Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

February 23, 2000


As predicted in my last column, Democrats as well as Independents proved to be a pivotal factor in the Michigan contest: Republicans were apparently outnumbered in their own pirmary. This is what the Bush camp will seize on as a reason to discount the Michigan results, but no amount of "spin" is going to obscure what has been clearly established by McCain's Michigan and Arizona victories: he is the front-runner in this race. This is due not only to the convincing margin of victory in both races, but to McCain's growing strength in California and New York, two delegate-heavy bellwether states. Even before the Michigan returns were in, there had already been significant defections in both locales: California Secretary of State Bill Jones, and Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island). Now, stand back for the stampede, as Republican pols trample each other in an attempt to be first to jump on the bandwagon as it comes rolling through town. That giant sucking sound you hear is all those GOP office-holders and other Establishment types sucking up to the new front-runner. Propelled by the gushing media chorus that accompanies his every utterance, and with enough money to keep him roughly competitive with Bush, McCain has not only stripped away Bush's vaunted aura of inevitability, but, before long, he will have will have completely appropriated it. It won't be long now before McCain partisans will be calling on Bush to quit the race – all in the name of "party unity," of course. As they cite national polls to make the argument that "Bush can't win" – neither the nomination nor the general election – the McCainiacs in the media and on the left fringe of the Republican Party smell victory – and the burden is now on the Bush camp to show otherwise.


In the hours before the polls closed, the puffed-up McCain – always given to overstatement – proclaimed "if we win in Michigan, we'll be unstoppable!" Well, not quite. The South is solid Bush country, and in spite of the Texas governor's cavalier treatment of the California GOP – he skipped the Golden State's GOP convention, while McCain stole the spotlight and the show – Dubya could still pull it off. But why should any conservative really care much what happens to the GOP, anyway? After all, here is a candidate who not so long ago was denouncing the Republican Congress for "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor" and distancing himself from the right-wing of his party by calling himself a "compassionate conservative" – as opposed to those hardcore, hard-hearted conservatives way over there on the far right.


While the Christian Coalition and others came through for Bush in South Carolina, most of the rest of the organized Right has been sitting on its hands this election season, with only Alan Keyes stirring up any real grassroots enthusiasm. Ever since Pat Buchanan left the Republican Party with a good part of his following, the heart seems to have gone out of the conservative wing of the GOP. The New York-Beltway clique of "neo"-conservatives, centered around the Weekly Standard and the New York Post, figured this out early on, with neocon grand strategist Bill Kristol making a big show of glomming on to McCain. With their hopped-up agenda of Big Government "national greatness" at home, and stepped-up US global intervention from Chechnya to China, the neocons and the man who called Vladimir Putin a fascist were made for each other: with his compulsive bellicosity, his perpetual hysteria, and the messianic flavor of his public pronouncements, McCain is the true candidate of those who want a Caesar instead of a President.


While the neocons may have access to the media, both their own (the Standard, the Post, Commentary, etc.) and that of the liberal "mainstream," there are only about seventeen of them. They make an inordinate amount of noise because perhaps fifteen of them are newspaper columnists, but otherwise command no troops and have no real grassroots organization. Like a parasitic plant or animal, they attach themselves to whatever healthy specimens happen to be in the vicinity, and only leave when they have sucked the vital juices of their host down to the last drop. Kristol made this clear in his endorsement of McCain, which he wrote up for the Washington Post in the form of an obituary for the conservative movement. Wiping his fangs, and belching discreetly, Kristol walks away from the dried-up husk of the American Right without so much as a backward glance, driven to move on to his next victim by an insatiable hunger for power.


The only proper response to such defections is: good riddance. But what of the conservative grassroots? Left to stand alone against the hostile takeover of their party, the remnants of the Republican Right have no choice but to fight with everything they have – because Dubya isn't doing it. While George W. Bush burbles about being "a uniter not a divider," the Arizona buzz-saw is cutting through the thicket of Bushian bromides with slashing rhetoric designed to demonize his enemies. But no matter. This is not a crusade for George W. Bush, but a war against a man who could destroy not only the Republican Party but also the country. As I have pointed out in more columns than I care to count, the prospect of John McCain as the next President of the United States means that war is a certainty; for there is hardly an area of the world in which McCain does not see the US intervening to protect its "values" as well as the "national interest." As he made clear most recently in the South Carolina debate, he would force a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia; and given his bloodthirsty rhetoric about the need for American troops to take Belgrade, this self-styled Teddy Roosevelt clone would re-start the Kosovo War at the least provocation. But even if the prospect of mass murder and perpetual war leaves you unmoved, there are other reasons to not only oppose John McCain but to work day and night for his defeat.


