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Napalm Nut Job
John McCain, Desperate Maniac

Always remember what John McCain really "sacrificed" for

Beware the zealot.

About a week ago the Times ran a profile of Hossein Shariatmadari, an Iranian who, at 27, was sentenced to life in prison by the Shah for his political views, “whose toenails and fingernails were ripped out, whose teeth were kicked in, who was shocked with electricity and had the soles of his feet beaten.” Today, Shariatmadari is “the voice of hard-line Iran, not only hard-line, but also radical, secretive and uncompromising.” He makes Mahmoud Ahmanidejad look moderate in comparison. Shariatmadari is to Iran what John McCain is to the Republican Party: a bitter reactionary, a zealot on a mission to avenge his imprisonment and torture by demonizing everyone else while making himself look saintly. Beware.

John McCain has just released a television commercial that McClatchy’s Matt Stearns calls, obsequiously, “the most striking political ad of the 2008 presidential campaign — and the most harrowing in recent memory.” Not quite. It is certainly the most shamelessly pandering ad of the political campaign. You knew it would happen sooner or later: McCain is that desperate. He’s using alleged footage from his prisoner days in North Vietnam to make himself look like a hero. He’s on a hospital bed. The footage is black and white, grainy. You can bet that “Foxhole Productions,” which made the aid, contributed a little doctoring of its own.

A voice asks McCain, “How old are you?” It’s a French journalistr, according to the Times. But the ad doesn’t tell you that. It doesn’t tell you anything. The vaguely French accent is a double-bonus: people who don’t know a French accent from a french fry, which is to say most people, will think the questioner is a North Vietnamese, an interrogator. A Bad Guy. People who do know their accents will hear the French in it and be just as repulsed, American bigotry toward the French being the new normal here since the Toxic Texan came to power in 2001. At any rate, McCain answers: “Thirty-one.” “What is your rank in the Army?” “Lieutenant commander in the Navy, hit by either missile or anti-aircraft fire, I’m not sure which. And the plane continued straight down and I ejected and broke my leg and both arms.” “And your official number?” “624787.”

Nothing says that the footage isn’t tricked, that it isn’t doctored, that it isn’t entirely faked, although that’s besides the point: Even if it were, it wouldn’t be nearly as scandalous as the fact that, if it weren’t, McCain is using it for political profit even as the announcer in the ad peddles on about how “One man didn’t play politics with the truth.” McCain, of course, has spent his political career playing politics with the truth, playing both sides of the fence, making himself look like the “maverick” just long enough to be seen as an independent Republican only fall back, again and again, with the most conservative wing of his party at crucial voting time—as he did on the bill allowing the torture of prisoners, on the Patriot Act, on the war in Iraq, which he lovingly, heartily, fanatically supports despite the ad’s claim that he “opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq.” No, he didn’t. He voted with the president on every single occasion that mattered.

The ad’s supreme insult is its title: “One man,” and its incantation of the theme: “One man sacrificed for his country. One man opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq. One man had the courage to call for change. One man didn’t play politics with the truth. One man stands up to the special interests.” Of course, 57,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese sacrificed for their countries, not “one man,” and those were the ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice, although let’s also be clear about this: the Americans who died in Vietnam sacrificed pointlessly, for a “flawed strategy,” and in many cases in support of war crimes that have yet to be prosecuted (the napalming of Vietnam, of which McCain was a proud participant, being just one example). Yet here’s McCain profiting from one flawed strategy (made to look grainily heroic) to justify another.

Let’s also remember that McCain was eased into his snazzy Air Force gig thanks to his father, Admiral John S. McCain, who was commander of American forces in Vietnam (and contributed his mess to that folly). He had the undisputed courage to fly his few missions before being shot down during a mission over Hanoi—one of those scabrous bombing runs President Johnson used to order before Nixon ramped them up for good a couple of years hence.

McCain was held for about five years, tortured, and finally released, only to begin his long and bigoted campaign for revenge: Once a gook, in his mind, always a gook. The account of his captivity for US News & World Report, written soon after, is a terrific insight into his sulfurous mindset, a kind of slow-burn anger that’s part of his persona today, try as he may to hide it. This is not a sane man. This is not a well-tempered man, This is a dangerous man. He wants to make his demons our demons.

“One man does what’s right, not what’s easy,” the announcer says in the “One Man” ad, after a few images of McCain walking with Ronald Reagan, that other paragon on tricked up truths. Fall for it if you like. But this “one man” is why we’re in the bog we’re in right now, at home and abroad. He’s George Bush made worse by his monstrous experiences in Vietnam, and he’ll make us pay—just as his spiritual brethren, Iran’s Hossein Shariatmadari, is making his countrymen pay.

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