Aimee Semple McPherson battles the gorilla Evolution
I have nothing against old people. On the contrary, a number of my favorite people in the world are considerably older than John McCain. Aside from personal acquaintances, George McGovern is one that comes to mind. I shook hands with him once, but I don't really think that makes him a personal acquaintance. And I plan one day myself to get older than McCain is today.
But ... Wednesday night was the first time I sat down to watch the Republican Convention in progress. And it looked like a white power rally in an old folks' home. No wonder the police were arresting protesters and journalists indiscriminately. If some of these delegates were to see an antiwar protester or a sign criticizing Big Oil, they might get so upset they would lose their VFW hat or their dentures would drop right out of their mouths.
Now I've got nothing particular against the VFW, either. The American Legion is another story altogether! The American Legion shares too many attitudes with less respectable sorts. Like Alaska neo-Confederates who support ultra-Christianist nutballs like the Constitution Party.
After the White Princess gave her generic Republican McCain-is-Our-Dear-Leader-now speech, in which she included healthy helpings of scorn on Barack Obama for his alleged egotistic desire for the spotlight, I was surprised to see the Great American himself walk out on stage. You know, just like Obama did after Joe Biden's speech. It was a surprise when Obama did it because it was a break from tradition.
McCain's appearance had its unique aspects, too. He waited until all of the immediate members of the obviously fecund Palin family were on stage. (As an aside, mother-to-be Bristol seems to be handling the national and international attention quite well from what little I could see.) When he came out and stood next to his White Princess just after she had heaped maudlin praise on him for being a POW, he not only looked suspiciously like a guy who really enjoys the spotlight a lot. He also looked like he could easily be her grandfather.
If they intended to make him look dynamic and innovative, I don't think that was the way to do it. Not that I mind. I'm not being a concern troll. I'm happy it gave people a symbolic image of his politics. His political outlook is vintage Wall Street circa 1925. ("When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results", as Silent Cal Coolidge once said in a non-silent moment.) The White Princess is obviously a lot younger physically. But her outlook is kind of like the worst aspects of Aimee Semple McPherson crossed with the worst of Father Coughlin. Those two wouldn't be a Bridge to Nowhere. More like a Bridge to the Nineteenth Century.
Father Charles Coughlin
Speaking of which, the White Princess repeated her whopper about the Bridge to Nowhere. But in a hall full of Republican white folks, I guess reality is whatever the Party says it is.
She didn't really beat the Culture War drums too loudly though, if we leave aside her homage to McCain's Vietnam War imprisonment. Just some whining about how the New York Jew Media Liberal Press was lookin' down on those pore Republican white folks there chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!"
Speaking of chanting: when the Princess said her line speaking of Obama "Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights", I expected the crowd to start cheering, "TOR-ture! TOR-ture! TOR-ture!" Be honest: would it have surprised you? But maybe that's too hard to chant with dentures or something.
Getting back to my theme from yesterday of the hero-as-victim, here was what the White Princess had to say about the Great American's war heroism (from the prepared text at the Convention Web site):
There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you ... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death ... and that man is John McCain. In our day, politicians have readily shared much lesser tales of adversity than the nightmare world in which this man, and others equally brave, served and suffered for their country.
It's a long way from the fear and pain and squalor of a six-by-four cell in Hanoi to the Oval Office.
But if Senator McCain is elected president, that is the journey he will have made.
It's the journey of an upright and honorable man - the kind of fellow whose name you will find on war memorials in small towns across this country, only he was among those who came home.
To the most powerful office on earth, he would bring the compassion that comes from having once been powerless ... the wisdom that comes even to the captives, by the grace of God ... the special confidence of those who have seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome. A fellow prisoner of war, a man named Tom Moe of Lancaster, Ohio, recalls looking through a pin-hole in his cell door as Lieutenant Commander John McCain was led down the hallway, by the guards, day after day.
As the story is told, "When McCain shuffled back from torturous interrogations, he would turn toward Moe's door and flash a grin and thumbs up" - as if to say, "We're going to pull through this." My fellow Americans, that is the kind of man America needs to see us through these next four years.
For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words.
