Farewell to the ‘maverick’

4 Sept 2018–John McCain’s mortal coil has finally assumed room temperature, two decades too late for his reputation, for America, and for millions of victims of the senseless foreign wars he promoted. Had the senator died in 1998, we would have mourned a war hero – a more or less Reaganite conservative. Uncounted innocent lives in the Middle East, west Asia and Ukraine might have been spared the violence, famine and chaos that he promoted. 

McCain’s endless interstate funeral rites were an obscene spectacle of fake adulation by the Establishment and progressive media. More elaborate than Churchill’s, Kennedy’s or Reagan’s, the rites were calculated to embarrass President Trump, whom McCain & Co. despised. (The Deep State and its fellow travelers, as always, overestimated their impact on the president’s psyche.) After he was finally planted, the verbal diarrhea of fatuous tributes squirting from hacks and flacks gradually slowed to a dribble. But the stench lingers.

Until 1998, the senator’s only betrayal of note had been joining Democrats in their effort to strangle political speech, in the guise of campaign finance ‘reform,’ and his 1998 effort to shakedown of the tobacco industry. Unfortunately, those ventures proved McCain’s first step into a swift public transformation: at home, into a progressive fifth columnist determined to thwart his party’s conservative base; abroad, into a neoconservative warmonger and globalism cultist.

His Senate career and two presidential campaigns, built on monetizing political betrayal, infuriated movement conservatives and libertarians – but not, of course, McCain’s fellow progressives, in either party. By the time Trump descended that escalator in 2015, some of us realized there had never been a genuine McCain transformation, because there had never been a genuine McCain: Nepotism likely got him through the Naval Academy. His war record was a sham. He was a rotten pilot. As a POW he had been a Hanoi collaborator, not a hero. Self-promotion and betrayal were his nature. What was most striking wasn’t his long record of perfidy; it was how forcefully and consistently the Establishment and its media spin operations had closed ranks, year after year, to protect him and his reputation.

McCain’s appointment to the US Naval Academy may have been on the up and up. He’s said to have done well on entrance exams. His eventual graduation, near the bottom of his class, was likely due to his father’s position as a respected admiral. The same is likely true of his entire subsequent military career. McCain’s worshipful Wikipedia biography cites the senator’s hagiographers as asserting his IQ was quite high, 133, and that he ‘did well in academic subjects that interested him, such as literature and history, but studied only enough to pass subjects that gave him difficulty, such as mathematics.’ After he began describing himself as a ‘maverick’ for consistently betraying his voter base, he began to claim that he was a ‘rebel’ while at the Academy.

This is a desperate effort to put a glamorous spin on profound character flaws. I know, because young McCain sounds an awful lot like young Doc Chaos: Bright but undisciplined, deeply lazy. I grew out of it, but McCain, it appears, never did. A hot head, combined with indiscipline and intellectual ennui, would prove a recipe for disaster for the young naval aviator. Competent fighter pilots require a solid background in math, physics and engineering.

McCain crashed three aircraft during his training in the West. (A single crash would have gotten less well-connected peers reassigned to less demanding work, like signing off on dinnerware inventories at the officers’ club.) In due course he was shot down and captured in North Vietnam. The claim that he refused to take advantage of early-release offers by his captors – if indeed such offers were made – must be viewed in light of  countervailing evidence that he sang like a canary for Hanoi, in return for special treatment.

McCain was repatriated after the Paris peace accords of 1973. He was medically retired from the Navy for his plane-crash injuries, moved to Arizona and married money, the daughter of a beer baron.  After several quiet years, in 1982 he ran for Congress in Arizona’s 1st congressional district, representing the northern Phoenix metro area, and won the general election easily after a competitive primary.

He had served a couple of terms in the House when he ran for the Senate and won in 1986. Almost immediately he was caught up in the ‘Keating Five’ scandal. He was the only GOP senator among the five who took millions in contributions from corrupt developer Charles Keating, then pressured the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to drop an investigation of Keating’s tottering Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. Lincoln collapsed in 1989. Tens of thousands of bondholders were defrauded. Many lost their life savings. Keating went to prison. The Senate Ethics Committee cleared John Glenn (D-OH) and McCain of wrongdoing, but chastised them for poor judgment. Both were re-elected. The other three served out their terms but didn’t run again.

