So, I resisted for quite some time reading the article that has been floating around for the last couple of weeks in RollingStone called Make-Believe Maverick. I try to avoid political articles in RollingStone because the ones that I’ve read tend to be, while factual, quite onesided. I saw so many references to this one, though, that I finally decided to take a look for myself, and I was blown away by the stuff in it.
Essentially, the picture painted of McCain was of a mysogynistic, selfish man who used his family connections to help him out at every turn, even as a POW. The article is full of quotes from his fellow POWs and colleagues.
What I’m wondering is if any of this was taken out of context. While I couldn’t possibly be more disappointed in McCain’s tactics of the last several months, I had long had respect for the man (voting for him in SC in 2000).
Can we try to factcheck this article. What is exaggerated or taken out of context (like, perhaps, the quotes from his books?)? The article notes that “the McCain campaign did not respond to numerous requests for comment from Rolling Stone.”
Here are some choice quotes (but the article is FULL of stuff like this):
This is a conversations between McCain and John Dramesi (fellow POW) in 1974
His privileges as an Admiral’s son:
In the incident on the USS Forrestal, the article portrays McCain as someone who saved his own skin, then hopped ship with some New York Times reporters to Saigon for some “welcome R&R.”
Fidelity and misogyny (the article is peppered with McCain’s ill-treatment of women, this is just one example):
Using his POW experience as political cash:
These are just a few quotes from the article I still haven’t finished. Can we get some talk about how accurate a portrayal this paints of McCain as someone who cares only about himself (not his country) and is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, which, personally, I think fits quite well with the man we’re seeing run for president…
I found that guy to be considerably more bearable than Matt Taibbi, whose anti-McCain/anti-Republican pieces inevitably end up being anti-religious-people or anti-lower-middle-class or Middle-America-is-a-bunch-of-brain-dead-idiots pieces.
The piece you cite seems fairly factual, and doesn’t rely on proving that anyone who support McCain is a racist moron troglodyte. The tone is often closer to “You think you like McCain, and I can maybe see why based on his self-cultivated image, but take a look at the sides of him you haven’t seen so much of.” He even cites the Reagans’ dislike of McCain without reflexively throwing in an irrelevant anti-Reagan barb.
I find that tone a lot easier to take seriously.
Overall, that article did non-trivially lower my (already less than stellar) view of the man.
Unlike some threads GD has inherited from other Fora, this thread was posted first in GD. The actual OP is much more civil than the original title of the thread: A damning article about the misogynist, arrogant, liar that (supposedly) is McCain…. Had the OP been posted in the same tone as the title, this thread would now be in the Pit. Instead, I have changed the title to the more moderate one now identifying the thread.
Anecdotal or hearsay to those who don’t know me I suppose, but I’ll say it anyway.
Politically I’m very anti-McCain and pro-Obama. As for his life I have to rely on the printed word for the most part since obviously I don’t know the man, but I do have to say this in his defense:
One of my co-workers is a retired USAF Colonel who was imprisoned with McCain and kept up relations with him for many years after both returned to America until distance and mutual work/family responsibilities just made them drift apart. The co-worker states emphatically that McCain DID NOT use his family connections to receive preferential treatment from the VietCong and that he was very popular with and respected by his fellow prisoners.
That said, if it is the case he undeniably used family connections to receive preferential treatment, I for one sure as hell wouldn’t blame him. If I were in a position to help a loved one imprisoned by an enemy I’ll tell you flatly that I’d pull every string I could touch, and if I were the imprisoned person by a power that didn’t give a damn about the Geneva POW Convention (much like Bush-Cheney) I’d like to say I wouldn’t use connections to lessen my abuse but I certainly can’t say that til I’m in that situation, and I hope I’m never in that situation. If proven he did I’d no more disrespect him for it than I’d disrespect the acts of a Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Bierkenau.
As for him using the POW tenure to his political advantage, he certainly does this, BUT can you blame him? It was 5 1/2 years of his life. Obama and every other politician certainly uses their previous life experiences in campaigning, why shouldn’t he?
I will admit that I got irked when even Jimmy Carter started criticizing McCain’s “constantly bringing up the POW experience”. (Yeah, Brer Jimmy- some people get tortured for a few years and from then on it’s just ‘bitch, bitch, bitch’.) And I said on these boards that he has to be applauded by his even somewhat puzzling non pimping of his sons in service for political gain (for it’s a completely valid thing to bring up when mentioning his Iraq war stance). I only get irked with the POW references when brought up as clearly non-sequitur “let’s talk about something else” segways, and those are more often by his supporters than the man himself.
That said, I won’t vote for him because I’m against most of his political positions, and I think he’s mortgaged his soul (if none of his 42 or however many houses) to get the nomination, because the words President Palin scare the sweet bejeezus out of me, and plenty of other legitimate reasons. I think he has many things to answer for as far as scandals: Keating 5 of course, the Bob Jones U. reversal and other religious right pandering, his selection of Palin is possibly the biggest “WTF?” judgment in political history, his relationship with G. Gordon “Kill the Clintons” Liddy leaves him no room to talk about Ayers, such affaris as his petulance on the “lipstick on a pig” non-issue and his views on abortion as immoral (dude, you seem to have a plank in your eye), etc., are why I won’t support him as a candidate.
