Monday, May 30, 2011

And For Memorial Day, John McCain

Perhaps the two silliest remarks from a politician over the last two weeks have involved Senator John McCain: one about, and one from, him.

Former Senator and likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared on the radio talk show (transcript of interview here) of conservative Hugh Hewitt. Asked about McCain's assertion that, in Hewitt's words, "there’s no record, there’s no evidence here that these methods actually led to the capture or the killing of bin Laden," Santorum responded

everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.

Not everyone would be as silly? stupid? reactionary? to suggest that John McCain, a subject himself of "enhanced interrogation" during the Vietnam War, "doesn't understand" torture. He easily could have said McCain is wrong (though he probably isn't) or stubbornly holding on to a prior position (though such perspective likely is valid) but "doesn't understand?"

But John McCain is nothing if not enigmatic (or perhaps contentious). Two-and-a-half years after an election loss precipitated in part by his vice-presidential selection, McCain told GOP News Sunday (transcript here)

I've never seen anyone as mercilessly and relentlessly attacked as I have seen Sarah Palin in the last couple of years. But she also inspires great passion, particularly among Republican faithful.

No one "as mercilessly and relentlessly attacked." McCain may have forgotten that when Kenneth Starr announced in November 1998 that no charges would be brought against Bill Clinton in the Watergate affair, it brought to an end "possibly the most politically charged case of journalistic malpractice in recent American history."

That was, unfortunately, only after the investigation leading to the impeachment of a President over sex was well under way. The formal charges pertained to lying to a grand jury about sex- but the entire affair (pun intended) was about sex. A President was impeached, though subsequently acquitted, for sex.

And yet Sarah Palin is uniquely victimized. The problem may lay in the increasing tendency of Republicans to see themselves as victims or instead over the view many of them hold regarding women in politics. When Luisita Lopez Torregrosa claimed that only Republican women have emerged as "major political voices," Kaili Joy Gray cited ten Democratic women, seven of them U.S. Senators, one a Secretary of State and former Senator, and two U.S. Representatives, including the former Speaker. She emphasized the "passionate" pro-abortion rights speech in February of Representative Jackie Speier and argued

I'll take our current crop of "pragmatic" Democratic women over the anti-woman "firebrands" who think busting the old boys' club is just a convenient campaign slogan, while they fight to roll back the very accomplishments that the "pragmatic" women Torregrosa dismisses have been fighting for since long before the Republican Party thought it could slather its misogyny in lipstick and call it feminism.

John McCain was a war hero in the extreme, in a manner in which extremism is no vice. But he also is making excuses for a self-obsessed blight on the American political landscape which, though a little troubling, may be unsurprising for a man who would offer his wife up for a wet t-shirt contest.

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