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Jennifer Ouellette Headshot

An Open Letter to John McCain

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Dear Senator McCain:

As a long-time Independent, I am left with only one burning question after witnessing all the shenanigans and then hearing your acceptance speech at the GOP Convention: Who are you, and what have you done with John McCain? Because whoever that was giving a speech last night bore almost no resemblance to "the Maverick" who lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush in 2000. I can only conclude that the real McCain has been taken over by a Pod Person. Or a robot: "John McCain (Version 2008): The Stepford Candidate."

I've been waiting for months now to see some sign of the McCain I once knew -- a man I didn't always agree with (and who wasn't nearly as much of a "Maverick" as he made himself out to be), but nevertheless seemed to have a sincere desire to fight federal earmarking and corruption in Washington, and wasn't afraid to butt heads now and then. There used to be a spring in your step, some sparkle in your eye, and genuine passion when you spoke of the things you wanted to accomplish. You were mentally sharp. And you used to kid around with reporters, who ate up your off-the-cuff pronouncements on the Straight Talk Express, because compared to other politicians at the time, your breezy informality seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Where did that McCain go? All I've seen for the last few months is a tired, dispirited old man who seems to be going through the motions of a presidential campaign, with little passion or enthusiasm for the task at hand. Maybe it's because, deep down, the campaign you're running is as distasteful to you as it is to me -- at least, it would have been to McCain 2000.

Apparently you learned the wrong lesson from your loss of the 2000 nomination to Bush: win by any means necessary. The smearing that was done to you then in the South Carolina primary was inexcusable, a nadir in the history of US politics, and you were right to denounce it bitterly. I guess it broke your spirit, because now you've hired the self-same people to shape your own campaign strategy -- people who will say and do pretty much anything, no matter how sleazy or dishonest, just to get their candidate elected. You've flip-flopped on key policy positions. And you've resurrected that tired old mantra of being the victim of the "liberal media" just because a few reporters had the gall to ask some valid, tough questions.

Nowhere is the change more apparent than in your selection of Sarah Palin as your vice presidential nominee. After months of ranting about experience and judgment -- valid concerns -- you gambled with our collective future and made a VP choice that exemplified neither, and could conceivably place the country in the hands of an inexperienced, religious ideologue should (god forbid) anything happen to you as president. Save the crap shoots for the Vegas casinos; we need a wise, responsible leader to clean up this mess, not another impulsive, trigger-happy cowboy who gives little thought to the long-term impacts of his decisions.

Granted, your experience offsets her inexperience. It's far more significant that Palin was not who you would have picked. She was forced upon you by certain minor, but powerful, factions in your party, which makes me question your backbone and resolve. The old McCain would have told the Rove Brigade to go f--k themselves and picked Lieberman, or Ridge, or Kay Hutchinson, or Pawlenty, or any number of better qualified candidates. Instead, you caved and sacrificed our nation's best interests to win an election... by any means necessary. It's nice to see fresh blood in the GOP -- Ms. Palin is undeniably winsome and charismatic, and deserves to be a rising star on the political scene, even if her stance on key issues is repugnant to me -- but this is no time to hire an intern for vice president. The stakes are just too high.

In your speech, you asked me and the rest of the American people to place our trust in you as president, and your ability to bring reform to Washington. I believe you are sincere in that desire for reform; I just don't think you can do it. You can't crawl into bed with the same folks who created the current catastrophe, adopt their campaign tactics and party platform, pick a VP you know damn well will alienate moderates and independents -- and then trumpet your independence from the Bush 2.0 legacy. How can we trust you to stand up to Washington lobbyists, when you can't even stand up to special interest operatives in your own party?

The answer is obvious: we can't.