well, there's plenty of time. Meanwhile, we can all give thanks
while keeping our fingers crossed that the McCain
phenomenon seems to have exhausted itself, like a rained-out
storm cloud that temporarily blocked the sun. But that was
an awfully close call, if indeed the danger has passed. For
there is growing evidence that
Camille Paglia's initial impression of the man was right
on the mark:
TV camera does not lie: Just as it showed from the get-go
that ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a nervous shifty,
sweaty, petulant mental adolescent, so has it exposed McCain
over time as a seething nest of proto-fascist impulses. Despite
his recent flurry of radiant, P.R.-coached grins, McCain has
the weirdly wary and over-intense eyes of Howard Hughes and
the clenched, humorless jaw line of Nurse Diesel (from Mel
Brooks' Hitchcock parody, 'High Anxiety.'"
COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET
if only a few instinctively picked up the scent of this presidential
disaster waiting to happen, and soon the general public and
even some of the smitten punditocracy began to draw back from
the sight of the hyperventilating McCain. Close observers
of the candidate swore they could hear a tick-tick-ticking,
whenever his thunderous rhetoric was stilled (which wasn't
often) and it wasn't long before McCain went ballistic, smearing
poor old affable Jerry Falwell as a "dangerous extremist"
who believed that President Clinton had people murdered
and even labeling the milquetoast moderate Dubya a "Robertson
Republican." (Say what?) This backfired in the next
round, resulting in Bush victories in Virginia and Washington
(although they're still counting the ballots in the latter),
but McCain refused to back down: instead, he got more vehement,
and declared that Robertson and Falwell are "evil." No wonder
he is known to his fellow Senators as "McNasty" although,
given his performance on the Michael Reagan radio show, McNutty
is more like it. . . .
were rumors that Nancy Reagan was in the McCain camp, but
Matt Drudge informed us that an endorsement had been ruled
out. At any rate, her son was also rumored to have been partial
to the Arizona Senator's campaign, and was on February 9,
on the line and trying his damnedest to give the candidate
a platform. Reagan's radio program reaches millions of California's
conservative Republican voters: a good interview, in which
he would have a chance to burnish his conservative credentials,
would have at least partially offset the pounding he had been
taking from Rush Limbaugh on a daily basis. But there was
something distinctly strange, from the very beginning,
in the chemistry of this by-now-infamous
exchange. After a few initial pleasantries, Reagan asked
a question that troubles many conservatives, and that is "what
kind of Supreme Court Justices would President McCain appoint?"
A perfectly fair question, and one that Reagan phrased in
precisely the way many of McCain's conservative critics were:
would his campaign chairman, Warren Rudman,
in such a position in a McCain administration to appoint justices
like Judge Souter to the bench as was done during the Bush
administration back in the 1980s"?
Uh, Warren Rudman did not appoint Judge Souter. Uh, President
Bush did. Remember, he was the president.
"Yes, but …"
"Second of all, Warren Rudman is a fine, decent man. He has
served his country in the Korean War, attorney general of
his state, and a senator that was highly respected. Uh, it
was President Bush that appointed Justice Souter. Warren Rudman
is 70 …"
"Right, but Warren Rudman … "
"Let me finish please, could I finish? "
then rants on for a few more minutes about how Rudman is too
old to be a factor, he's too ill, he's not interested, "and
I resent enormously phone call that were made by Pat Robertson
saying that he was a vicious bigot. I think that one might
be worth talking about as well." Poor Mike Reagan here
he had primed his audience for an interview with the inspiring
war hero, the white-haired hero on an even whiter horse, and
less than ten minutes into the interview McCain had clearly
begun to unravel. From that point it was downhill all the
"Senator, senator, senator, senator, I'm not … senator …"
"I asked you, Michael, if I could finish. Can I finish?"
"But you did finish, senator …"
"Can I finish? Can I finish? Yes or no?"
"What else do you have to say?"