For a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds.
She did get the word "torture" out, in "torturous interrogations". I thought the Republicans called those "enhanced interrogations". Was there a Party line change overnight I didn't hear about?
Since they are making McCain's experiences as a POW so central to their narrative about his character, everybody should be asking some pointed questions? Is that particular story about the "pinhole" true? No one that I know of questions that he was tortured or that he acted as a leader among his fellow POWs. But is this particular story true? Will any reporter check?
Let's look again at the core of the White Princess' "character" claim for McCain based on this:
To the most powerful office on earth, he would bring the compassion that comes from having once been powerless ... the wisdom that comes even to the captives, by the grace of God ... the special confidence of those who have seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome.
Is there anything in John McCain's "character" and career in the decades since he was released from prison that demonstrates such results?
Compassion for the powerless? Was Charles Keating powerless? Has McCain ever championed programs seriously aimed at opening opportunities for the poor? Bringing health care to those without it? Was it operating in the special "grace of God" that he dumped his first wife because she was deformed in a car accident and married his $100 million trust-fund sugar-mamma Cindy? Who he compassionately called a "cunt" in public?
McCain has "seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome"? War is the greatest evil that our sad species inflicts on each other. And McCain supported Bush's preventive war in Iraq. McCain is no moron or moral illiterate. He knew goddamned well that such a war was immoral in the extreme. But there was no more enthusiastic cheerleader for it. And none so enthusiastic now to continue it indefinitely.
Did his "Hanoi Hilton" experience make him more opposed to torture? His posturing on opposing the Bush torture policy turned on his fan club in the press. They still were buying the hype even when he explicitly supported CIA torture. But he never pushed for investigations to uncover the root of the torture crimes, which he knew as all of us do that they go straight to Bush and Cheney. Did he push for their impeachment? What a joke to even ask! Will he pledge to prosecute all those who broke US and international laws in the Cheney-Bush torture policy? Here's the answer:
The press and the Democrats should insist on holding the White Princess to account for her claims about the great virtues John McCain acquired in his POW years. If she ever gets up the nerve to talk to any of them besides maybe FOX News or Rush Limbaugh.
It would be interesting to see a real study - and I'm sure there are some - of how people subjected to torture or otherwise brutal imprisonment respond over the long term. Including specifically in the POW context. In fact, some people are permanently devastated by it, for sure. We have some recent evidence of that from the torture policy that McCain and the White Princess support and will continue and almost certainly expand if they win this election.
We know what the end result is as far as McCain's attitude toward inflicting torture, whichever of his experiences were most decisive in forming his position: he supports it. And he will continue to see that it's inflicted on prisoners in the increasingly bizarre "war on terror".
It's useful for very practical reasons to look at the lessons he drew from the Vietnam War. The lesson he appears to have drawn from it and the one he seems ready to apply blindly to the Iraq War is that the war was only lost because of the stab-in-the-back by cowardly politicians and civilians back home. If we had just kept on fighting and killing and bombing indefinitely until the other side surrendered unconditionally, we would have had Victory. And he intends to achieve Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by bombing villages and towns and cities.
And does that practical result represent a moral result stemming from a wisdom bestowed by the "grace of God"?
Based on his actual life, what McCain learned from his Vietnam experience was that he really wants to have a chance to inflict the kind of violence and death on some other foreigners that he wanted to keep inflicting indefinitely on Vietnam.
There is something remarkable, and something I find more and more disturbing, that it's specifically McCain's suffering and helplessness at the hands of those Vietnamese - which in the world of Republicans and Constitution Party neo-Confederates are seen as Commie gooks persecuting fine Christian white folks - that his admirers find so grand.
If they're going to use his superior virtue as a POW and a torture victim as the main sign of his great character, his press fans and the Republicans need to put up or shut up. Just what is it about McCain that shows his superior virtue from that experience? Let's start with the question of what he will do to prosecute the war criminals responsible for the Cheney-Bush torture policy? If he's elected President, that's a very real and present evil that he will have not only the chance but the responsibility to address. Will he go after the torture criminals or not?
For more on the White Princess' speech, see Memeorandum.