McCain: old man, empty suit. Palin: young demagogue, blind ambition. It becomes easy enough to focus on the foreground and ignore the background. Was Sarah Palin a good choice made by McCain? The better question to ask would be, who picked Sarah Palin in the first place? The McCain camp admits that Sen. Joe Lieberman was John McCain's first choice for Vice President. Well, he's the candidate and he runs on his record of being a steadfast maverick; yet he does what he's told by hidden hands from behind the throne?
The Palin pick was an internal decision for an external candidate. When the Bush campaign in 2000 push-pulled McCain in South Carolina with questions about a black love child, McCain complained bitterly to the press and the party and the party turned a deaf ear. Had the Bush campaign tried the same tactic against an inside candidate there might have been hell to play. McCain is not so much a maverick as he is a backbiter. At every juncture of his career where he has "crossed over to join hands across the aisle" there has been some slight, real or perceived, where McCain sought to get even with the party.
In 1987 McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for his "poor judgment" in regards to the Keating Five Savings & Loan scandal. In 1992, during McCain's reelection bid, the Keating scandal was the main campaign issue. Rebuked for "poor judgment" by a Republican-controlled senate, had they forgotten that he was a war hero? Maybe they forgot, but McCain didn't. Suddenly after his reelection he became Mac the maverick and Mac the knife. He crossed over the aisle to work on the McCain-Feingold campaign reform legislation, limiting one of the Republican's best sources of campaign financing. Mac was back with a vengeance while supporting President Clinton's Supreme Court nominees, Ginsburg and Breyer.
He would make the party pay for, as he saw it, damaging him. The party, in an attempt to make peace, named McCain to head The International Republican Institute. Founded in 1983 and funded by the US Government, the IRI's stated mission is to promote what it calls freedom by assisting with campaigns and candidates and political expression in so-called closed societies. Does anyone smell pork here? The IRI's activities have become legendary; there is hardly a political hot spot on the globe where the IRI won't be found.
In 2004 US ambassador to Haiti, Brian Dean Curran, accused the IRI of subverting his efforts to bring peace to Haiti during the contested elections of 2000. The IRI can be found operating anywhere there is trouble to be had or to be made. Afghanistan, Angola, Bolivia, Bosnia, Belarus, Burma, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, East Timor, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Serbia, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, and of course the West Bank and Gaza; how could they possibly be forgotten?
A plum for Senator McCain, but not a plum that could help his advancement. How can you campaign on the platform: "I've helped to subvert legitimate governments all over the world!" McCain was on the short list for the Vice Presidential spot in 1996 but was passed over in favor of Jack Kemp. Had the party forgotten again that he was a war hero? Or that Time magazine had named him one of the most influential people in America? McCain put on his maverick hat again and went after the Republican sacred cow, the tobacco lobby. The party responded with whispering campaigns that McCain took contributions from industries his senate commerce committee was supposed to oversee while he was the chairman.
Erupting into open warfare, McCain fired back, "the restricted contributions he received were not part of the big-money nature of the campaign finance problem." You see, it was different than the problem at large because he had done it all by himself! McCain was, by this point, persona non grata in the Republican Party, with millions of dollars being spent by Republican groups attempting to have McCain-Feingold overthrown in the courts and the added ire of the tobacco lobby. The John McCain victory in the New Hampshire primary in 2000 scared the bejesus out of the Republican party establishment. The torpedoing of his campaign in South Carolina was not only not condemned, it was secretly welcomed.
In 2001 Mac the knife was back and had blood in his eyes yet again and was ready to settle scores. Former Senator and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle says that in April and May of 2001 his office was in talks with McCain to change parties and become an Independent. Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain "had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority ... [A lot of issues] were on the table."
The McCain campaign insists that these conversations never happened, yet there are witnesses and evidence aplenty as a Washington Post headline from June 2001 illustrates: "McCain is Considering Leaving GOP; Arizona Senator Might Launch a Third-Party Challenge to Bush in 2004." But somewhere along the line there was an epiphany. Was it when McCain was carrying his own bags in 2007? Or did the Republican Party find themselves stuck with McCain? McCain's rhetoric changes softened from Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq to support for Bush's surge. Each prospective Republican candidate carried higher approval ratings until they entered the race. Fred Thompson looked unbeatable until he entered the race. Giuliani's campaign was totally mismanaged from the start.
The Republican brand is damaged after eight years of George W. Bush, so perhaps it has now become a mutual attraction. Perhaps the party feels McCain was all that was left and what were his chances anyway? Maybe McCain has promised to play nice now and do what he's told in exchange for the party's support. But one fact remains, John McCain didn't pick Sarah Palin. She was picked for him. A pick to pander to the base, to the evangelicals, the creationists and the book-banning crowd. A pick to make the convention happy, but not the country at large. A pick for a man whose ideology is raw vengeance and whose philosophy belongs to the highest bidder.So if John McCain is the on-screen icon, who then are his handlers? Steve Schimdt is in "Full Operational Control" of the campaign. He is a former aide to Dick Cheney and a former protégé of Karl Rove. Schmidt was the White House strategist behind the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Another top position is held by Charles Black, the former head lobbyist for Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest public relations firms in the world with such notable customers as Eric Prince, owner and founder of Blackwater USA. Mr. Black worked for Ronald Reagan and both Bushes before joining the McCain Campaign.
Terry Nelson was the campaign manager pushed out to make room for Schmidt in July. Many will remember Mr. Nelson as the former Deputy Chief of Staff for the Republican party who was involved with the criminal scheme to block phone lines in New Hampshire to block Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. He was also named in the scandal involving Tom Delay for using PAC money to make donations to candidates in violation of the law.
William Kristol, publisher of the "The Weekly Standard" and regular FOX News contributor, is on board as "Foreign Policy Advisor." Mr. Kristol is co-founder of the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) and is the very definition of a neocon. He is joined by another PNAC member, Randy Scheunemann, as McCain's foreign policy aide. Of course Phil Gramm who was previously let go for his comments, calling America "A nation of whiners," has returned to the campaign in an unpaid, less public role because, as McCain himself put it, "I value his opinions." The Enron Corporation, where Gramm's wife once worked, also valued Gramm's opinions and Gramm himself was known in Washington by the nickname, the Senator from Enron.
Now, after the Republican convention is over and all the props and balloons are put away, John McCain is running on a platform of bringing change to Washington! Because he is a maverick! He is a reformer! And Sarah Palin is a maverick and reformer too! The party platform doesn't say anything about reform except maybe more repressive laws and more American unilateralism, but that's not reform, that's more of the same. Brought to you by those who brought you the same in the first place. A sad stage play, a tragedy with McCain as Pagliacci. So then, Vesti la Giubba (Put on the costume). On with the Motley!
To act! While out of my mind,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary... make an effort!
Bah! Are you not a man?
You are Pagliaccio!
Put on your costume,
powder your face.
The people pay to be here, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbine,
laugh, Pagliaccio, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face - Ah!
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!