A Freudian Slip For the Ages
Ironically, John McCain perhaps uttered the truest words in his entire campaign in Pennsylvania yesterday when he referred to his fellow Americans as "my fellow prisoners." It was a slip of the tongue that was so astonishing that even his running mate Sarah Palin looked around to see if anyone was laughing.
It's not worth lambasting McCain over or making dumb jokes about. It was obviously a Freudian slip betraying that McCain's mind never completely left Vietnam. And, to play Devil's Advocate for a minute, who among us can blame Senator McCain for occasionally recalling a five and a half year-long detention at the "Hanoi Hilton" that was so unimaginably torturous and brutal that McCain received his medal from President Richard M. Nixon while on crutches?
Yet McCain, whom nobody would doubt is an American hero to one degree or another, is not some anonymous codger drinking beers at a VFW and trading war stories with his fellow Vietnam veterans or a harmless kook in a VA hospital diving under his bed and screaming "Incooooming!" This man who referred to we Americans as his "fellow prisoners" is in the United States Senate and is giving a younger, more historically-dynamic rival a run for his money in his quest for the presidency of the United States.
As horrified bystanders playing witness to a barely-reformed mainstream media (one that's hardly less deferential to McCain and his neverending fountain of gaffes than they were of George W. Bush), we are, indeed, prisoners on a democracy that's been taken for a Thelma and Louise joyride over a cliff with McCain now at the wheel.
The same rabid, right wing factions that supported McCain's mentor Goldwater in his own Icarus-like quest for the presidency 44 years ago are also supporting McCain today. Like roaches in a Mad Max-like post apocalyptic environment, these same Christopaths, right wing industrialists like the grandfather of the incumbent "president" who had no problem with making Washington the Berlin of North America and ultra-conservative politicians who hoarsely cried "Wolf" whether or not there were Communists to be found have not gone anywhere. They have, instead, consolidated their power and not in the comforting shadows of ignominy and obscurity.
Nothing much has changed. Just the names, faces but never, ever the ideology.
Back in Goldwater's day, he famously doomed his campaign and served a fat batting practice fastball down Broadway for Lyndon Johnson when he called for nuclear weapons to be used in North Vietnam. That was a big, hairy deal and perhaps more than any other single misstep was responsible for Goldwater losing 44 of 50 states.
Fast forward better than four decades: McCain jokes about bombing Iran, a nation that the December 2007 NIE written annually by all 16 of our known intelligence agencies claimed had suspended their nuclear weapons program shortly after the invasion of Iraq. Hardly anyone outside the liberal blogosphere blinked (kudos to Sen. Obama for mentioning it during the second presidential debate in Tennessee).
Overton's window slides ever more imperceptibly from the far right to the center.
Even if Senator McCain loses the election (as he surely will), he will lose with honor and with no shame in having given a superior opponent a better fight in the polls than anyone could've expected despite representing a party that, by all rights, should be stuffed in its entirety into a Saturn Five rocket and fired off to the farthest asteroid after what it's put us through these past nearly eight years.
McCain will return to the Senate without the stigma of being crushed by a Democrat in one of the most humiliating defeats in American political history. Because the people who tried to get their latest clueless vessel installed in the White House are not on the fringes of American society.
They are very much in power in their own right, very much in the mainstream, making the completely insane, the most heartlessly vicious sound utterly plausible and a reasonable alternative to liberal policies that are obviously America's last hope.
We are indeed all McCain's "fellow prisoners". We have been carjacked and led to believe that suspension of constitutional rights equals freedom, that torture of the legally-innocent equals safety, that an unregulated free market that's completely out of control equals prosperity.
And no New Deal that Obama may or may not pull out of his hat will make them go away any more than FDR's did.