McCain 4 Realz

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Travis Craw

It was a beautiful summers day when I sat down in my backyard with my dear old grandfather, a die-hard Texan who is ready to drive George Bush out of town in tar and feathers for being the slimiest most no good varmint ever to disgrace the name of America. So you might have been as surprised as I was when he sat me down to instruct me in the virtues of John McCain.

It was explained to me that, despite his intension to make permanent the Bush Tax Cuts, indefinitely maintain the military presence of Bush’s war, and kiss the boots of the evangelical leaders who got Bush elected, John McCain is "His Own Man". I was confused, but I recalled faintly a time when John McCain called out the injustices of tax cuts for the rich, and denounced intolerant bigoted comments by Pat Robertson and John Hagee. I even felt a slight pang of nostalgia for a man who championed campaign finance reform, normalized diplomatic relations with Viet Nam, and held the promise of leading the Republican Party in a different direction than Reagan. There once was a time when people truly believed he was a reformer, but then again at that time people also though Milli Vanilli sang their own songs.

If only I had already read Cliff Schecter’s "The Real McCain" as I was sitting there with Gramps, I would have been fully armed to set him straight on McCain’s "Straight Shooting". Schecter simply and thoroughly takes on the real McCain issue by issue, illuminating a man, once known for progressive nonpartisan reform, who has turned his back on all of his beliefs in his ceaseless political pandering and scraping for power. To say McCain has any beliefs at all is a stretch, as when asked if contraception helps to stop the spread of HIV, McCain said, "I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception."

He has changed his position on Abortion, Taxation, and Religion. He has forgotten campaign finance reform and become suspiciously absent from any vote where he might stray from party dogma. He has turned his back on Homosexuals, Immigrants, and Veterans in order to claw his way to the white house. On the subject of immigration, Schecter recounts McCain telling an audience, "I think the fence is least effective. But I will build a fence if that is what they want". In a matter of three days McCain called the Confederate flag both a symbol of "racism and slavery" and a symbol of "Heritage".

“The Real McCain” is light and smart with all the pith and snark of a 150 page blog post. Though not exactly a page turner, it does include thrilling moments with McCain calling his wife the C-word, calling U.S. senators F***ing Jerks, and full body tackling Cogressman Rick Renzi. Schecter reveals the rage and instability of this pro-torture media darling.

However, Cliff Schaefer’s book reads a bit more like an ’04 republican campaign commercial than an investigation into the real soul of a man. Issue by issue, the book shows McCain’s "Flip Flopping" and disingenuous power grab. I had the opportunity to see Cliff speak at the Laughing Liberally comedy lab last night. He told the audience that today’s elections are not about issues but about a candidate’s character. This book marks a liberal mentality prepared to turn its back on issue-based politics and take up the conservative game of Flip-Flop-o-Phobia. In "The Real McCain", the fear is not of a man who is endorsing dangerous domestic and international policies, but the fear of a man who changes what he says. It is true that McCain is not to be trusted by any camp. He is a loose canon with an aggressive and vengeful personality willing to say anything for support, but forgive me if I think that endorsing torture is Wrong, regardless of whether a man has been tortured himself or not. The book often reads as a plea to the far right to not believe that McCain is as evil as he is promising he will be. Something I fear many independents believe. "Oh he is just tricking those silly right-wingers, he is really our friend". Not true.

In the end the one truth is that beyond his calculations we have no idea who the Real McCain is, a scary notion and an important thing for Schecter to remind people across the spectrum. After building this conclusion through the entire book, it does strike me as odd that Schecter dedicates his final chapter to predicting precisely who will serve in McCain’s Cabinet down to his secretary of labor and agriculture.

Though Schecter and I disagree in the approach we should take to a political candidate, "The Real McCain" is a smart and important book to add to the progressive artillery and has left me with more clarity and endless talking point. So the next time I sit down with Granddad he better watch out.