John McCain is the Beltway's wet dream – a man constantly talking about Solutions, bipartisanship, and his oft-troubled conscience. I think he enjoys being idolized by everyone on the Sunday Morning shows, constantly fawned over and taken seriously and never, ever challenged on his record or asked to explain why for all his hand-wringing his voting record is one of a reliable, party line Republican.

McCain and his like-minded compatriot Joe Lieberman sure talk a great deal about doing the right thing. They bring it up, in fact, far more often than they actually do it. And now, a week after giving his usual sanctimonious musings about how badly Congress needs to stop doing all these deeply Troubling things, he's rushing back to Washington to help his party pass a health care bill that not even the Senate has been allowed to see.

This is classic McCain. Everything about him as a politician is a myth. He has made a career out of playing the Moderate character to a tee and he wears the permanently pained expression that lets the Chuck Todds of the world conclude that he is constantly tormented by the battle between good and evil in his mind. He has mastered the Moderate the same way George Will mastered looking like a Smart Person without actually saying things that are smart. But that's it. It's an act. He plays the media like a performer manipulates an audience.

Honestly, it took me a while to recognize this pattern. I felt legitimately bad for McCain in 2008, at least until he almost saddled the country with Sarah Palin. Frankly I hadn't paid a ton of attention to his voting record, and I was familiar with his Senate career mostly in the context of the McCain-Feingold legislation and his statements opposing torture during the G.W. Bush administration. So like everyone else, I thought of him as a Moderate.

It's natural to think that because we are constantly being told he is a Moderate, a voice of reason in a madhouse. But if you pay attention, you start to notice that he does shit like this all the time. He wrings his hands, he looks Troubled, he basks in the glow of some laudatory media coverage, and then he votes for it. Over and over. That's his game. From the outside we can only speculate what he gets out of it – Attention? Validation? Straight ego boost? – but his career is long enough to give us all the evidence we need to establish the pattern.

Look, I feel as sorry for him as I would if my bus driver said he had cancer. I feel badly for everyone with cancer. But look at what he is doing, not what he is saying or what is being said about him. That is the real John McCain, and there's very little Hero there.

61 thoughts on “THE MYTH OF JOHN McCAIN”

  • Mccain's deal w/ torture was no more or less than when other Republicans suddenly found they had a gay child or relative & became somewhat less knee-jerkily anti-gay. That is, "If it doesn't affect me personally, screw the rest of 'em."

  • If McCain had gotten the nomination in 2000 I might have voted for him. I don't know if I would have regretted it after, but I can't imagine he'd've done worse than Shrub.

  • Awhile back I wrote–I think it was in the comments section here–that 2000 was the year that broke McCain. I think that before then, he'd actually made an effort to steer a course guided by his conscience (note: his willingness that year to denounce the Falwell wing of the party)–

    –but then South Carolina happened. Karl Rove happened. Push polling and "Did you know he's got a bastard half-breed" happened. Just–some of the ugliest, shittiest stuff happened, and it was done to him by his own party. All in service of a draft dodger and known imbecile.

    So when that happens, what do you do? Do you walk out–change parties? Fight the internecine battle to win back the soul of your side of the aisle?

    Or do you just do what George Wallace did, when he declared that he would never get out-n*ggered again? Do you just say "fuck it"–fuck principles, fuck stands, fuck it–if a slick image and a willingness to suck face with the worst of my party is what it takes to win, I'm gonna do it?

    Because that's what he did. He said "fuck it." And that's how we got Gov. Palin as a national figure. And when that didn't work, well, you can't crawl back from "fuck it"–you just dig deeper into it. You don't give a shit. You just say the things that make the cameras give you the temporary glow of importance, and you don't fucking bother living up to anything you promise, because fuck it. No one cares. Nothing matters. There's only this last grasp on an office that makes people call me Senator and genuflect when I walk into public spaces. But apart from that: fuck it. Fuck it all.

    Plus which, his best fucking friend is Joe Lieberman. I mean, for Christ's sake, if that isn't evidence that the man dropped his moral compass down a sewer drain, what is?

