Campaign/Damn Pain 2000: McCain Watch

By Erik Jay
web posted February 21, 2000

The Democrats' favorite Republican, Arizona Senator John McCain, picked up considerable steam during January and February, which his campaign sorely needed. Sen. McCain expends so much hot air making his "conservatism" palatable to liberals that he needs to pick up steam continuously and in geometrically increasing volume just to maintain the amazing momentum of his political metamorphosis.

Now it's certainly the Senator's right to hold any opinion he chooses, even several on the same subject, as he has availed himself of in the cases of abortion, gays in the military, and Social Security. However, the Senator goes through amazing semantic and logical contortions to make gagging the electorate with the McCain-Feingold campaign reform plan sound "non-partisan"; essentially, Sen. McCain would put the press on the honor system, trusting in their fairness during elections.

I'll give you a moment to catch your breath and steady yourself. It's hard to read when you're doubled over in laughter.

Okay now? To reiterate, Sen. McCain can believe whatever he wants. But he reminds me of the yuppie members of mainstream Protestant denominations; they want gay marriage, political activism, rock music, relevant sermons, chanting in Sanskrit. They want everything, in fact, except to believe the Bible and follow Jesus. Why do they insist on rejecting everything in the doctrine just as firmly as they insist on referring to their own melange of paganism, crystal gazing, and gender-neutral (redacted) Bible-era stories as "Christianity"? Why don't they just go start their own church, or get with some folks who are already doing the same stuff?

Some do that. However, many others stay -- and I'll tell you why if you haven't already figured it out. They are there to change the nature of the institution, the way the 60's activists changed the nature of the modern university, for just one culture-war example.

So, whether McCain himself even really believes the strange admixture of views that his unique form of Republican conservatism comprises is entirely beside the point; the McCain movement, media-stoked and media-sustained, is upon us. If successful -- which doesn't necessarily mean getting McCain elected president in 2000, by the way -- this movement will forever alter the American political vocabulary and accelerate the bowdlerization of political terminology. If McCain successfully portrays his views as "conservative" it will make mid-century Democrats like Hubert Humphrey and Scoop Jackson part of the new right-wing fringe. Individuals and groups to the right of John McCain will be defined out of the political debate -- tens of millions of Americans marginalized by the cynical political machinations of John McCain, a Republican black-hole that tries to snuff the life and suck the light out of every shining conservative principle.

Oh, my, does all this suggest the "C" word -- conspiracy? Well, duh, but whether McCain's the writer-director-star, or just a supporting actor, is uncertain. Certainly there are people in every generation, in every hemisphere, intent on wreaking havoc, sowing discord, selling out their country. Throughout the century that is now slipping into history -- pick any year, any continent -- there were countless dastardly men and women, beneficiaries of the liberty and prosperity of the free(er) West, who were willing to sell their countrymen down the drain, or try to at every opportunity. But is this plausible in McCain's case? I don't think so.

In thrall to a hideous and bloody ideology of class warfare that masqueraded as the "Friend of the Common Man", traitors were as diverse in their motives as their callings: Hollywood types flirting with danger, intellectuals crafting a secular religion to fill their empty spirits, frustrated bureaucrats longing for a license to kill, sex addicts and big-spenders dealing for women and cash -- and soldiers brainwashed by the Red Armies. Some have tried to write McCain into a remake of "Manchurian candidate" while others have suggested his experience left him "touched" and unbalanced. Possible, but I doubt it.

I have a folder full of facts, quotes, questions concerning McCain, but I ended up skipping the investigative report and distilling what I know into my usual 1,000 tendentious words. I never did see or hear of any evidence that McCain is a "Manchurian candidate" from Hanoi, but there is a discernible tenor to the information that others are discussing at great length and with great specificity. The McCain dam, built by his happy legions of press beaver true believers, is starting to spring leaks.

Richard Viguerie, for one -- a conservative institution unto himself regardless of whether you agree with his strain of conservatism -- has put serious pen to widely distributed paper to voice deep and distressing doubts about McCain's shabby treatment, oddly enough, of POW-MIA activists.

There are correlative revelations being aired by any number of writers, on web sites and in the print media, that suggest McCain's official biography is false, particularly with concern to his service record. Several of the Senator's former training officers have come forward to write quite unflattering accounts of McCain's conduct and abilities. Finally, I leave it to those who were there, the veterans and the POW's themselves, to sort out the disturbing questions surrounding McCain's POW conduct. Suffice it to say that the higher McCain towers over the media horizon, the more vociferous will become his most ardent opponents.

And now we count among their ranks Mr. Viguerie's kindred spirit, Paul Weyrich, another veteran conservative activist, organizer, and underwriter. He states he will not support any Republican ticket that includes McCain. The opposition from conservatives and libertarians to John McCain is near universal, much of it visceral, some of it fanatical, yet not everyone is aware of the greatest threat posed by John McCain: his being anointed by the media as the conservative standard bearer in American politics.

It is highly unlikely that the Republicans will nominate John McCain for president. But he may succeed, abetted by a fully cognizant and giddily cooperative press, in redefining key terms of our common political parlance, thus erasing real conservatives, including many of you reading this article, from the pages of American politics.

Erik Jay is editor of "What Next? The Internet Journal of Contentious Persiflage" which you can subscribe to by visiting

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