Grappling with McCain:
At some point last night, it stopped being funny. Here was the scene: the Rude Pundit was watching John McCain speak on a movie screen at the Parkway Theatre in south Minneapolis. In the audience were over 300 people who had come to see a comedy show, which happened before McCain spoke. The past couple of nights at the Parkway, the whole thing took on a raucous, Rocky Horror Picture Show/MST3K feel, with anyone who wanted hurling sarcasm at Joe Lieberman and Sarah Palin.
Last night, the set-up was much the same. And, after McCain started speaking, there was much mirth in that way that people will try to top each other. But then, all of a sudden, you could feel the wind go out of the room. It wasn't funny anymore. If you wanna pick a moment, it was probably when McCain started into his story about his time as a prisoner of war.
Now, the humor didn't end because of the "power" of McCain's tale of torture and woe. No such bullshit like that a crowd of liberals was brought to silence by war stories or whatever. Sorry, the expiration date on McCain's Hanoi Hilton parable has long since passed, and now it's just become so much rank, inedible cheese. And the Rude Pundit has no problem mocking McCain's experience.
For the Rude Pundit, it was the cynicism of the tale's re-telling in this setting. The exploitation of one's pain for political gain is common. Hell, Democrats do it regularly: Al Gore's sister, John Edwards' child, Joe Biden's wife and baby. But it was the extent of the description and details that just became so repulsive on a gut level.
Conservatives reading this, and there are a few, will see it and say, "Well, of course, you couldn't take it, punk ass pussy liberal," thinking that McCain is a great man. No, no. Sorry, that's not it. The Rude Pundit knows great men and women, people for whom suffering becomes a means by which they attempt to do everything - and that means goddamn everything - to prevent suffering at all levels.
For John McCain, his suffering is an end to itself, the alpha and omega of his life. Beyond that, he's just a cranky fucker who pissed off everyone so now he's a "maverick," which is just a fancy word for "dick."
The point here is that McCain has never moved past it. And he learned the wrong lessons. The lesson of McCain's captivity is not that "No man can always stand alone." If it took getting his bones broken to realize that, then he must have been a shallow, shallow boy prior to the day his plane hit the ground in Vietnam. And if it took something that extreme to make McCain "fall in love" with his country, well, Michelle Obama is owed an apology.
The lessons of McCain's captivity are these: if you are punished enough, you will submit; and that people don't like their homes bombed. Michael Moore takes that second point on in his new book in detail. Essentially, it boils down to: if you fuck people's shit up, they'll want to fuck up yours. Or your children's.
McCain alluded to that first point when he said, "They broke me." Of all the vivid details he developed in his narrative at the convention, he left out what that meant, which was that he signed confessions and gave up information. It's easy to reduce this to "See? Don't torture." But if you expand that notion of submission enough, you take that into other realms: those with power want you to submit, whether through buying their shit, ignoring their crimes, or agreeing with their decisions as long as they leave you alone enough so you can get back to buying their shit.
John McCain didn't come back from Vietnam to change anything. In fact, he wanted to go back and kill more gooks. He didn't get into office to end war. His career has been built on a vested interest in keeping war on people's minds because, without war always being in process or imminent, his story is diminished. John McCain simply has accomplished virtually nothing. He has allowed any cause he might have to be gutted and compromised to worthlessness because, in the end, on campaign finance reform, immigration, torture, everything, he has submitted to those who can break him again and again.
So the Rude Pundit got up and walked out of that theatre, as did many others. He scribbled his little post from last night and hit the bar.
And this morning, here at this suburban Caribou Coffee where he sits tapping this out, he just heard two older men talking about how great a speech it was and how the Democrats can't attack McCain because he's a hero, and all the Rude Pundit can think is how America is filthy with fools.