  • Holy hell, thank you Ed! I've felt like I was on the crazy pills for the past few months, and especially the last week, watching everyone kiss up to this guy. All you have to do is look at how he's actually voted, the thing that matters, since Trump slithered into the executive chair (or go back further for additional proof.) For all the bluster, the pronouncements, the finger-wagging, and the stand-apart maverick-isms he's been willing to let fly from his mouth, his pen hand told the real story: he's signed off on every single thing that's called for his vote. I don't care what he did in the military in his youth, I don't care that he's got cancer, and I don't care how much hot air he's filled the media airwaves with even though apparently that's all he needs to maintain to have a free pass for anything he's done or will do.

    McCain is a blowhard, has been since his run for office, and I guarantee despite everyone's wishful thinking that uncle Scrooge grew a heart while they were digging around in his brain, that he will vote with his despicable party for their despicable plan just the same as he was going to before.

  • Regardless of its origins, his position on torture has been solid, correct, and consistent throughout his senate career. More generally, J Dryden is right; anyone else remember McCain-Feingold?

  • "2000 was the year that broke McCain"

    No, not remotely. John McCain was always a posturing fraud without an atom of genuine principle, much less heroism in his scrawny adulterous body.

    Let's remember that he sang for the Viet Cong, was bought by Charlie Keating and abandoned a crippled wife to go chasing a blonde bimbo who just happened to be rich.The last was too much for even Reagan to stomach. We could also review his profoundly inglorious and inept career in the navy,where we find yet more grandstanding, more incompetence and laziness when it came to his duties – and, oh surprise, yet more skirt-chasing, whoring and general failure to serve his country in any recognizable way. John McCain has done nothing for his country, unless you count self-indulgent posturing backed by nothing whatsoever in the way of action. The only reason you've heard of John McCain is because he was the degenerate son of a much more accomplished father. In other words, a classic Republican of the modern era. To describe him as a hero cheapens the word beyond all recognition.

  • I've met people who were in the Hanoi Hilton and for that reason I can't disparage McCain's experience as a P.O.W.

    Even if he talked, and he probably did, just about everyone else did at some point. A human being can only take so much of that kind of treatment.

    The only one I know that held out to the very end, and died for it, was Lance Sijan.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Like J. Dryden, my opinion of McSame really changed a few years after Rove's and Dumbaya's robo-calls in SC.
    And yeah, he did have his "maveriky" moments before 2000 – they were few and far between, but they were there.

    The moment I realized what a transparent phony he was, was when he set his sights on the 2008 nomination, at some Dumbaya rally, he had that awkward bro-hug moment when he latched onto Dumbaya like McSame was drowning, and W was his last hope.

    To my knowledge, he's never earned a singlel dollar outside of government. His dad was an Admiral.
    His college tuition was paid for at the Naval Academy.
    He was never charged for any of the planes he crashed before the one when he ended-up a POW.
    Yes, he was brave in prison. He was horribly tortured. And he had the balls to stay with the other POW's, when he was offered his release.
    But to me, it doesn't seem as if he ever used that for anything but his own his own aggrandizement.
    He became a member of the House.
    He had an affair and remarried – leaving behind his wife who was terribly injured in a car accident.
    That's not "mavericky."
    That's being a DICK!!!
    And then he won one of the AZ US Senate seats, and has been play-acting being America's conscience ever since.

    I'm sorry that he has cancer – since I don't wish death on anyone.
    But he and his reputation might have been better served, if he had died when he was a POW.

    Maybe he'll shock the nation today, and come out against t-RUMPLE-THiN-sKKKin's and Mitch "The Sociopathic Chinless Bitch's" "Death Panel Ill-Health Don't Care Plan" – aka: tRUMPDon'tCare!

    But there's no reason to believe he will.
    He is, after all, just anothe sociopathic conservative Republican.

