Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: Poor John McCain:
Forced against his honor to run an ugly campaign via Salon: Glenn
Greenwald by Glenn Greenwald on 10/17/08
(updated below)

Time's Ana Marie Cox, in a Bloggingheads discussion with Ann Althouse,
does an excellent job of expressing what is still, amazingly enough,
the prevailing media view of John McCain: namely, that this deeply
honorable and principled man is vehemently opposed to running an ugly,
dirty campaign against Barack Obama, and that is happening despite
McCain's deep opposition to such campaigns and the way it profoundly
violates his code of honor. Cox, who is traveling with the McCain
campaign (yet again), first shared a few memories and sentiments about
her experiences with the candidate over the years:

When I got on the plane the other day, McCain said hi to me. . . . When
he had that conflict with that crowd in Minneapolis, or Lakeview, that
really energized him. Going on offense against his own voters and
supporters in this weird way made him more energetic. . . . Some of the
happiest times I had with John McCain are when everyone counted him

When asked by Althouse (who, fairness compels me to acknowledge, was
surprisingly reasonable here) about the "Obama-is-a-Terrorist" tactics
the McCain campaign has been using and whether some of those tactics
attempt to stoke nationalistic or racist sentiments, Cox repeatedly
contended that such tactics are deeply anathema to the noble spirit and
elevated soul of John McCain:

Cox: What McCain's reacting to, is something that other Republicans are
reacting to, iscu the kind of ugliness of the criticisms [towards]
Obama. I think McCain in his heart of heart wants to win this fair and
square. He wants to win this because he's the better candidate. He
doesn't want to win this because people think Obama is a Muslim or is a
terrorist or he's not really American. He wants to win this on his own
merits. It upsets his sense of fair play -- to win -- to think that the
support he's getting is because of what he thinks are bad reasons. . .
Althouse: But in the last month or so, he's been losing ground, and
resorting to this terrorist meme -- Cox: I think that hasn't worked for
them. I think they recognize that to the extent that that does work,
that's not how McCain wants to win. I adore the guy. I think he's
fantastic in many ways. I respect him, I admire his service to the
country. I think ultimately he's very principled and, to coin a phrase,
honorable. . . . I do think that McCain is one of the most unique
individuals that I've ever personally met. As I said, I greatly admire
him and think he's sort of an amazing person . . . [The McCain
campaign], not out of malice or intent, didn't allow themselves to
think through how some of these images would be taken by their

McCain has spent weeks overtly linking Obama to "terrorists"
and "Palestinian donors" and posing the sinister question: "Who is the
real Barack Obama"? Right this very minute, the McCain/Palin campaign
is running massive robocalls in numerous battleground states, including
North Carolina, alleging that Obama "has worked closely with domestic
terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the
Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans" and, if elected, "will
enact an extreme leftist agenda." Last night on national television,
McCain vehemently defended Sarah Palin's repellent and patently false
accusation that Obama "is pallin' around with terrorists."

But McCain's vaunted principles and honor make him absolutely hate
these tactics and he vehemently does not want to win this way. "It
upsets his sense of fair play to think that the support he's getting is
because of what he thinks are bad reasons." It just keeps happening
despite McCain.

And what of the fact that these ads and accusations have spawned the
widespread, hateful perception among the GOP base that Obama is a
foreign, Muslim, un-American, subversive-Black-Terrorist? Why, the
naive and innocent strategists running the McCain campaign had
absolutely no idea that such a thing would happen. They just failed "to
think through how some of these images would be taken by their
audience" -- but "not out of malice or intent" (probably just due to
time constraints; they've been really busy lately and didn't have time
to contemplate what perceptions their attacks would unwittingly spawn).

It's not a coincidence that the hardest-hitting interviews of McCain
have been conducted by everyone except the national press corps that
follows him. Last night, David Letterman -- the comic -- grilled McCain
about his relationship with convicted felon and post-Watergate
extremist G. Gordon Liddy after McCain claimed that Obama associates
with terrorists, the first time (to my knowledge) McCain has been asked
about his friendship with Liddy despite its being written about for
months. And the toughest and most adversarial interviews of McCain came
from the hosts of The View and from a reporter on a local news station
in Maine (here).

The national press corps continues to revere John McCain despite what
is widely acknowledged to be the toxic and ugly campaign he's running
because they still think that this campaign is being run despite
McCain's character and wishes, not because of them. The idea that
someone should be judged by their actual conduct never seems to occur
to them, nor do they accept what ought to be the rather self-evident
proposition that someone who repeatedly does dishonorable things is, by
definition, dishonorable. By their fruits ye shall know them. Or, as
former/long-time McCain lover Andrew Sullivan put it:

I'm afraid that [Atlantic Editor] Jim [Fallows] is dealing with what
we're all dealing with: the fact that the myth we had of McCain is, in
fact, a lie. The real McCain - dishonest, dishonorable and despicable -
is now in plain sight. To say I'm disillusioned would be an
understatement. The last six weeks have shown us all something we'd
rather never have found out. But we can't ignore it now, can we?

Some obviously can -- and are.

Cox does say that she doesn't intend to vote for McCain because the way
he has run his campaign demonstrates that he's too scattershot
and "erratic" (a word that Cox, fairly enough, accuses the Obama
campaign of using as "code for senile"). But in explaining that, this
is what Cox says:

As I said, I greatly admire him and think he's sort of an amazing
person but that doesn't meant I want him to have control of my
country's future in his hands. . . . I don't particularly want my
commander-in-chief to have that whimsical attitude towards government.

If I could be granted one small wish about our political discourse, it
would be that reporters and pundits would accept -- as disappointing
and unglorious as it is -- that, under our Constitution and basic
government design, people who aren't in the military don't have
a "Commander-in-Chief." The President isn't your "commander," and
the "Commander-in-Chief" power, now synonymous in our political culture
with "President," is actually extremely limited (Art. II, Sec. 2: "The
President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the
United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called
into the actual Service of the United States").

This endless festishization of "President as Our Commander-in-Chief" is
one of those small but pernicious reflections of how militarized we've
become, of how we are a society in a state of perpetual and endless
war. And -- though I don't think there's a strong complaint to be made
that the media generally has been unfair to Barack Obama --
this "Commander-in-Chief" fetish is also one of the principal causes of
the ongoing media reverence for John S. McCain.

UPDATE: I'll be on Rachel Maddow's radio show tonight, at a time to be
determined (will post it once I know it) , talking about the McCain
campaign and the Palin effect. Live audio feed and local listings are

Things you can do from here:
- Subscribe to Salon: Glenn Greenwald using Google Reader
- Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your
favorite sites

Reply via email to