This election year is supposed to be all about "character." That philandering liar in the White House, who makes Caligula look good by comparison, is the symbol of everything Republicans are supposed to despise. There was a minor tempest, during the South Carolina primary, over a McCain ad that likened Dubya to our Felon-in-chief. But who is the real Clinton clone here? If we look at the sordid story of McCain's first marriage, then the answer becomes all too clear.


Carol McCain waited for the return of her husband from his Vietnamese captivity for five and a half long years; as McCain idolator David Grann put it in the New Republic, she was "a kind of modern-day Penelope to McCain's Odysseus." She carried her burden with nobility, and resolve, staying faithful to the man she refused to believe she had lost – even in the face of her own tragedy. It was Christmas Eve, 1969, while driving along a snowbound street, that she went crashing into a telephone pole: the impact hurled her through the windshield. She lost her left leg, ruptured her spleen, and went through a long series of agonizingly painful operations. Before the accident, she had been a statuesque beauty who worked as a model; she came out of it with four inches subtracted from her height, broken in body – but not in spirit. Her love for her war hero husband forbade her from letting him know anything of her condition: he knew nothing of the accident, and she refused to write him about it since it would only make his burden heavier.


Any man would be lucky to have such a fierce, unbending love: she stuck by him, agitating for his release, and living for the day of his return. Her devotion was repaid with rejection. He learned of her accident on the plane home, and wasted no time in getting rid of her. He was soon back to his old tricks of playing the field – "just as he had at the Naval Academy," says Grann – and soon sought a divorce. He openly acknowledges that his behavior was solely responsible for the break-up of his marriage, and seems to glory in the macho role while simultaneously professing at least some sense of remorse: "I think she has reason to be bitter," McCain told one interviewer.


As for Carol, she avers that "the breakup of our marriage was not caused by my accident or Vietnam or any of those things. I don't know that it might not have happened if John had never been gone. I attribute it more to John turning forty and wanting to be twenty-five again than I do to anything else." This doesn't sound like bitterness; it is more like benevolence, in that it gives her ex-husband the benefit of a doubt and seems to excuse his disloyalty as practically hormonal, or at least fated. A less charitable – and more realistic – appraisal of McCain's motives is that he might have found his physically-impaired spouse more of an albatross than an asset for a man intent on a political career.


Moreover, his choice of a new wife was not exactly inconvenient. As the Phoenix New Times put the question:

"Would United States Senator John McCain be a presidential contender if it weren't for his marriage to Cindy Hensley McCain, heiress to the Hensley liquor fortune? It's doubtful. The senator's wife and – more important – his father-in-law, James Willis Hensley, are very wealthy people."

As a career military man, from a military family, his pay peaked at around $45,000. After retiring in 1980, however, and getting rid of Carol, he swept Cindy Lou Hensley off her feet and moved to Arizona, her home state, "to plunge into the world of politics." While working for his father-in-law, he "was promoting himself as much as he was Budweiser beer. A better job description might have been 'candidate.'" This opportunist on the make was no wild man, sowing his wild oats, but rather a man with a mission, a ruthless man who knew what he wanted – and got it. The New Times put it well: "From Day 1, Hensley money has enabled McCain to be a full-time politician, free from financial concerns." From Day 1 of this campaign, John McCain has posed as a man of character: his supporters have even gone so far as to characterize him as "the Anti-Clinton." This is a lie, and not a white one either. It is the exact opposite of the truth, as his personal history – specifically the way he discarded his first wife like a used-up dish-rag – makes plain as day.


Is this "dirty campaigning"? What nonsense! If a man is going to pose as a Hero, a moral exemplar to youth, and a shining knight in armor come to rescue a decadent nation, then he had better measure up to his own standards – or else get out of politics. As the latter is not likely to happen – at least, not voluntarily – those who know the truth about McCain and understand its ominous implications must work to bring this awareness to the general public. If the Bush campaign is "above the battle," then the battle must be fought without them and in spite of them – because the stakes are too high to entrust the outcome to a bunch of wimps. The media screams about every exposure of McCain's record as a "smear" and "negative campaigning," and cheers while McCain calls into question the right of his conservative opponents to speak out. Let them howl. The campaign to expose the dark side of John McCain must and will continue: they are howling with pain because it is effective.


It is not too late to wake up the American people to the great danger represented by McCain – but the hour is late. Will "Mad John" McCain continue to get a free ride from the media? Now is the time for the alternative media, and especially the online media, to take up the job abandoned by the Old Media – and stay tuned to this column for more. There is no greater enemy of free speech on the Internet than John McCain, who supports mandatory "filtering devices" installed on computers in libraries and schools to filter out politically incorrect ideas. Furthermore, he fully supports the efforts by the Clinton administration to build surveillance devices into the wiring of the Internet to combat "cybercrime" – and keep track of us all. So let us use our First Amendment rights while we still have them, and expose McCain the man, as well as McCain the politician, to the full light of day.

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