A Last Gasp of McCain Nostalgia


Yes, it sort of reads like a eulogy now, but remember the days when serious media people knew: John McCain is the only Truly Great Man who deserves to lead us?

David Brooks brings them back to the present with this nostalgic tongue bath to fading "maverick" McCain in the New York Times. A stomach-churning sample:

About six months ago, I was having lunch with a political consultant and we were having a smart-alecky conversation about the presidential race. All of sudden, my friend interrupted the flow of gossip and said: "You know, there's really only one great man running for president this year, and that's McCain."

The comment cut through the way we pundits normally talk about presidential candidates….it had the added weight of truth.


The years and the Senate have smoothed some of his rebelliousness, but he still fights a daily battle against the soul-destroying forms of modern politics.

There have been occasions when McCain compromised his principles for political gain, but he was so bad at it that it always backfired. More often, he is driven by an ancient sense of honor…… But character is destiny, and you will never persuade me that he is not among the finest of men.

For the real deal on McCain, of course there's only one choice: Matt Welch's new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. You might also check out his April reason cover story on the topic.

NEXT: Thank Deng Xiaoping for Little Girls

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  1. John McCain is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

  2. Doesn’t McCain look like a politician on political welfare? You know what I mean? Sort of a political presidential bum?

  3. John McCain is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

    That statement, btw, does not necessarily contradict my 1:20 comment. He’s a nice political bum.

  4. Maybe we could freeze McCain in Carbonite, put him in the national mall, and then everyone could reflect on what a wonderful maverick he is was. I doubt anyone will try to break him out by showing up with a thermal detonator.

  5. “John McCain is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

    The McCainurian Candidate? Well, his mother has been by his side a lot … and she does seem a bit paranoid (talking about Mormon conspiracies and such).

  6. I still don’t understand why people think he’s a maverick.

  7. The following has absolutely nothing to do with a candidates qualifications for the presidency.

    These ay my feelings on who, among the candidates, has the best next door neighbor qualities.

    Ron Paul
    Barack Obama
    John McCain
    Bill Richardson

    The worst –

    Tom Tancredo/Rudy Guiliani (a tie)
    Hillary Clinton
    John Edwards

    It’s just the feelings I get. Not very important, is it?

  8. He’s no maverick. He’s not even a goose.

  9. J sub D: Ditto.

  10. Newest RP “amateur” video. I like it:

  11. “He’s no maverick. He’s not even a goose.”

    But he sure could “do some of that pilot shit…”

    The mans a living legend in my eyes.

  12. But he sure could “do some of that pilot shit…”

    You mean, get shot down?

    McCain was a model of courage and integrity as a prisoner of war, but let’s not make stuff up about McCain the pilot.

  13. From Wikipedia:

    In December 1966 McCain was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, flying A-4 Skyhawks; his service there began with tours in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In Spring 1967 Forrestal was assigned to join Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam as part of the Vietnam War. The alpha strikes flow from Forrestal were against specific, pre-selected infrastructure targets such as arms depots, factories, and bridges; they were quite dangerous due to the Soviet-designed and supplied anti-aircraft system fielded by the North Vietnamese Air Defense Force. McCain’s first five attack missions over North Vietnam went without incident, and while still unconcerned with minor Navy regulations, McCain had by now garnered the reputation of a serious aviator.

    By now a Lieutenant Commander, McCain was again almost killed in action on July 29, 1967 while serving on the Forrestal, operating at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. The crew was preparing to launch attacks when a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom was accidentally fired across the carrier’s deck. The rocket struck McCain’s A-4E Skyhawk as the jet was preparing for launch. The impact ruptured the Skyhawk’s fuel tank, which ignited the fuel and knocked two bombs loose. McCain escaped from his jet by climbing out of the cockpit, working himself to the nose of the jet, and jumping off its refueling probe onto the burning deck of the aircraft carrier. Ninety seconds after the impact, one of the bombs exploded underneath his airplane. McCain was struck in the legs and chest by shrapnel. The ensuing fire killed 132 sailors, injured 62 others, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and took 24 hours to control

    As Forrestal headed for repairs, McCain volunteered to join the VA-163 Saints on board the short-staffed USS Oriskany. By late October 1967, McCain had flown a total of 22 bombing missions.

