During the 2008 presidential campaign I did point out that the modern default candidate for Republicans was damaged war veterans. First Bob Dole in 1996 and then John McCain in 2008. Dole’s campaign left him defeated, but not particularly defamed. He exited the Senate and settled into some sort of dignified retirement, depending how dignified one thinks shilling for Viagra happens to be. But not John McCain. His campaign never took off and in its downward death spiral only became more desperate, finally elevating Sarah Palin to the vice president slot as a final Hail Mary play. The rest, as they say, is history.
But as Palin preoccupies what passes for a large segment of journalism these days, McCain has only become meaner, crazier, and more erratic, all traits of his that were exaggerated when he needed to run in a primary race for his renomination as a hyper right winger against a former Congressman, now conservative radio blabber, J. D. Hayworth. Why McCain didn’t “retire” is almost a rhetorical question. The Senate is the world’s best old folks home, where one is fully escorted and rendered superior health care, and McCain obviously doesn’t want to give up all the perks and power and prestige. So, we get to see his decline in public. For how long, who knows? He obviously doesn’t want to go home to spend more time with Cindy. He’d rather hang with his unmarried buddy, the former JAG lawyer, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the other half of the duo who made up the oddest couple opposing the rescinding of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was one of Bill Clinton’s major muffs, similar to Jimmy Carter’s pardoning of the Vietnam-era draft resisters, both deeds carried out at the beginning of their presidencies. Carter’s charity was applauded by only those who received the benefit and their rag-tag supporters. The rest of the public let it go by largely unheralded. Carter never seemed proud of his pardoning of draft resisters, since he never even mentioned it in his first presidential memoir, Keeping Faith, published in 1982. (I haven’t yet opened his new one, The White House Diaries, published this year.) Clinton had a number of slip-ups, as we all recall, during his time in the White House, but Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell got right to the heart of the equivocating boy from Arkansas: It all depends of what the meaning of is is. All Clinton managed to do with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was keep the issue in the public eye. As an irritant.
So, President Obama got his repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell from the lame duck Congress, and that is supposed to make up for all his unkept promises: Gitmo, tax cuts for the rich, Iraq, Afghanistan, banks too big to fail, molly-coddling the wealthy, the powerful; Health Care reform that entrenches the private sector, and whatever else one may want to add.
President McCain was always a ludicrous idea, at least in 2008, but thinking of it now only makes the Obama election of 2008 seem less of an unlikely event. All along, the real race was beating the Clinton lady, Hillary, that is. And, right now, any name the Republicans can come up with for the top of the ticket in 2012 seems equally ludicrous. Which is the only Christmas present the Republicans are still offering the president. Whether that changes by 2012 is the only question that really remains in play for the next two years. Up till then, it will just be more of the same from team Obama and his colluders in compromise, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and their loyal followers in both houses of Congress. How’s that for coal in your stocking? Merry, Merry.