John McCain Meets EE Cummings

12/07/2005 01:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When I read John McCain's comments about Rep. Murtha this line from e. e. cummings popped into my mind: "How do you like your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death?" In his role as war salesman McCain, the allegedly "different kind of politician" who's been a longtime darling of reporters and liberals, resorted to the lowest of cheap shots - tactics very similar to those Karl Rove used against him and his family in the 2000 primary.

The 69-year-old McCain insinuated that 73-year-old Murtha is unintelligent (if not downright stupid), uninformed, and losing judgement because of advancing age. Specifically, McCain said of Murtha that "he's never been a big thinker," that "as we get older we get more sentimental," and that "he's been very, very affected by the funeral and the families." As ThinkProgress points out (link via Raw Story):

For three decades, U.S. presidents of both parties have turned to Murtha for advice on our nation’s most sensitive national security issues. For instance, he “worked closely with President George H.W. Bush” in the lead-up to the first Iraq war. Murtha also authored a highly-praised book that one reviewer described “an analytical history of defense and foreign affairs matters that Murtha has been involved in from the Vietnam War through Sept. 11.”

Pretty good for someone who’s “never been a big thinker.”

Many of us rushed to McCain's defense when Rove orchestrated a smear campaign against him in 2000 using remarkably similar tactics, suggesting that McCain had become "unbalanced" by his years as a POW, that he was emotionally unstable and intellectually shallow. (Then, of course, there were the rumors about his wife and the racial slurs against his adopted child, which didn't prevent McCain from embracing Bush - even physically - to advance his own political career.)

Liberals and moderated who were attracted by the myth that McCain is a different kind of politician - and a "straight talker" - should understand by now that he is neither. He's an extreme conservative who wants to put more troops into Iraq, a partisan Republican who'll push for the GOP at any opportunity, and a Bush Administration flack who won't hesitate to take a cheap shot like this at a good man like John Murtha whenever it serves their interests. (I don't know if Karl Rove issued the orders in this case, but it's certainly consistent with what all the other Administration flacks have been doing.)

The cummings line is from "Buffalo Bill's," in which we learn that the Western hero is "defunct." So is the myth of McCain the "maverick." Like the cowboy legend, McCain once rode "a watersmooth-silver stallion," but only in the media-driven legend.

This is real life, where John McCain is a partisan rabbit-puncher pushing a failed war and occupation. It's just politics, and the little lame hatchetman whistles far and wee ...