    And fuck him if he doesn't try to stop tRUMPDon'tCare!!!!!
    He's' had the finest health care system in the world – the one for US Government officials.
    Share a little, you…………………………………………………

  • I could not possibly agree more with this assessment. Every time I hear someone refer to the "maverick of the Senate," I want to puke.

  • We all "feel bad" for anyone who has cancer—well, not maybe every one.

    If Trump got it, I'd feel bad for cancer.

  • Gerald Parks says:

    1st Johnny Mack loses to possibly the dumbest guy to become POTUS …a shrub aptly named Bush …THEN he becomes the FIRST white man in 232 years of American history to lose a run for the presidency to a BLACK guy!
    Oh well …being known as THE guy depriving 22 to 32 million or more Americas of health care is ….a step up????
    What a patriot! (snark)

  • Steve Holt! says:

    I wouldn't be surprised if McCain turned his own death into a prime time variety song and dance television spectacle, with hot blondes and a patriotic performance by the Blue Angels.

  • I've never believed McCain was a hero in any way, shape, or form. The 2008 article on McCain in Rolling Stone is all you need to know.

    From the article:
    "That should have been the end of McCain's flying career. "In the Navy, if you crashed one airplane, nine times out of 10 you would lose your wings," says Butler, who, like his former classmate, was shot down and taken prisoner in North Vietnam. Spark "a small international incident" like McCain had? Any other pilot would have "found themselves as the deck officer on a destroyer someplace in a hurry," says Butler.

    "But, God, he had family pull. He was directly related to the CEO — you know?"

    McCain was undeterred by the crashes. Nearly a decade out of the academy, his career adrift, he decided he wanted to fly combat in Vietnam. His motivation wasn't to contain communism or put his country first. It was the only way he could think of to earn the respect of the man he calls his "distant, inscrutable patriarch." He needed to secure a command post in the Navy — and to do that, his career needed the jump-start that only a creditable war record could provide.

    As he would so many times in his career, McCain pulled strings to get ahead.

  • To be fair, I'm pretty sure the pained look he has on his face is because he feels constant physical pain as a result of his torture. That being said, I still have no respect for him politically.

  • Monte Davis says:

    Now take it a step farther: from McCain and the other so-reliably-troubled "moderate" GOP legislators to the whole freakin GOP electorate. Not the Fox News "base"… not the small handful of economically stressed Midwestern WWC party-switchers we heard so much about after the election… but the majority of allegedly decent, non-rabid, socially moderate suburbanites, middle managers, small business owners, blah blah blah.

    On every demographic axis, 2016 Trump voters looked qualitatively and quantitatively almost exactly like those who turned out for Romney and for McCain and for Bush II. The "neverTrumpers" were a mirage. The idea that *any* level of ignorance, mendacity, pussy-grabbing, or Putin-cuddling would keep GOP voters from flipping that "R" lever — nationally or, God knows, locally — turned out to be a fantasy.

    So I'm no longer interested in sociologizing distinctions between the MAGA-capped "base" and the rest of 'em, who are implicitly "less extreme," "better-informed, "more reasonable." Pretty much the whole damn party, however troubled, fell into line when it mattered — so let them all own the whole damn mess.

  • The McCain Feingold bill is an anomaly and seems like an effort to signal "Pay no attention to how I may have been involved in destroying the Savings & Loan business". He's old. He's rich. His career is over because he's gonna die soon. I can't believe he's dragging himself across the country to vote no. That purpose could have been accomplished by staying in bed.

  • "Look, I feel as sorry for him as I would if my bus driver said he had cancer."

    I don't. The bus driver with cancer doesn't get world class healthcare for free. The bus driver's family doesn't get anything like this level of attention, support, hagiography or–if he's been an asshole for most of his life–forgiveness.

    McStain, like Joe Livingdeadman has been an opportunistic p.o.s. since they found out that selling votes was better than actually having some preference.

  • @JDryden–please don't refer to her as "Governor" Palin–she served less than half her term, and quit abruptly on the heels of a large number of substantiated ethics complaints. The feeling up in Uh-LAAAASSS-kuh was that she made a deal to step down before the big one landed on her.

