John McCain's lady pit bull -- she who must not be named -- is constantly asking us: Who is Barack Obama? It's possible that she's asking because she didn't pay attention to the Presidential race until she was nominated for VP, in which case she might actually not know the answer. But as tempted as I am to believe that she might be that clueless, I suspect that the real reason for the identity question lies with her campaign puppet masters. They want to insinuate that anyone with only one Caucasian parent and a middle name like Hussein must be an Arab Muslim fanatic. Never mind that the name Barack is Hebrew; forget he was skewered for being a member of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Christian church; and by all means, ignore the 20 months of relentless press inquiry and the two autobiographies.
So fine, some people want to ask, who is Barack Obama; well, I want to flip the question and ask about McCain. I know from last night's debate that he's not George W. Bush, and I know that he's been a Senator since The Great Communicator was President. But beyond that, it starts to get fuzzy. The problem isn't that we know too little about John McCain; it's that we've got so many versions of the guy to choose from. You can't really be sure which version of Multiple McCain you're going to get on any given day.
The original McCain was a literal and figurative warrior of the upper class. By his own admission he didn't do particularly well in high school, and yet he managed to get into the incredible selective Naval Academy. Of course, his father and grandfather not only graduated the very same school but also went on to become Admirals, so patronage and string-pulling must have been very much at play. And while he may have made the most of the opportunity, it does nothing to diminish the reality that there was some kid out there who worked his ass off throughout high school and got turned down for Annapolis because McCain got his spot. We don't know the victim's name, but that doesn't make the reality of a double standard any less real, or aristocratic.
Of course, McCain was born into the class system: he can't be blamed for that. His affection for the nouveau riche lifestyle, however, is another matter altogether. Mrs. and Senator McCain own seven houses and thirteen cars. Even if you figure that they've got their principle residence in Arizona, need another place in DC, and require summer homes and winter homes, that still leaves three extra residences unaccounted for. At a time when so many Americans are losing their one and only residence, it seems like the McCain family's ostentatious show of wealth is more becoming of The Great Gatsby than 2008. Of course, we may be on the verge of another Great Depression, so perhaps the symbolism is intentional.
But let's not forget, John McCain the elite, Beltway insider. Giving credit where its due, McCain did plenty of good things as a moderate reaching across the aisle, back in the days when he didn't feel the need to suck up to the conservative wing of his party. But like all good politicians, he still found plenty of time to be a patron and power broker. His particular bailiwick, as recently reported rather excellently by the New York Times, is gambling. The man apparently loves to gamble, and perhaps no one is more responsible for making sure that a casino comes to your state than John McCain. And while no one has suggested that he personally profited from all that gambling money, some of his friends have done very well introducing their Native American clients to Senator Maverick McCain. Let's be clear: this is no worse than what any other powerful senator might do; it's just no different.
Finally, there's Grandpa McCain. During Wednesday's debate: he looked every inch the hale septuagenerian at wits end over the young whipper-snapper -- That One -- who has the audacity to challenge him for the Presidency. After all, everyone knows that George W. Bush cheated him out of the job in 2000. Grandpa is entitled to be President.
On November 4th, don't waste your time asking who Barack Obama is. Like him or not, you already know the answer. Instead, ask yourself the right questions. Just who does this McCain guy think he is, and which one of them is running for President?