    A little more than just getting shot down.

    I have no love for John McCain the senator, but his mililtary career earns more respect than you display here joe.

  14. Also from Wiki:

    Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy. By his own admission, McCain was a rebellious midshipman and his career at the Naval Academy was lackluster. He had his share of run-ins with the faculty and leadership; each year he was given over 100 demerits, earning him membership in the “Century Club”.[9] He competed in boxing and did well in a few classes that he was interested in, such as history and literature.[9] Despite his difficulties, he has indicated in his autobiography that he never wavered in his desire to show his father and family that he was of the same mettle as his naval forbears. Dropping out was unthinkable and so he successfully completed his training and graduated from Annapolis in 1958; he was fifth from the bottom in class rank.[10]

    Upon his graduation McCain was commissioned an ensign, and spent two and a half years as a naval aviator in training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas,[11] flying A-1 Skyraiders.[12] He earned a reputation as a party man, as he drove a Corvette, dated an exotic dancer named “Marie the Flame of Florida”, and as he would later say, “generally misused my good health and youth.”[6] During a practice run in Corpus Christi, his aircraft crashed into Corpus Christi Bay, though he escaped without major injuries;[11] another time he emerged intact from a collision with power lines over Spain.[9] Eventually he graduated flight school in 1960[13] and became a naval pilot of attack aircraft.

  15. Fucker ruined four perfectly good aircraft himself, plus however many more on the Forrestal.


  16. I told myself I was done reading David Brooks’ columns. Why I decided to break that personal vow just now is something of a personal mystery.

  17. de stijl —

    I was thinking the same thing — his commanders probably told the VC his exact coordinates! He’s more like Red Chief than Commander in Chief! (sorry, obscure O. Henry reference)

  18. No, carrick, he deserves exactly the level of respect I showed him here.

    As de stijl so amptly demonstrates.

    I know you saw that very same language he quoted, since it’s from the very same source. What gives?

  19. He was truly a world-class party animal when he started out.

    He is an interesting case study in growig up. A complete fuck-up in college, becoming a respected aviator when people were shooting at him, then becoming a man of deeply held beliefs through the many years of torture and abuse.

    Regardless, his military career involved a lot more than “just getting shot down”.

    By the way, I think I respect the century club thing more than anything else 😉

  20. “You mean, get shot down?”

    Not many pilots have been shot down before even taking off.

  21. He’s more like Red Chief than Commander in Chief!

    Very good line, sixstring! And don’t apologize for your erudition…a couple people here read literature of the nonsci-fi type.

  22. The cliff’s notes versions for joe.

    Completing 22 bombing missions in Vietnam deserves more respect than saying his only military accomplishment was getting shot down.

  23. Advance apologies for the thread-jack.

    I would be interested in hearing what the Reason folks (as well as H&R commentators) have to say about the Seattle Supersonics controversy regarding their potential move to Oklahoma City. This involves two frequent Reason topics: corporate welfare in the form of publicly funded stadiums, and eminent domain (there is talk of the city of Seattle forcibly taking ownership of the team to prevent the move–see here).

  24. Before I get accused of all sorts of insane things, I’m not dissing McCain’s military experience. He seems to have served honorably and ably.

    But singling him out as a “living legend” for the “pilot shit” he did is a few steps beyond plausible.

  25. You know what it was? All those gay sweaters that his handlers made him wear!

  26. But singling him out as a “living legend” for the “pilot shit” he did is a few steps beyond plausible.

    And this justifies your snark how?

  27. He almost reaches Topper Harley level of naval aviation, but, truth be told, he’s probably in the Jim ‘Wash Out’ Pfaffenbach or Pete ‘Dead Meat’ Thompson class of navy pilots.