"Can I finish or not? I mean, otherwise . . ."
let McCain rant on about how Pat Robertson and the "agents
of intolerance" were out to get him for a few minutes, until,
it seemed, the Senator had gotten it out of his system. Moving
right along, Reagan breathed an audible sigh of relief and
tried to salvage the interview, giving the candidate a chance
"All right. Next question. Education. Big issue. When we compare
to other industrial nations, we earn America's children routinely test near the bottom, so what about your plans
for a better-educated child here in America. What is the McCain
"Choice, uh … By the way, before we go into that, does it
disturb you that Pat Robertson would call up people and say
that Warren Rudman is a vicious bigot? I'd like you to talk
"No, senator, I … Senator, no. Senator, because let me tell
you . . ."
"Let me tell you let me tell you . . ."
there was just a dial tone: the Senator had hung up.
closer McCain got to the Oval Office, the more bombastic and
bizarre he became. Like a werewolf exposed to the light of
the full moon, the white knight of reform and high-mindedness
was transformed into a ranting raving monomaniacal monster.
An astonished Michael Reagan, who had been all ready to fill
out his absentee ballot for McCain, could only say "goodbye,
Senator McCain, goodbye. You know something? I'm ripping this
up. You lost my vote." And a lot of others, besides: not only
those who were listening, but all across the country as the
story got on the wires and MSNBC ran the low points on the
air, previously mesmerized McCaniacs woke up as if from a
real John McCain had finally come out of the closet, and revealed
his true self for all the world to see and it was frankly
scary. Before getting into his anti-Robertson jag, McCain
had been going around claiming that his was the voice of maturity,
and that he was the "grown-up" candidate, at least compared
to the boyish Dubya. But if Bush seems curiously adolescent,
then this interview showed McCain as truly infantile.
Any bona fide grown-up listening to McCain's on-air crackup
had to be asking himself or herself: Is this
the guy whose finger is going to be on the nuclear trigger
for the next four years?
ME TELL YOU KA-BOOM!
you just see him hanging up the red phone on Vladimir Putin,
screaming "Let me tell you, let me tell you." and then
giving the order to launch?
of less than fifteen minutes, Michael Reagan had gone from
admiration to calling the candidate "a messenger of hate"
it was a moment that marked the beginning of the McCain
meltdown, although inside the cocoon of the "Straight Talk
Express," the media and its chosen candidate merrily dismissed
all signs of trouble. Of course, we knew McCain was
in trouble before the disastrous February 29 interview with
Reagan, when word that his support among the neoconservatives
was waning, hit the
front page of the Washington Post: Bill Bennett,
had earlier praised him to the skies and done everything
but formally endorsed, was now backtracking rather rapidly.
Only a few days had passed since Bennett had enthusiastically
declaimed that "You can make the call right now that it is
pretty clear that John McCain is a better bet for winning
the presidency for the Republicans than George Bush." Forty-eight
hours later, the right call was clearly dead wrong.
"This is rhetorical overkill not appropriate to a man running
for president of the United States," declared Bennett, and
to say that Robertson and Falwell are "evil" is a "very odd
thing." Asked to speculate on what, how, or why the campaign
had gone wrong, Bennett replied: "I don't know what's going
on. I'm not a psychiatrist." As long as McCain seemed to be
winning, Bennett and his neocon friends including Bill
Kristol, John Podhoretz, Tucker Carlson, and the usual suspects,
plus Gary Bauer, their Religious Right front-man were
willing and even eager to go along for the ride. It didn't
matter how crazy he was just as long as nobody
Bill Kristol as the grand strategist and ideologist of the
campaign, making the Sunday morning talk show circuit and
spinning the myth of McCain, the neocons seemed to have a
perceptible influence on their man. In a speech McCain even
used the phrase "national greatness," and called for heroic
self-sacrifice for the good of the nation, in an echo of a
famous Weekly Standard manifesto
by David Brooks which disdained
conservatives for being too "anti-government" and
longed for the glory days of the bombastic bully Theodore
Roosevelt. Bennett even joined the liberal media in piling
on Bush during the Bob Jones University fracas. The Washington
Post gleefully reported Bennett's considered opinion that
Bush had not only made a mistake by failing to make the obligatory
condemnation of Bob Jones University's ban on interracial
dating, but also by failing to repudiate the Christian Coalition
and Pat Robertson, who had dared to criticize the politics
and published writings of campaign chairman Rudman. Dubya
"works two years building a 'compassionate conservative' image,
but in South Carolina he looks like not only a conventional
conservative but the worst kind of caricature, a liberal caricature,
of what a conservative is," said Bennett and he ought
to know. He has no trouble visualizing the contours of that
caricature, because this ex-Democrat supporter of Hubert Humphrey,
along with the New York branch of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy,
retain the political correct attitudes of their liberal-lefty-Shachtmanite
QUICKLY THEY TURN
disenchantment coincided not only with the latter stages of
the McCaniac mental meltdown, but also with McCain's Virginia
loss, and the perceived loss in Washington state. In the New
York Post, John
Podhoretz opined that "those of us who thought McCain
was the right man for the job will be eating some well-deserved
crow." How quickly they turn. While nobody likes a loser,
the neocons like them least of all. This is aside from the
fact that, in the their view, such people as Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell may be kooky, but to call them "evil" is
really going over the line. It is one thing to rap the knuckles
of "extremists" once in a while, but endangering the Republican
coalition and opening it up to the depredations of Pat Buchanan
is quite another. If nothing else, the neocons have a clear
sense of who are their enemies.