Should not this week’s Rolling Stone letters to the editor contain attempts at rebuttal from McCain spokespersons? Has anyone interviewed in the article come forward to claim they were quoted out of context? (Actrually curious. I have read the articel and dismissed it, so I have no idea what reaction it has provoked beond the usual partisan cries of “He’s a witch, burn him!” and “Our dear leader is being libelled by the people who are the really bad people!”
To me, even if the article is 100% accurate, it has little bearing on whether McCain could actually be a good president. It is a gossip piece. I am not suggesting that this thread die (as if it would, anyway), but I would hope that the partisans who are about to descend on the thread decrying McCain’s personal foibles (and linking them to the (perceived negative) qualities of the current president and vice president and the Republican candidate for vice president) along with the partisans who are about to descend on the thread attacking perceived flaws in the current Democratic candidates (and linking them to the foibles of previous candidates sponsored by the Democrats) all realize at the outset that they are doing little more than indulging in gossip while championing their own candidate. None of this will get us out of Iraq, get us into or keep us out of Iran, solve the current economic crisis, or take one step to establishing equitable, affordable medical care for the large segment of the population currently without sufficient insurance without bankrupting the nation.
None of that is damning in and of itself; pretending to be something else while doing it is the definition of hypocritical. Considering that McCain is taking every opportunity available to him to smear the opposition’s character and paint himself as a self-made man, maverick etc, it might have SOME bearing on his own character.
The gist of the article seemed to be that McCain isn’t a particularly nice or ethical person. If that matters to you, the article might sway you against voting for him. Otherwise, as tom said, it’s just gossip.
Most of the stuff in the RS article had been around for years, and it is interesting to have it all in one place. But I knew it already, and I dislike McCain for his treatment of his first wife and his chumming up to Bush after Bush defamed McCain’s family in 2000. All the rest I can give him a pass on, even Keating 5, which McCain himself thinks dishonored him. There I think that he was just a huge fool. Perhaps that disqualifies him, but it pales in comparison to the treatment of his family. McCain identified his father to the North Vietnamese so he could get life saving treatment? So what. He didn’t break ranks with his fellow prisoners other than possibly talking under torture. So what.
If large segments of swingable voters were voting for McCain based on accepting his mythology hook line and sinker, then an article like this, that punctures that personal mythology, would be cogent.
But while McCain has indeed attempted to get people to vote for him based on his version of his personal mythology, few of the swayables have bought it as a sufficient reason to choose him for the job. Noble POW many years past has not been enough of a message.
Given that his article only distracts from the messaging that helps Team Obama - a focus on the issues and current evidence of good judgment and a steady hand, and on how McCain extends Bushes policies. Sure some Obama supporters will love hearing confirmation of their assessments of McCain’s character - but the swayables will only think less of Obama for his supporters promoting the storyline and dismiss it roundly.
The article bothers me only for the fact that it exists. I understand why it does all right–the culture of forensic gossip applied to political figures–but it’s part of the reason I’ve regarded assassination politics with disgust. It doesn’t matter which ‘side’ uses it or at whom. It’s fundamentally rotten, and I use that word deliberately. I think its use corrupts the entire political system.
I also question the easy assumption that some actions can reflect amorphous qualities of ‘character’, especially as assumed to extend to the public sphere. I emphatically do not admire the extramarital escapades of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards and John McCain, ad nauseum. I once read a murder mystery, written by a rabbi, with the plot centered around the Talmudic definitions of gossip vs. information. Simplified madly, the core aspect comes down to whether a person’s actions require an action from me. Not a judgment; I can think whatever I want. But did what the person do actually affect my life in any way that would require an reaction from me?
Overwhelming, the answer is usually ‘no’. I don’t like or approve of infidelity but the matter resides between the two people in the marriage. If I know the people, maybe I’ll be extra kind to the betrayed party in case a confidante is needed or wanted. But total strangers? Doesn’t affect my life at all so it is, in all senses, none of my business. The treatment John Edwards and John McCain and Newt Gingrich gave their first wives was ugly. I don’t think it reflects well on them personally, as mates and parents, but I don’t think it has a damned thing to do with how well they could perform their public duties either.
My other problem with assassination political tactics is that they never encompass all the various truths. My mentioned examples of cheating on ill/badly injured wives are pretty hard to justify but nobody outside those marriages can know the complexities of them either.
Finally, I really despise the whole ‘forensic character’ industry because it’s so binary. Public people are still just people. They make mistakes. Actually it’s how people learn. It’s ridiculous to mine the past for personal flubs and flaws that can be imputed to impact actual job performance. FDR was cordially loathed by many during his day but his quite obvious physical infirmity was never used against him. Being physically crippled wasn’t assumed to limit his executive abilities. Or maybe there was just a different sense of fair play then, or polio was common enough that too many families had members similarly struck.
I’ve really wandered around the north forty on this one, probably to muddled effect. But the growth of this culture of nastiness is one of the most alarming trends in politics IMO.
Not to mention the treatment Clinton gave to his first wife. But she got even by remaining his first wife. But I kid.
What McCain and Gingrich did was different: they divorced their wives while they were in physical distress. Many men sexually betray their wives (and vice versa, 50 percent plus). Edwards sexually betrayed his sick wife, but he didn’t divorce her. I really think this is despicable. Married and promised to take care for a woman, and then when the going gets tough, make things tougher for her.
For better or worse, infidelity, ill or not, is something Americans consider.
It’s an interesting article, and the McCain campaign has clearly raised the issue of personal history here, both in reference to McCain and Obama, so I think it’s fair to look at. I’d appreciate it if Factcheck.org would critique it.