Right now America has been held a prisoner of war longer than John McCain was held as a POW by the Viet Cong in Viet Nam. I do not wish to diminish or degrade the torture and the humiliation that McCain faced during his horrible ordeal but none of that seems to be an asset in facing and solving America's current problem -- getting us out of Iraq and keeping us from a coming Depression. In fact, his experience is exactly the opposite of what is needed now to help America deal with its own grave national problems, both economic and social. McCain's experience creates a world of them (the enemy) against us (the good guys) that solves no problem other that of propaganda, and temporarily bolstering national pride.
How many years of rehabilitation will it take for this country before we come back to being what we were before George Bush stupidly, arrogantly, and unpatriotically (read: treacherously if treason be the unwitting degradation of one's own country) dragged America into a Middle East conflict with knowing and unknowing lies?
For McCain to point to Korea, Japan, or Germany as places where America still maintains a peace-keeping army after decades and use these countries as a template for an American force remaining in Iraq is extreme folly. And it reveals a profound ignorance of history. It is this kind of misreading of history that we cannot afford in a president. Japan and Germany -- countries with long histories as independent albeit militaristic nations, were defeated in a world war, and both had truly attacked this country. Real attacks, not the fantasy attacks with which the neo-cons had filled the president's eager ears, glory glazed eyes, and willingly empty head.
In the case of Japan and Germany, America, once victorious, was truly an unapologetic occupying force providing not only real security but true reconstruction for a people who needed and wanted the help offered. Our army and the Marshall Plan provided the security and economic relief that was instrumental in turning these totalitarian countries away from their former militarism towards peaceful, democratic societies. If there were benchmarks for change in these countries they were quickly and willingly met. Nothing we know of the Middle East suggests that this will happen in Iraq, or that this can happen in Iraq, a country crudely pasted together and created by the Brits in order to keep a base in the Middle East to better exploit its resources.
The Republican ads supported by McCain himself call him the "American" candidate -- suggesting without subtlety that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are somehow less American in their positions on the country and the world. Expect to hear this theme over and over; a) because it's dumb enough to be catchy, and b) because it works. Build up the love of country of your candidate, McCain, by degrading that of the opponent; sometimes (as in the case of Obama) not so subtly, but by overtly playing with his Islamic middle name, or with his pastor's fiery rhetoric, his wife's candor, or by Obama failing to wear a flag pin in his lapel, or his inability to bowl like a true blue collar sportsman; but refuse to engage with the candidate's ideas and plans for America. Mockery beats intelligent debate every time in Republican plans. We see the same mockery in such columnists as Maureen Dowd's poison pen musings, or in the smug beltway bleating of a Cokie Roberts -- mockery being the weapon of choice of the professional insider. Strangely, so little of that mockery turns on John McCain.
John McCain has been wrong on so many issues that it staggers the mind that the MSP refuses to call him on them. It is one thing for him to stand before an audience of African Americans and sorrowfully admit his guilt in voting against a holiday honoring Martin Luther King. Another is his failure to explain the true reason why. It doesn't take much to draw the conclusion that McCain viewed MLK as another unpatriotic black man whose views upset the racial status quo, the comfort of white middle class America, McCain's constituency. McCain is no garden variety bigot. He is a complex man who can and has risen above his narrow background, but he carries with him the heavy baggage of that background -- that of the ruling class in America -- a class that is filled with certainty about how right they are, and how wrong everyone else is. There is an ugliness in such certainty which often borders on bigotry. It is not for nothing that his classmates called him McNasty.
Despite his high school reputation as a snarky smart aleck, McCain may have the most engaging personality of all the candidates. There is nothing like a little well placed irony and self-mockery to tickle a reporter's fancy on a long campaign bus ride, or smile and chuckle as one is roasted by a comic on late night television. It is so flattering to watch the candidate make fun of himself while calling you "my friend"; it lures in the reporter, so eager to regard him or herself as worthy of the friendship of the powerful.
Yes, McCain has served his country nobly in the past, all of which may work in his favor in a general election where the Republicans will throw up their usual smokescreens of code words and confusion. McCain's failure to understand the diversity of ideas that nourish a democracy, and to recognize that American power is best expressed as a moral and not a military force; it is this failure of McCain's that will diminish American political and economic power in the years to come should he win the coming election. Under a McCain presidency we will see the further erosion of American democracy here and abroad, and it will keep us all prisoners of war. Scary times ahead, "my friends."