  • The answer to any McCain related question is basically always "fuck you, John McCain." So this is exactly what I expected to see.

  • Mojrim, he has been as consistent on torture legislation as on anything else: much publicized support followed by quiet undermining.

    In 2005, he introduced the Detainee Treatment Act. This law prohibited mistreatment of detainees and declared their right to fair trials and protections under habeus corpus and the Geneva Conventions. So far so good, right?

    (Aside: among the more vocal opponents of this act was Jeff Sessions.)

    In 2006, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which established military tribunals for a newly- defined class of detainees, the Unlawful Enemy Combatant. The law specifically removed any legal protections for such detainees, including their rights to trial and habeus corpus rights and any protections under the Geneva Convention against mistreatment and torture. And it JUST SO HAPPENED that everyone captured in the current Global War on Terror fell into this category.

    McCain's support for this law was crucial to getting it passed, largely because of his reputation as a good guy on POW issues. He sold out on the ONE thing he was (allegedly) consistently good on because he needed his party to back him in 2008. Proving that there is no issue more important to him than his own advancement, including humane treatment of prisoners despite his own experience as a tortured prisoner.

    Amendments were introduced during debate: a sunset provision after 5 years and a section defining certain interrogation methods including water boarding as unlawful torture. McCain opposed both and both failed.

    So no. Not even on this has he been consistent, unless you mean a consistent sellout.

  • Well, by now everyone knows that McCain flew his ass across the country to make sure that American citizens who find themselves diagnosed with glioblastoma like him will be unable to afford treatment for same. What a fucking maverick! At least he will not be able to play the wise maverick much longer.

    I sure hope during the course of his chemo (if he receives chemo), he meets scores of cancer patients who are struggling to pay for treatment because their insurance sucks or because they've lost coverage under the ACA because of his vote. Of course I know he won't because he is wealthy enough to be able to have a private chemo suite.

  • What a legacy! Congratulations Mr. McCain. You're consistent in one thing and that's supporting policy to further human suffering.
    With today's vote you've sealed it. Heh. I'm sure a warm berth awaits you in a lower realm.

  • @ Katydid: Perhaps we can compromise. I suggest either formalizing your use of ironic quotation marks, i.e. "Governor" Palin, or the insertion of an asterisk, i.e. Governor* Palin.

    Also: the mainstream fawning over McCain's speech while simultaneously ignoring the terrible implications of his "aye" vote, leads me to suspect that the press/punditry is in a terrible unhealthy relationship with the man. "Sure, we hate what he DOES, but we LOVE the way he does it."

  • What Mothra says can't be repeated enough: "Well, by now everyone knows that McCain flew his ass across the country to make sure that American citizens who find themselves diagnosed with glioblastoma like him will be unable to afford treatment for same."

    Let's all follow April and form a meet-up to piss on McCain's grave.

  • Skwerlhugger says:

    I used to know people who knew people in Washington. Many years ago one remarked that Bob Dole was an honorable man until he got the scent of the Presidency, then he was an empty suit. I was thinking that's McCain, but it's probably too charitable.

    I'm glad you're going public, even if it is sort of unsettling seeing an actual person behind the blog persona (still haven't quite gotten over that Capybara video, even if I was jealous. How the fuck did you meet a Capybara?) I look forward to the day you can get stuff like this wider coverage.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Katydid & April,
    Pissing ain't enough!

    I'll need some toilet paper because on top of pissing on his grave, I'll want to eat a large hamburger and a hot dog – on high-fiber buns – each with onions, jalapeno chili, ketchup, some off-the-charts hot mustard, cheese, and some jalapeno chili cheese fries, then wash that down with a case of good beer, to maximize my pissing and shitting experience!!!

    And then:

  • I've never known an old white man, JM, who could give so many other old white men a hard on just talking. (Well, until 45 pranced onto the national stage.)It's amazing the reverence so many hold for him. Had he taken his own speech today seriously, he would have voted no and forced some real cross-isle action right then: no Dem vote, no pass. But then that's not what he meant – only what he said. BS is BS no matter who says it or what they did once upon a time.
    Let it rip CU!