ready to "take aim especially at Bush, his former fellow
Republican, for being 'basically a nice fellow, but clueless''
on foreign policy issues, an area of expertise for Buchanan.
'They think they've shed a lot of blood in that Republican
Party lately,' Buchanan said. 'But you wait 'til we get ahold
of old W.'" Oh boy, it won't be much longer now, and I can
contrary to the "buzz" in the McCainiac media, is not about
to step into the race: his family is adamantly opposed, and
Ross himself has made no move toward initiating the petition
process: in a few days he must sign a declaration of intent
to file petitions in several states, and his aides report
no move to meet the deadline. Meanwhile, Reform Party Secretary
Jim Mangia has managed to generate more
newspaper stories about his petition drive to draft Perot
than the number of names on his petition.
same media that built up McCain and almost succeeded
in nominating him over the heads of the GOP Establishment
is now telling us that the Reform Party is a bunch
of fractious wackos who can't even decide where they are going
to hold their national convention. The followers of former
Reform Party chairman Jack Gargan and Jesse Ventura, if not
put up to their destructive antics by interested parties,
are at the very least following a script that might just as
well have been written by the party's worst enemies. But these
are the birth pangs and not the death rattle of the Reformers.
It is the Republican Party that is dying, as the recent acrimonious
campaign made all too clear, and divided against itself. Buchanan
says that we are in the midst of a "de-alignment," and that
what we are witnessing in the turmoil of the GOP is the ongoing
process of the "disintegration of the two major parties. We
hope to gather together some of those pieces and put together
a plurality in November."
big piece of the Buchanan coalition consists of those, on
the Right and the Left, who see our criminal policy global
interventionism as an albatross hung 'round the neck of every
American a financial and a moral burden that can no
longer be sustained or excused. The starvation of a generation
of Iraqi children, which Madeleine Albright has publicly declared
is "worth it" the military occupation of the Balkans,
which is threatening to explode the rising reaction
to American hegemonism in Russia, China, and around the world:
these are Buchanan's issues, the real issues that face us
as we enter the new millennium, because only he addresses
them. In a campaign which promises to consist of a contest
to see which candidate is more politically correct, Buchanan
will bring the important issues, the presidential issues,
and place them at the center of the debate. That, in and of
itself, will be a revolutionary act, and alone justifies the
campaign no matter how many votes he gets.
McNASTY BRING ON THE BUSHIES!
so it's adios, McCain thank God and Greyhound
he's (almost) gone! We can all of us breathe a much-needed
sigh of relief. No need to start building that bomb shelter.
Mad Dog McCain won't get anywhere near that red phone.
But don't believe for a minute that the GOP crackup will end
with the Philadelphia convention. As Bush moves rapidly Leftward
or, as the pundits put it, "toward the Center"
he will lose much of his conservative base as he morphs into
a McCain replicant, bibbling about "reform" of what,
the nation's prep schools? and bragging about his "multicultural"
credentials. Don't think for a moment that the excitement
has ended: this is going to be one helluva campaign season
and the fun has just begun.