In 1995 McCain joined Democrat Senator Russ Feingold in publishing an op-ed arguing for what they and the media insisted on calling ‘campaign finance reform.’ This old progressive project sought government rationing of broadcast airtime and other media access, ostensibly to counter ‘corruption’ and the ‘influence of money’ in politics. Conservatives and libertarians regarded it as blatantly unconstitutional, since in politics money equals speech, and the government isn’t allowed to control speech. Moreover it seemed an obvious left-wing trap, promoted by ‘the party of government’ – Democrats and a few progressive Republicans like McCain. Its most obvious impact was to limit conservatives’ abilities to counter the increasingly brazen leftward bias of the ‘mainstream’ media. It took until 2002 and repeated efforts in Congress to get the legislation passed.

It took another seven years for court challenges to gut McCain-Feingold’s most lawless provisions, the limit on political ads paid for by corporations or unions to 30 days or more before voting. One effect would be that when lawmakers decided to target a profitable industry for a tax shakedown – as McCain and the Democrats had done to the tobacco companies in 1997-98 – it would be harder for the industry to make its case to the public. This struck many as a strange project for a senator constantly banging on about ‘corruption.’

McCain’s campaign finance position signaled a public shift of ideology. Soon there was talk of a presidential run. Adulatory media profiles instructed us that McCain’s role model was Theodore Roosevelt, America’s first Progressive president, who dumped the GOP and got elected via his bespoke Bull Moose party. Republicans and Democrats alike of the early 20th century had been far too suspicious of Big Government to suit Teddy. Ninety years later, McCain felt exactly the same way.

After the McCain 2000 campaign got started, America endured the ‘Straight Talk Express,’ the campaign’s Orwellian self-misnomer. McCain’s ‘straight talk’ was largely repackaged Democrat talking points. Whenever he double-crossed conservative voters, his handlers encouraged media to call him a ‘maverick,’ rebranding betrayal as independence. He deployed a technique he would use for the rest of his life: Pandering to the Left, and double-crossing his party and grassroots voters on conservative ‘wedge issues’ – that is, on no-brain, slam-dunk conservative positions like gun rights, tax cuts and and the manifest dishonesty of the ‘climate change’ hucksters. McCain betrayed grassroots conservatives on precisely those issues where Democrat politicians were most vulnerable issues on which huge numbers of Democrat voters differed with their party leadership and shared views with GOP grassroots. 

For better or worse, George ‘Dubya’ Bush, a more closeted progressive than McCain, derailed the Straight Talk Express during the heated 2000 South Carolina GOP primary. It got ugly: Bush activists circulated rumors that McCain had fathered a mulatto baby with a New York hooker. On the other hand, McCain, with his insufferable ‘maverick’ posturing, had totally asked for it.

McCain never completely forgave Bush. He did, however, help rescue the Bush administration from the consequences of mismanaging the Iraq war after the misguided 2003 invasion. We invaded Iraq because Saddam supposedly had WMD, and was going to use them on his neighbors. Both claims proved untrue. Within mere months, Iraq was mired in a fierce Ba’ath-jihadi counterattack in the northwest and a Shi’a insurrection in the southeast. Bush and Rumsfeld refused to commit enough troops to suppress them, and continued trying to quell the rebels and ‘nation-build’ on the cheap. The result was four years of chaos, thousands of US troops killed and thousands more maimed. Of course, untold numbers of Iraqi victims were dismissed as ‘collateral damage.’ McCain demanded a ‘surge’ in troop levels, and in 2007,  Bush & Co. grudgingly agreed. The military situation improved swiftly and dramatically.

On the other hand, McCain had supported the illegitimate invasion from the get-go, and never wavered, even after it became clear it had been mounted under false pretenses. 

McCain won the GOP nomination in 2008, because it was his turn. Then he deliberately ‘threw’ the election to Obama, his most consequential, but far from his final betrayal. Throughout the campaign, he displayed such obvious discomfort at opposing the first mulatto president that one can’t help but wonder how quickly he would have folded if Obama had sported some of Herman Cain’s authenticity, or if his dad had been descended from American slaves. When the housing crisis struck and the stock market crashed, McCain was leading comfortably in the polls. He seized upon the crash as a pretext to suspend his campaign for weeks, returning to Washington to ‘address’ the crash – as if anything he might have done could substantively have affected matters. On election night, he snubbed his own voters by conceding the race to Obama before West Coast polls closed.

On the eve of war in 2003, leftist anti-war agitators had noisily asserted that evidence of Saddam’s WMD program was trumped up. The Senate didn’t buy that, our allies didn’t buy it, and neither did I: Throughout my youth, from Vietnam til the collapse of Communism, the Left’s positions on almost any foreign-policy question – especially those with military implications – had generally been reliable reverse weathervanes pointing 180 degrees away from the US national interest. In 2003, to my surprise, they turned out to be right. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

From 2004 until Obama took office in 2009, we listened to the left chant, ad nauseam, ‘No blood for oil!’, ‘Regime change begins at home,’ and ‘When Bush lied, people died’ (an oblique reference to the 1998 GOP impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about sex with a White House intern). By the time Obama took office, most conservatives had concluded that the Iraq war had been a dreadful mistake. 