  • @Natalie:

    What? Are you saying the motherfuckingscumbagpieceofshit is something other than a motherfuckingscumbagpieceofshit?

    Fuck you, McStain. I hope your death is as painful as death can be. You are a person who deserves to be reviled until the end of time. Death will almost be too kind.

  • Welp, the kid and I were talking about Big John just the other night. We both agreed that he's a war criminal (though maybe no more than John Kerry, or hell, Oliver Stone for that matter), but y'know, he "served his country" and got his ass shot down and spent a couple years in Hanoi for his troubles, something W. never did.

    And @JDryden, that "black baby" shit in SC pissed me off a LOT in 2000. I never agreed with almost anything he ever did in the Senate, but (and maybe it was just his publicist), but he struck as a reasonably "straight shooter" (for a Republican) for a couple minutes there. (And W. was obviously an idiot legacy candidate.) He lost me with "Bomb Bomb Iran" (why?) and of course Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods (tm Charles P. Pierce) in 2008. But he REALLY pissed me off with his "let's be reasonable" happy talk about "bipartisanship" today, when he left his hospital bed to deny millions of Americans the kind of healthcare he had just received. Somehow I doubt he went to the VA for brain surgery.

  • @geoff:

    I'd bet that the only time McStain sets foot in a VA facility is to pose for a photo-op to prove that he's a guy who supports the vets–that despite years of doing nothing to help any of us–vets included.

  • "Well, by now everyone knows that McCain flew his ass across the country to make sure that American citizens who find themselves diagnosed with glioblastoma like him will be unable to afford treatment for same."

    His headstone should read:

    "He left his sickbed to answer the call the fuck his country."

    @ John:

    "As he would so many times in his career, McCain pulled strings to get ahead."

    And he came from a line of opportunists.

  • >.Welp, the kid and I were talking about Big John just the other night. We both agreed that he's a war criminal (though maybe no more than John Kerry, or hell, Oliver Stone for that matter),>>

    Geoff, WTF? I mean, what the ever-livin' F?!?! John Kerry went to war, fought, and was wounded. He came home and spoke out about how illegal the war was. WHAT is your problem with that?

  • @skwerlhugger Ed already has an article in The Week and three in Rolling Stone the past few weeks. They are pretty great if a little less adorably cursey. :)

  • Thanks, dc, there's that too. But Katy's right. I'm SERIOUSLY ambivalent about people (OK, PRIVILEGED people) who served in Vietnam. I DEFINITELY am cooler with Kerry's coming home and denouncing the war, but he didn't have to go. (My dad DID (have to go).) He should have known it was an imperial misadventure (to be kind) from the get-go. But on the other hand maybe he felt like he needed to "do his duty for his country" (despite the quotes, I don't mean that sarcastically). Or maybe he already had his eye on political office. I DON'T KNOW. But I think we all DO know 50+ plus years on that the US' invasion and (attempted) destruction of Vietnam was a horrendous crime. Lots of people knew it at the time it was happening.

  • "But I think we all DO know 50+ plus years on that the US' invasion and (attempted) destruction of Vietnam was a horrendous crime. Lots of people knew it at the time it was happening."

    But, but, ve vuz chust being gut Americans!

    Seriously, I have no idea what Kerry's motivations were for serving (or Al Gore's for that matter) but he was not one of the people making the decisions about who/what to bomb from 35K feet or defoliating an entire section of SE Asia. I think that the Swift Boat guys were, in general, fighting well trained, wily, seasoned VC and NVA. Shit does get out of hand in combat and people will do horrible things in the name of "freedom".

    We're all entitled to our opinions. I don't like John Kerry–I never have–but I'd happily take him over anyone in the GOP at the national level.

  • My father resigned his commission in the Army when he found out his next assignment was going to be Vietnam.

    This was in 1964 when things were just getting started.

