Doublethink: The power…to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them.When I think about how they must be preparing Sarah Palin for the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, I flash on the scene in A Clockwork Orange where they have Malcolm McDowell strapped into a chair and thingamabobs hooked on his eyelids to keep him from blinking. Sarah has a challenge ahead of her all right, but I think a lot of folks are overestimating her opponent.
--George Orwell, 1984
Joe Biden is downright McCainian in a number of ways; an hallucinatory self-image is among the two men's most notable similarities, and neither of them could get his facts straight if his country's survival depended on it. Quotable Joe's recent placement of the Franklin Roosevelt presidency and television in the year 1929 was a standard Biden shenanigan, and if he tries to phone in the debate, Hockey Mom's liable to show up with two or three hard facts memorized and hip check him over the boards, even if she wears a low cut blouse and shows us her bimbage.
Barack Obama too shows signs of McCain magnitude ego inflation. One wonders if Obama knows that when people call him the "first black Kennedy" they're making fun of him. Obama, though, is more or less in possession of the facts, as well as they can be determined in the Rovewellian age, and he seldom stretches them to the point of opaqueness. Biden's departures from the known provide an unpleasant view of his polished heinie, but seldom do more harm than that. Sarah just repeats what she's been told to say; she wouldn't know the truth if it crawled up her skirt and opened a Halibut House there.
But McCain, now, he's quite a different case, and what you call somebody like McCain is what Joe Klein of Time just called him: a liar.
Straight Talk, No Chaser
I rejected McCain's claims to "character" credentials for good last Christmas when he engaged Mike Huckabee in that Jeebus impersonator contest. Huckabee did the TV spot that projected him against a gleaming bookshelf crucifix; McCain responded with the POW story ad that showed him in a hospital bed, looking like they just took him down from the cross. The Christmas Carol he told about the Hanoi Hilton was eerily identical to one I read in one of my grandma's Maryknoll magazines in the 60s when I was a child. In the Maryknoll version, the prisoner was a Catholic missionary and the guard was a Red Chinese soldier who formed the crucifix from two broom straws instead of drawing it in the dirt with his toe like the Vietnamese guard in McCain's version did.
That sort of thing is more accurately described as humbug than as a lie, but McCain has done a dollop of the latter. Klein describes the McCampaign as having been "a ceaseless assault on his opponent's character and policies, featuring a consistent—and witting—disdain for the truth." You can read Klein's litany of "annoying to sleazy" examples for yourself. The outright lie—and a rather clever one—that annoyed the bejeebus out of me was the May 2008 New York Times story that described how McCain turned down an admiral's star so he could take up politics. Howgash. The path to flag rank for carrier aviators like McCain includes major command at sea, which in McCain's day meant command of an aircraft carrier, which required previous command of a carrier aircraft squadron, and a carrier air wing, and "deep draft" command of some other sort of ship, usually a supply ship, and McCain hadn't commanded any of those things. In the article, former Navy Secretary John Lehman supported the McCain camp's claims about the rosy prospects of its boss's naval career. If Lehman had cut some sort of dope deal to give McCain a single star, it would have involved something on the order of transferring him to the supply corps. More likely, though, McCain campaign adviser Lehman simply opted to lie in support of what he considered a good cause and, as usual, the New York Times took stenography.
Embellishing on McCain's POW experience like that in an attempt to make him seem more commander-in-chiefly was unseemly; his narrative reversal on the "surge" in Iraq was out and out shameful. In 2007, after he came out in support of the surge, McCain told CNN that "…I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years." The truth is that McCain was one of the biggest supporters of the initial four years, three and a half years of the war. It wasn't until after the GOP's drubbing in the 2006 election that McCain began searching for a new tune to whistle. He and his echo chamberlains describe his subscription to the neoconservatives' "surge" proposal as a "principled stand," and that McCain considered backing the strategy worth the risk of losing the GOP nomination. In fact, in January 2007 when the surge was announced, McCain was behind Rudy Giuliani in the polls, and Fred Thompson was lurking in the wings, waiting for the right moment to sweep onstage and out-Jeebus McCain and Huckabee combined.
Once in for a penny on the escalation, McCain became one of its most aggressive—and deceitful—sales representatives. A singularly egregious instance of McCain's guile in support of the surge was the April 2007 shopping spree in the outdoor market in Baghdad that General David Petraeus threw for McCain and his date Lindsey Graham (Look, Honey, five hand-woven rugs for five dollars! Can you believe it?). McCain and his congressional entourage tried to portray the outing as identical to a normal day in an Indiana town, but a day or so later we discovered that their idea of "normal" involved a hundred heavily armed guards and four or five helicopter gunships flying cover overhead.
An even worse mendacity in this vein is McCain's oft repeated mantra about how the troops come up to him on his trips to Iraq and say, "Let us win." That parable rings as authentic as a blue dollar bill; it's about as hard to find a corporal who will tell McCain what he wants to hear as it is to find a private who will let General Petraeus beat him in a one-arm pushup contest.
You can go for miles listing Fibber McCain's dualities: he's the supporter of the troops and veterans who has time and again kicked them in the ribcage. He's the maverick whose campaign staff includes no fewer than 83 professional lobbyists. He's the foreign policy expert who realized the Iraq strategy wasn't going to work more than a year after it was obvious to everyone else that it hadn't. A little discussed aspect of his choice in running mates is that he had to search far and wide to find a politician who was both a Republican and who understood even less about foreign policy than he does. (Lindsey Graham didn't qualify in the second criterion because he knows how to read a map.)
John McCain is a 72 year-old personality disorder that wants to be head of state of the most powerful nation in history. What makes him such a stupendous pathological liar is a combination of Orwellian doublethink and a variation on the ends-justify-means principle: What's good for John McCain is good for America, for the world, for the solar system, for the galaxy, etc., etc., etc., which is the rationalization behind virtually every evil act of humanity.
The last thing you need to remember about McCain is that his advisors include not only include lobbyists for the very banking industry we're about to borrow more money from China to bail out, his foreign policy team includes neocons like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, the very folks who duped us into the Iraq quagmire. His foreign policy group also contains his "friend for 35 years" Henry Kissinger. McCain was shot down in 1967. Richard Nixon took office in 1969 on the promise of ending the Vietnam War. Four years later, the war ended and McCain was released from the Hanoi Hilton. The man most responsible for dragging the war out those four extra years was Nixon's National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Do you suppose foreign policy genius McCain is ever going to figure that one out? Probably not: he's still trying to figure out how to win in Vietnam.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.