But barely halfway into Obama’s first term, the Left suddenly forgot its antiwar slogans. The very folks who had lectured us for years on the evils of foreign military adventurism abruptly teamed up with the previously despised ‘neoconservatives’ to start a series of new wars. They seized on the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ yet another Orwellian media misnomer, to topple (or try to topple) regimes in Libya, Syria and Egypt. It seemed the progressive Left and the progressive ‘neocon’ right has made common cause.

McCain was in the thick of it, speechifying on the Senate floor to provide bipartisan cover for NATO air strikes in Libya to overthrow strongman Muammar Qaddafi. He just as forcefully supported Obama’s efforts to go to war in Syria in order to overthrow Assad, which were defeated by anti-interventionist lawmakers in the fall of 2013. McCain threw one of his trademark tantrums: In a weird display of projection, he labeled less warlike Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul ‘wacko birds’ for opposing his bizarre plan to arm Al Qaeda-linked Sunni jihadis to fight Assad. (Many of the Syrian militants whom we had already armed by then wound up joining ISIS, the powerful AQ offshoot that took over western Iraq and eastern Syria shortly afterward.)

In Egypt, the military soon overruled Obama, removing Mohammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader whom Obama helped install in 2012. Libya wasn’t so lucky: To this day it remains a militant-haunted wasteland. Syria is a war-torn disaster area, though Assad survived and has won the upper hand – with help from his traditional allies in the Kremlin, another matter that triggered McCain. As a result of the regime change projects that McCain supported and enabled, both countries have suffered epic humanitarian catastrophes. Tens of thousands have died, and hundreds of thousands of refugees have flooded Europe. AQ-linked militants sell black slaves in open-air Libyan slave markets, a fitting requiem to the Obama-McCain-Clinton foreign policy.

As he grew older, more influential and more entrenched, McCain grew even more warlike abroad, and a political arsonist at home. Presumably, like most lawmakers, he enriched himself dramatically off ‘insider trading’ on the measures and appropriations he understood best – defense projects. But those wouldn’t yield much in the absence of a steady supply of foreign enemies. Where enemies didn’t exist, they would need to be created. In the late 2000s, the facade of order in Afghanistan hadn’t completely collapsed. Iraq was under a semblance of control. So McCain and the American military-industrial complex turned on Vladimir Putin, who against all odds, had rebuilt a functional Russia from the ruins of the post-Soviet economic collapse.

By 2008, Putin had already won two wars that others had started – against Al Qaeda in Chechnya, and against NATO groupie Georgia in South Ossetia. Staunchly pro-Western when he took power, by 2007 Putin had tired of NATO’s relentless strategy of encirclement; its military menace along Russia’s borders, in Georgia, Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Baltic; and of western officials’ dogmatic insistence that Russia surrender its sovereignty to a ‘global liberal order’ administered by Washington and Brussels. Putin publicly pushed back at the Munich security conference in 2007. Western officials, with McCain among their ringleaders, responded with a systematic gaslighting campaign, accusing Russia of ‘aggression’ for defending itself.

It’s not clear whether McCain really believed his counterfactual rants about Russia, its leader and the threat he claimed they posed the West. My guess? He believed every word. McCain led a sheltered life surrounded by his handlers. Beyond that, he just never was all that bright. (IQ is a measure of potential, not achievement. IQ means nothing in the absence of critical thinking skills, and the lack of any desire to develop them.) I saw a cartoon somewhere featuring McCain’s final brain MRI: The fatal glioblastoma bore a striking resemblance to a tourist map of the Kremlin. The cartoonist understood that Putin really was living rent-free in the senator’s head.

By 2010 McCain, like the rest of the establishment, was running scared as the Tea Party surged, reacting to repeated GOP establishment betrayal and Obama’s self-unmasking as an anti-constitutional radical. McCain faced a pair of conservative primary challengers. He ultimately trounced his nearest rival, former congressman and radio host JD Hayworth. But he had to flip again, trying to stuff flushing a decade and a half of being a ‘maverick’ down the Memory Hole. It worked – a troubling commentary on Arizona GOP voters. But by then even the Left had caught on to the Man Who Never Was.

