but nothing so much as their own sexual urges – was usually sufficient to snap me back to the awful present). What a little LSD trip of a convention this was. Mitt! You’re such an eggman! Lieberman! What a freaking plasticine porter you are, dude! Goo Goo G’joob on all you corporation tee-shirts.
I’m crying. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I really am.
But truly the most bizarre event of all at the convention was the one that didn’t happen. Once again, one could certainly be excused for thinking that control of the government has been in the hands of some Baader-Meinhof Provisional Revolutionary People’s Movement Vanguard Government, or such, this last decade. Oddly, though, it turns out that America has in fact been controlled by the most reactionary government ever in American history. Strange, then, that a convention chock-a-block with reactionaries didn’t stop a moment to sing the praises of the good lads Bush and Cheney. A sitting president from your own party who has delivered on ninety-five percent of your agenda, and what – no gaudy, gauzy tribute video with swelling background music? No valedictory address before the raving party faithful? Hmmm. Why do you suppose that might be?
Peronally, I was hoping that Bush would reprise his 2000 nomination acceptance speech this year. You know, the one where he derided Al Gore for arguing that Bush’s policies would be "risky". The one with the repeating riff, "They have not led. We will." I thought a catalogue of all the ways in which Bush has led these last eight years, and all the successes he’s had compared to his Democratic predecessor would have really helped John McCain, don’t you? I wonder why they missed such an obvious opportunity to help their campaign.
There were so many lowlights to the Republican convention this year, it’s hard to know which was the ugliest episode of all. Was it Joe Lieberman whoring for a cabinet position? Was it Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin condescendingly mocking Barack Obama because he was once a community organizer? Was it McCain, himself, going on endlessly about his POW days, trying to guilt-trip us into giving him a little ride into history because he was once shot down while bombing Vietnamese peasants into oblivion? I think my favorite had to be Fred Thompson’s not-so-subtle questioning of Obama’s patriotism by saying we need a president who won’t apologize for America abroad, and one who won’t give teleprompter speeches designed to appeal to America’s critics overseas. Wow. Such brass. And such a pathetically immature society we are, where comments such as these could be remotely effective.
What all of this signals clearly is that McCain has fully given himself over to the win-at-any-cost, Karl Rove acolyte Steve Schmidt and his team, who have been running his scorched earth campaign for several months now. These are the very same people who ate McCain himself alive in 2000, using the most vicious techniques found anywhere in the political sphere, as a result of which the candidate was justifiably outraged and incensed in the extreme. These animals have been ripping apart the fabric of American democracy for decades now, using race, homophobia, faux patriotism, fear, immigration, deceit and the dirtiest of tricks to continue winning office at any cost. And the cost has been great indeed.