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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 24, 2013

 
If anyone knows about adoring media, it's John McCain

by digby

John McCain complaining about Hillary Clinton having an adoring media is just hilarious:


Then again, if anyone knows what an adoring media is like, he would. Here's Jonathan Alter during the McCain swoon back in 1999:

[I]n essential ways, McCain remains the same spunky, intense and defiant man he was then. He learned in prison that rugged individualism isn't enough; he relied on others. Yet when he had to, as his fellow POW Orson Swindle says, "He stood alone."

Biography is not destiny in modern presidential politics. Otherwise Americans would have elected President Bob Kerrey and President Bob Dole. But this is the era of Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" and Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation." If McCain can't convert his life story into a chunk of votes, no one can.

The long-shot battle plan is simple: win New Hampshire with independents; South Carolina with the 400,000 veterans there. Outclass George W. Bush in debates, where McCain's deeper knowledge of presidential-level issues like foreign policy might pay off. "All the king's horses and all the king's men can't put inevitability back together again," says McCain consultant Mike Murphy.

Right now, that's still wishful thinking, but McCain's outsider message is starting to cohere. The line running from life experience to campaign themes isn't hard to draw. "He's a fighter, whether he's fighting special interests in Congress or getting in the face of prison guards in North Vietnam," says Dan Schnur, his communications director, simultaneously spinning stories about McCain's bad temper and summarizing the campaign. "The different elements of his life story reinforce each other."

McCain skillfully deploys that story by seeming not to exploit it. "It's just foolish to say, 'Vote for me because I suffered in war'," he says. So on the campaign trail the link becomes implicit and inspirational, with each speech including a call for Americans to "sacrifice for something greater than our own self-interest." The hope is to rekindle some Kennedyesque ideas about public service, but with a conservative gloss to keep it from going gooey.

The animating principle of McCain's life is honor. It kept him in a Vietnamese prison for five and a half years instead of going home early, as his captors offered. It's at the root of his passionate efforts to clean up politics and redeem what he sees as his own connection to a corrupt system. It's why he bonded a few years ago with a onetime antiwar protester, David Ifshin, who was dying of cancer, and why he repeatedly visited former Arizona representative Morris Udall (a Democrat suffering for years from Parkinson's disease) in the hospital when everyone else seemed to have forgotten about him. Their honor mattered to him, too.

Honor is almost a quaint notion now, associated with a different time. McCain gives it a charming twinkle, and the hope of living on as something more than a platitude. He keeps faith with it, even while sometimes falling short of the standard himself. Like many other POWs, McCain broke under torture and signed a "confession." On returning to the United States, he cheated on his first wife, Carol, who had been seriously injured in a car accident when he was in Vietnam. Later, he was too wrapped up in work to notice that his second wife, Cindy, was addicted to prescription drugs (box). He let himself get too close to savings and loan executive Charles Keating, who turned out to be a crook. He can be sarcastic and belittling, when he knows better.

But even his failures just seem to deepen the character lines. The life story works politically because McCain wears it lightly. It's part of his campaign advertising but not his basic stump speech. "I'm always a little embarrassed and nostalgic when I see some of those [Vietnam] pictures," he says. When asked about his years in captivity, he insists he wasn't a hero. And, determined to avoid seeming grim, he recalls that he had some good times in prison, re-creating movies with other POWs ("One-Eyed Jacks" was a favorite). In hawking his new memoir, "Faith of My Fathers," McCain says he wants Tom Cruise to play him in the movie, but his children favor Danny DeVito.

It goes on. And on. And on ...

I suppose some member of the mainstream media might have written something this fawning about Hillary Clinton, but it's a rarity. But during 1999 and early 2000, the boys on the McCain bus acted like a bunch of groupies at a One Direction concert. It was one of the most embarrassing moments in modern campaign history.


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