Forty years ago John McCain found himself in an incredibly shitty situation. He had the crap beat out of him on a regular basis. When the North Vietnamese found out his daddy was an Admiral they said he could go home but he chose to stay behind. They broke his arms. They put him in solitary confinement. Finally, after five and a half years he left a changed man.
Right now you’re probably wondering why I’m being so charitable to John McCain, a curmudgeonly old man who is running a bitter and angry campaign consisting primarily of bad decisions and lies. It’s because after last night’s debate I’m beginning to realize that it has become a virtual certainty that John McCain is going to lose and lose badly and I kinda sorta feel a teeny-tiny bit bad about that. Not because by any stretch of the imagination he deserves to win but becasue our memory of him will forever be tainted by the man he has become and the desperate campaign of distortion and lies that his route to the Presidency has become.
So, why should I (or anyone else for that matter) feel bad for a lying sack of crap like John McCain?
Well, it’s because he hasn’t always been a lying sack of crap.
Once upon a time John McCain was a solid gold American war hero who was beaten and broken while he was fighting for his country. He may have been a lazy ass student at the Naval Academy who graduated fifth from the bottom of his class and only avoided getting thrown out because his daddy and his granddaddy were Admirals but when he finally became an aviator he got shot down one too many times and he paid a heavy price for it.
In my life I’ve seen far too many good and honorable men (mostly Democrats) who, for a variety of reasons went down in flames in a Presidential election and then become synonymous with the word "Loser." Their legacy becomes tarnished by loss and all that remains of their memory is that lost election. Some close, some not so close, but all we remember them for is that loss. Michael Dukakis jumps immediately to the front of my mind. Others include John Kerry, Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. All we eventually remember them despite what thaey may have done before, is for being a Big Presidential Loser.
A brief side note on Presidential Losers who are not on this list: You may notice that Al Gore is not on this list. In 2004, he would have been on this list. He was an overweight pasty bearded loser four years ago. But then he sucked it up and renewed his commitment to protecting the environment. The Al Gore of 2008 has a Nobel Prize and is an internationally recognized champion of the environment who has made an award winning film.
Also absent from the list is Jimmy Carter and this is for two reasons. One, he was president for four years, if an unpopular one, for reasons, I feel, were out of his control. Two, the man is a house building machine. It may have taken him a few decades to find his post-Presidential groove but when he did – wow! The dude is 84 years old and he’s still helping out with Habitat for Humanity. Now that’s a legacy.
Eight years ago it is entirely possible that John McCain 1.0 would have run an honorable campaign against Al Gore. Americans would have had a legitimate campaign based on the issues. I still feel that Al Gore almost certainly would have won in an issues based campaign. McCain would have lost BUT his legacy would have remained intact and he would have gone back to the Senate and probably done something with what remained of his career.
But in 2008 we have John McCain 2.0. John McCain 2.0 is a hand-wringing angry and bitter old man who will be remembered for being an hand-wringing angry and bitter old man who lost to a more positive forward-looking young man and the ‘if onlys’ will be numerous and plenty.
Ten maybe twenty years from now when John McCain’s obituary is read on the evening news we will be saying to ourselves "John McCain was a prisoner of war? Oh yeah ... I forgot about that. John McCain was one of the few Republicans who acknowledged climate change before it was the in thing to do? Really? John McCain worked on campaign finance reform? I didn’t know that. I just remember how badly he lost to Barack Obama back in 2008."
And that, my friends, is a sad thing. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate is a liar and a dipshit and that will forever taint our memory of him. Once upon a time John McCain was an honest and honorable human being and we will forget that. I take comfort only in the fact that it will be his own damn fault.