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Opinion

Letter to McCain reminisces when he was a real maverick

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October 23, 2008

Dear Mr. McCain:

It didn’t have to be this way, man. Here we are two weeks away from the end of your dying presidential campaign and I’d say you deserve a break. Your slide in the polls in recent weeks has been so dramatic and so conclusive some of your critics have already switched into Pity Mode. It’s true – a lot of us do feel sorry for you and the way the sad state of modern politics has completely erased your true identity. I remember the John McCain of a few years back. Once upon a time, you really weren’t a bad choice for the Republican candidate.

I remember when you kicked some ass with my main man Russ Feingold on the issue of pay-for-play practices on the radio, otherwise known as “payola.” You and Feingold also co-sponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, which was nicknamed the “McCain-Feingold Act.” I remember, John, those days when you routinely broke with your own party to kick corruption square in the balls. You seemed so out of place during the early Bush/Cheney years as the classic Republican ideology of fiscal conservatism and small government dissolved before our eyes. Back then everyone – even your advisors – believed you were a maverick!

These days you’re almost there: you’ve got your very own presidential ticket, a cute vice presidential candidate and a race so negative it makes Emperor Palpatine’s senatorial campaign look like an Easter egg hunt for special-needs toddlers. You are letting your crack team of advisors steamroll the real you in their rabid quest for more votes and more power.  I know that deep down there must be some small nugget of the real McCain left screaming out for vindication as your advisors paint a picture of you, your opponent, and your message riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations.

For example, you never even met Gov. Palin before you chose her as a running mate. You claim you knew of her reputation, but with the long political career you’ve had, surely you met someone more qualified than her? Perhaps a wink won you over, but in my opinion, the pick of Gov. Palin was nothing more than a political move initiated by your advisors. She was a shot in the arm for a few weeks, but by now we’ve all sampled her lack of complexity (and reading materials) and most of us have had enough. As far as I can tell, she contributes only superficially, in your perspective hopefully enough to win in November.

But what about after that? Vice presidents should be picked for their qualifications as they pertain to the job in the White House, not in a stump speech. She can wink and smile and memorize flash cards, but can she deal with another 9/11-type attack or the worsening financial crisis? My doubts are piling up. Got it wrong, John.

And John, you keep pushing this Willy Ayers issue; Barack Obama was only 8 years old when Ayers committed those crimes! As a fellow human being, John, can you stand here and tell me you really think we should spend more time on this issue than the crumbling economy or the Iraq war? I know it’ll slightly improve your dim chance at winning in November, but at some point you’ve got to get back to core issues that actually affect the American people.

Your advisors own you, John. They’ve beaten you into submission to the point where you let anti-Obama shouts of “traitor!” and “kill him!” fly at your rallies. They’ve substituted the real you with an amalgamation of snappy sound bites, message repetition and whatever Sarah Palin is. This happens with every presidential candidate to some degree, but when I see a former hero of the GOP like you collapse under the weight of a campaign like this, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for you. You said last spring that you would conduct your race against Barack Obama in a tasteful and positive manner, yet just in the last few weeks there have been periods in which every single one of your ads across the nation have been negative.

Only two more weeks and then you’re free, John. You won’t have to keep pretending to like Sarah Palin. You won’t have to keep inventing stories to distract Sean Hannity with. You won’t have to keep dishonorably smearing a decent man like Barack Obama, because I know you don’t hate the guy. Obama’s got it in the bag – not because of ACORN, not because of voter fraud, not because of the “leftist” media, but because he’s realer than you are.
And also because Sarah Palin is a joke.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.