Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fibber McCain

by Jeff Huber
Doublethink: The power…to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them.

--George Orwell, 1984
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.

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.


  1. If Caribou Barbie does the debate like she does Cute Katie interviews - she's home free.

    Use a lot of words. Say nothing of substance.

    "I have a Vast variety of sources."

    The question was: "What do you read to stay informed?"

    A Vast Variety of stuff.


    Commander, you never know. That could include your blog. :>)

    Surely you are part of a "vast variety."

    If those people are elected, I'm moving to Mexico.

  2. Marco5:08 PM

    If those people are elected, I'm moving to Mexico.

    If those people are elected, we must all moving to another solar system (at least) :->

  3. Anonymous8:08 PM

    If these people are elected, nothing will change. Obama and McClain are both senators, members of the club of 100. You don't get there if you are not electable.

    I recently read that the figure $700B just came 'out of the air'. I also read that the federal reserve is in debt for the same amount. Tonight should prove interesting.

  4. I'm going to let somebody like Keith Olbermann, or Jason Linkins (Huffington Post) or Rachel Maddow, watch "the great debate" so I don't have to.

    After 18 days of being without power, (and they are still working on getting it right -- now my service line to the power company line has to be replaced) -- I've suffered enough for a while.

    Senator McCain, by choosing the least qualified woman on the planet to run on the Republican ticket, has made clear to me, his total contempt for all women -- everywhere. Good Grief! What was he thinking?

    Maybe there's a baseball or football game on tv someplace.

  5. wkmaier10:32 AM

    The missus and I agreed last night: we have not a shred of respect left for Grampa Simpson. Even that POW stuff doesn't work on me anymore (it hasn't in a long while).

    If Obama was white and named Joe Smith, this election would be long over.

  6. "Even that POW stuff doesn't work on me anymore" To question the POW 'stuff' has always been taboo, and never is heard through the scrim of torture and heroism, the ugly reality of collaboration. Why is it that among many brave and remarkable POW's it is an angry and testy John McCain in denial that claims the moral high ground for the entire fiasco of a lost Vietnam holocaust?

  7. "John McCain is a 72 year-old personality disorder that wants to be head of state of the most powerful nation in history."

    That's pretty much what Bacevich and Moyers say here. Only they take ten minutes to say it.

    Another fine post my dear gentleman.

  8. Totally busted me up Jeff. Since I compromised when I decided to back Sen. Obama and then again when he chose Sen. Biden, I'll just go and say, I'm glad Sen. Biden is a Expert at B.S. It seems that is what Americans love to eat anyways.

  9. Just listened to the interview. You have a great voice, and it was funny :)

  10. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Commander Huber commanding the facts, once again, thank you.

    I'm not sure if you are aware of the Atlantic Magazine October cover photo spat. If not, I think you would find it (and some of the imagery) interesting. In brief:

    Photographer tricks John McCain into doing a scary-looking portrait while doing a cover shot for the Atlantic Magazine. Then goes on to post outakes & gruesome manipulated imagery of McCain ala Goya and more. Chuckles at how she tricked him.

    Cover shot (which Atlantic Magazine stands by) and scary shot + manipulations can be seen here:

    In my mind the photographer betrayed her subject who trusted her. BUT . . . McCain really IS that Goyaesque and I think there's a more important moral calling in this once-in-a-lifetime chance to spread the word. McCain/Palin is about as much of a national emergency as I can think of.

    Many thanks for your great posts.


  11. Anonymous4:49 PM

    Oops! Here is where you can find the underlit/unmanipulated horror-movie shot of McCain:


  12. Glad you liked this article, folks. Anon, thanks for the link.

  13. Anonymous7:16 PM

    It would help your credibility to avoid any sexist remarks that only serve to bolster the other side. You have more than enough ammunition without having to reach for the caveman club.

  14. Ah, Sarah can be as big a dope as she wants but no one can mention it.

    Thanks for the input, Anonymous.


  15. Commander, as a woman, I have never understood women who want to play in the Big Leagues, with the Big Boys, who then scream "sexism" when they are subjected to the same criticisms that men would be.

    Cubs/Dodgers was a miserable ball game. So, I was back and forth between it and "the non-debate debate."

    Every time I went back to the "non-debate debate," Palin was saying the same thing. And hamming it up at the audience. Winking into the camera -- for gosh sake.

    Did they end up giving her the rose bouquet, the tiara crown, and all the rest of the stuff that goes with it -- before somebody sings "There She Goes --- Miss America."

    What a wonderful system we have for picking the people to lead the country. Most of the post - analysis I heard --- men thought she did well because she was "attractive".

    I'm supposed to vote for "cute"?

    I think not.

  16. Yeah, you can't act like a bimbo then cry "sexist" when someone notes that you're acting like a bimbo.

    If I were a woman, I'd be insulted and embarrassed by Palin.


  17. ozebloke10:42 AM

    As always Commander right on the money...

    Has anyone read Matt Taibbi's fabulous rant 'Mad Dog Palin' in Rolling Stone? P J O'Rourke meets Hunter S. Thompson's best rave - a hoot and also spot on...

    Should the morons drink the Kool Aid and - 'Drill Baby Drill' - elect Grandpa Simpson and Reichstag Barbie there's plenty of room down here in Australia - The real Deep Deep South for y'all...

    We'll only ask for proof at the border that you didn't vote for the Old Fart and the Young Twit...



  18. Nice to know sanctuary is available. Thanks, Oze.


  19. "John McCain is a 72 year-old personality disorder that wants to be head of state. . ."

    God, that's funny.

    To Ozebloke: Yes, "Mad Dog Palin" is Taibbi at his best and most crucial. (Much like the Commander is much of the time!)

  20. Hey, you know what Jeff?

    I am insulted by Sarah Palin, even after Rs and Ds had a chance to drool over her at the "debate." She smiled, winked, and spewed well-practiced talking points. Great. If you're in a beauty contest. She refused to answer the questions and that slid. She pulled that beauty contestant smile after she tried to pull the "I know about families and you don't," when Biden choked up. I thought it was cold, calculating, and nasty. She's the kind of bitch that will shiv you with a smile on her face. I hear that tone of voice she uses and I hate it.

  21. AND she's a liar.

  22. wkmaier8:39 PM

    I appreciate the offer Ozebloke. Don't be shocked if you get more than a few takers! And don't worry, I can prove my vote!


    We're off to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico tomorrow for a deserved vacation. Did you leave anything on Vieques that you want me to pick up? ;-)

  23. WK,

    RE Vieques: It's best to let sleeping bombs lie.

  24. conndor11:01 PM


    It's been a while since the TR pleasure cruise,glad to see you have found a home on the web. I am enjoying your writings immensely, keep up the good work, and best of luck to you !!


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