  • @dc, yeah, I voted for Kerry, FSM help me. Like I said, I'm REAL ambivalent about it. I have a friend who did THREE tours in Iraq and got a Bronze Star for his troubles. He knows I thought the war was a mistake (to put it charitably), but he did what he thought was right, and I respect him for it. So go figure.

    And yes, the REAL criminals of Vietnam (on the US side, anyway) were Johnson, McNamara, Bundy, Nixon, and Kissinger. So obviously Kerry has a lot more to answer for as Sec. of State than as some kid on a boat in Vietnam.

  • So, Kerry was, what, early-20s when he went to VietNam? Why ascribe political ambitions to him at that age? Isn't it maybe–just MAYBE–possible that he went because he thought it was his duty EVEN THOUGH HE COULD HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF IT the way Bush, Cheney, Trump and Limbaugh did? And after going, realized it was all stupid?

    Also, what's your problem with him as Secretary of State, 40 years after VietNam?

  • @katydid, totally (ok mostly) agree about JFK's (John Forbes Kerry) military service. He was 24 and was only "in country" for four months. I could certainly see him having political ambitions at that tender age; his rough contemporary Bill Clinton certainly did. And yes, the cognitive dissonance certainly sets in for me when I respect Americans for fighting in illegal, stupid wars, because they're patriots. Which I do. Maybe Dick and W. wouldn't have had such a hard-on for Iraq if they'd actually been to Vietnam and seen what war is really like.


    Sorry. As Secretary of State, however, Kerry supported the drone assassination campaign, the covert war in Syria, and Saudi Arabia's not so covert war in Yemen. All of which (to me) are inexcusable.


    I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter! :-)

  • Also @Geoff; I enlisted at the age of 21, in part because the economy sucked and I couldn't buy a job with my computer science degree…but in part because the previous two generations of my family were career military; including my grandfather, who wasn't even an American citizen yet when he joined the US Army. What I'm saying is, in some families there is an ethos of Doing Your Part For Your Country, and who knows, that may have been what was going through Kerry's mind at 24. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that, especially since so many of his contemporaries didn't serve.

    I voted for him because my god, the other side was unthinkable. It didn't escape my notice, however, that the astroturf Swift Boaters were trying to tear down his service…in contrast to the other side, who had dodged the draft.

  • Thanks, I appreciate it. Next up, The Washington Post!

    PS, Kerry's dad served in the Army Air Corps in WWII.

  • fuzzbuzz215 says:

    Man, I totally thought about this post when I found out John McCain stuck it to his party this morning.

  • Maybe McStain can read the papers, too.

    He's a windsock.

    He knows that he's dying.

    Why not go out on a high note AND fuck with the people who helped sabotage his chance at being C-in-C.

    We have a YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE problem in this country with men who had "distant" and "patriarchal" fathers. My dad was a nice guy when he was sober (most of the time) who was terrified that any of his kids (me, especially) would wind up like him with 11 kids and no "accomplishments*". I prefer my sometimes drunk dad to any of those fuckers or their fathers.

    * 11 kids raised in a too small home, with too little money and various other hurdles turned out mostly okay–mission accomplished!

  • The New York Times, Friday, July 28, 2017 reported that the old sumbitch McCain didn't bullshit on this vote. Instead, he fucked (for now) the GOP's latest attempt to kill off NigraCare:

    Senate Rejects Partial Health Law Repeal,
    51-49, Derailing 7-Year Effort by G.O.P.
    3 Republicans Defect on ‘Skinny Repeal’ in Blow to Trump
    Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain broke Republican ranks.
    The vote may spell the end of the party’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act anytime soon.
    President Trump quickly took to Twitter: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down.”

  • Great post and expressing what i've been thinking lately. I believe McCain is a little more complicated than that and when it came down to it, he did do the right thing and vote against the bill. we'll see, though, how he holds up…if he holds up. hard to forgive the palin paring.

    I'm new to your blog, Ed (I found it while looking up something on Ayn Rand), and I love it! Thank you!

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