In 2013 came the Ukrainian Maydan ‘movement,’ a flimsy cover for a NATO-backed coup d’etat in Kiev. The elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, had moved steadily closer to joining the EU, which many Ukrainians wanted because of the ostensibly greater economic opportunities available. But in November 2013 he suddenly backed away, likely because Putin emphasized, correctly, that Ukraine had far more to gain from preserving Russian fuel subsidies than from EU membership. (As a young lady from industrialized east Ukraine once asked me rhetorically, ‘Why should our engineers scrub toilets alongside Somalis in Berlin?’)

Yanukovych’s decision was the trigger for a long-planned, US-sponsored, fake uprising. Maydan was peaceful at first, but was soon hijacked by neo-fascist militias. Senior US, EU and NATO officials, including McCain, appeared onstage with Maydan leaders during the fall and winter to endorse overthrowing Ukraine’s elected leader. Fascist militiamen – likely with the full knowledge and approval of top US diplomats –  saw to it that the protests turned violent. Fascist snipers (not Yanukovych’s police, as initially reported) staged the Feb. 24, 2014 shootings as a provocation. This false-flag operation torpedoed morale among Ukraine’s security services and prompted Yanukovych to flee to Russia.

The Russian Navy’s only warm water port is in Crimea. Although its population is overwhelmingly of Russian ethnicity, Crimea in 1954 – for reasons that remain obscure –  was administratively ceded to Ukraine. This was of little consequence, at the time, because the USSR was a totalitarian state. But when the USSR collapsed, Crimea stayed with Ukraine, because Russia’s drunken US patsy of a then president, Boris Yeltsin, was in no condition to gainsay this absurd outcome. As a consequence, since 1991 the Russian Black Sea Fleet had been based uneasily at Sevastopol, in facilities leased from Ukraine. 

The events in Kiev in February 2014 placed the Black Sea Fleet at risk. The new Ukrainian authorities would certainly abrogate the lease and might try to seize the fleet. In any case, Russia would have no warm water port. 

Putin’s reaction was swift and implacable. As one commentator has observed, ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia – a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general, and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.’

 The American intelligence and foreign-policy ‘blob,’ as Obama adviser Ben Rhodes famously called it, was caught completely off guard by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. Putin let Crimea’s legislative assembly take the lead, rubbing western noses in Crimean popular support for annexation. McCain was reportedly apoplectic.

The senator famously ignored a millennium of history, culture, language and literature in calling Russia ‘a gas station masquerading as a country’. His influence within the Senate sept of the ‘blob’ and his role in the subsequent imposition of economic sanctions on Russia in many respects exemplify the intellectual collapse of 21st-century US foreign policy. The foreign affairs pseudo-intelligentsia has become a globalist cult. Its members propound a catechism of slogans about ‘democratic norms’ too incoherent to withstand even brief scrutiny. They worship a ‘global liberal order’ that’s neither orderly, liberal, nor global. 

As sanctions backfired and made Russia stronger and more independent, Western warmongers doubled down. The Skripal affair last March – in which British government agents apparently ‘disappeared’ their own Russian defector in order to defame the Kremlin – may have hurt Russia’s reputation among unwary western groundlings. But it fooled nobody, west or east, who was paying close attention. Putin’s State of the Federation speech, about the same time, highlighted a panoply of new strategic weapons aimed at thwarting, forever, US nuclear first-strike capability. The conjunction of these events led to Putin’s re-election later that month with a 76% share of the Russian popular vote.

By then, McCain was dying from his brain tumor and had mostly left the public eye. But his Twitter feed was still active, presumably manned by a staffer: The morning after the election, he tweeted that the Kremlin’s get-out-the-vote efforts ‘prove Putin’s government is a sham.’ At least one American Russophile retorted that McCain’s belligerence had done more to rally Russian voters behind Putin than anything Putin had said or done.

The senator’s final gesture during his last important public appearance – coy equivocation, then a last-minute ‘thumbs down’ vote on repealing Obamacare – was classic McCain, so classic that I couldn’t see why anybody was even briefly misled by the pretense of equivocation. There was never any doubt that McCain would vote against repeal. It was too juicy an opportunity to pass up, exactly the sort of betrayal in which the Trojan Horse progressive reveled: derailing his party’s efforts to exploit a GOP wedge issue that possessed wide grassroots appeal.

As disgusting as I found his ad nauseam funeral rites, I took a certain grim pleasure at the knowledge that, if there’s a just God and a competent Satan, McCain is writhing in eternal agony. I picture him impaled, from fundament through loud angry mouth, spit-roasting on a red-hot rotisserie in Hell … while throngs of his war victims’s souls file ceaselessly past, squirting lighter fluid on the coals. 

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