Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bitter, Nasty & Vindictive: That’s our JOHN MCCAIN

Before you get too far into this, let me just warn you: The theme today is “Bah Humbug,” and playing the part of Scrooge is John McCain. And as much as I’d love to be able to say that he’s just old and crotchety and lovable, the best I can offer is old and crotchety. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think it is time for McCain to hang it up. Way back in 1986 the U.S. eliminated a mandatory retirement age, so as I see it, John McCain could keep playing Senator for another 20 years, depending on longevity. After all, he is 77. I do not think that should be allowed to happen.

Last Saturday, the most significant piece of civil rights legislation in decades was passed by the U.S. Senate. All of the years of gay people honorably serving their country, but dishonorably being forced to hide who they were came to an end. By the day before Christmas Eve, President Obama had signed it into law. The bigotry that clearly defined the U.S. military was voted down, not just by the Democratic majority, but by several Republicans, as well. Before the vote, here is what McCain had to say about the “danger” of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the U.S. military:

Without trying to play dime-store psychologist, it is not difficult to see the anger that boils just below the McCain surface. Maybe the anger has justifiable roots. After all, this is a guy who is well known for having spent five years in a Vietnamese prison camp. Much of that time he was in solitary confinement. It is widely reported that he was routinely beaten while held prisoner, causing permanent disabilities. He cannot, for example, raise his arms above his head. In his later life he has battled repeated bouts with skin cancer. Just this is enough to cause a guy to feel lifelong anger.

But then there is his political career. Although he has served in elective office for decades now, he ran twice for President of the U.S. and never quite made the cut. First, he was defeated by George W. Bush in 2000. Then he was defeated by Barack Obama in 2008. His campaign speeches were described by supporters as “fiery,” and his self-labeled persona was “maverick.” If you take the time to look back at his rhetoric and his demeanor, it is better described simply as angry.

Maybe it is just that anger that has driven McCain to make some very extreme moves, and to make some rather ill-advised statements. When the Senate was about to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, McCain called it a “very sad day.” He mentioned that the American people did not support this move, even though the last poll that was done before the Senate vote, by the Washington Post and ABC revealed that 77% of Americans favored the repeal. So, for whom was that a sad day? There was an obvious disconnect between McCain’s manipulative rhetoric about marines with no limbs in veterans hospitals, and the will of the American public.

It is not the first time that McCain has demonstrated how out of touch he is with contemporary American thought. It is also not the first time he has reversed himself on major issues. In 2006, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, McCain said, “…I‘ve had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.” In early 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen both publicly supported the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. McCain’s reaction was to publicly denounce both of the senior officials for supporting the repeal.

McCain appears to support that which is most convenient for him in the moment. For example, I am not the first one to bring up his hypocrisy as it relates to military rules. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 125) makes it clear that sodomy is cause for dismissal from the U.S. Military. Since it widely assumed that sodomy is part of homosexuality, the UCMJ essentially outlaws homosexuality. But article 134 outlaws adultery, specifically sexual intercourse with someone who is married. When McCain returned from Vietnam, his then wife had been in an accident and was partly disabled. Shortly thereafter he took up with his current wife, while he was still married. Would McCain support a military that discharged him for violation of the UCMJ 134? If not, how does he justify the discharge of others who violated article 125?

I could cite many other examples of McCain’s reversal on key issues, and examples of McCain’s selective use of military and U.S. policy, when it suits him (e.g. in 2003 and again in 2006 McCain publicly supported pathways to U.S. citizenship for U.S. immigrants, but last week he voted against the Dream Act, which would enable young people already in the country to stay and ultimately achieve citizenship). Instead, let me just say this: There is a difference between being politically conservative and being out of touch with contemporary societal mores. McCain’s view of gays in the military is an outdated display of ignorance. His ill-concealed anger only serves to show that his emotions are dictating his political moves. Is 77 to old to serve in the U.S. Senate? I think not. However, a Senator of any age who fails to keep up with the morals and cultural progress of his constituency is not fit for the office he holds.

My observation is that the American people ultimately see their elected officials for what they are, and McCain, having repeatedly compromised his credibility is now the emperor with no clothes. It is not John McCain’s age that will do him in. Rather, it is his rigid inability to recognize the true will of his own constituency. John McCain was clearly positioned to be a senior statesman in the highest levels of the most powerful government in the free world. Instead, he has morphed into an angry old man, embittered by a series of bad breaks in his life. It is that persona that will sully his legacy and ultimately result in his own obscurity.

1 comment:

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