    Hint: Jon Cryer worked with Charlie Sheen before Two And A Half Men.

  28. McCain did a lot of great things in his lifetime and should be commended for it. I should know I strongly supported him against Bush in the primaries. BUT when he turned his back on all his supporters and started kissing ass to the Republican Establishment the man lost all credibility. To think that a man who didn’t crack in a Vietnamese prison camp, cracked after a smear campaign in South Carolina, it is just really sad. As a former supporter I also viewed it as a stab in the back.

    But if it wasn’t for people like McCain, Bush, etc. and their betrayal I might never had become a Libertarian.

  29. Because you actually did diss his military experiance.

  30. Holy Crap! I didn’t realize that was McCain in the cockpit when the Forrestal went up. The fire on the Forrestal is a classic Navy training film. Anyone who’s served a six months on board ship in the past thirty years is sure to have seen it. The take away lesson, everyone on board (except the chief with the fire extinguisher that got blown up with the first bombs.) had his head up his ass. The whole ship was FUBAR. Part of the film shows a firefighting team sitting on the deck with their OBAs (Oxygen Breathing Aparatus) sprawled out in front of them, listening to a guy reading the instructions as an inferno is raging on board!!!

  31. Sorry I spilled goo on your McCain poster, carrick. Maybe you can buy another one to hang over your bed.

  32. childish joe

  33. Yeah, other than his war service McCain is really contemptible.

    TIME tried to claim that the “maverick” was back when he recently told that independent South Carolina group to stop running pro-McCain ads, but I thought that incident exposed McCain’s worst qualities.

    There can be no question of any impropriety being involved in the private South Carolina ads. Nobody’s bribing anybody and calling it a campaign contribution. It’s obviously nothing more and nothing less than American citizens using their free speech rights to comment on the election. And McCain showed that he hates the free speech rights of Americans so much that he even hates pro-McCain speech.


  34. Based on the fact that Bush I also crashed at least twice (in training and well as combat), it seems like the only way a Naval aviator’s career is consider a success if his number of takeoffs exceed his number of landings.

  35. Yeah, other than his war service McCain is really contemptible.

    I was living in Phoenix during the Keating Five scandal, so I’ve never had much respect for the man as a senator.

    Probably in the middle of the pack as regards to effectiveness and integrity. “Maverick” comes from having no discernable political philosophy which would indicate his future position on any given piece of legislation.

    I always viewed his position in the senate as a form of early retirement benefit for a significantly disabled veteran (he supposedly can’t lift his arms above his shoulders, so someone else has to comb his hair).

  36. Some funny libertarian neologisms and descriptions from Wilton Alston and contributors at LRC. There are more at LRC. I thought they were hilarious and wanted to share them pass them on to your friends.

    Unhaling: Smoking something without actually, you know, smoking it, e.g., “Clinton is famous for unhaling during his supposed only attempts to spark up the chronic.”

    Greenback Emissions: Slang for the smell rising off the cash people make from the anthropogenic global warming scam, e.g., “As chairman of Generation Investment Management, Al Gore’s financial holdings are starting to give off some substantial greenback emissions!”

    Terraphobiosity: The practice of using the threat of terrorist attacks to keep the sheeple in line, e.g., “Politicians have long been practitioners of terraphobiosity, but this President takes it to high art.”

    Smirkism: One of the banal justifications President Bush gives either before or after one of his (patented) smirks, e.g., “We have to fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here.” (The smirkism is the sentence in-between!)

    Chenie (noun): The mythical figure that pops out when a neocon rubs a magic lamp.

    Chenius (noun): One whose dumb ideas are consistently hailed as brilliant.

    Christafarian (noun): A social conservative so detached from reality due to his myopic religious fundamentalism, that one is convinced he’s been smoking something.

    Evangungelist (noun): A person who thinks Jehovah is Hebrew for United States Armed Forces.

    FEMAnist (noun): A person who believes all natural dangers, social ills, and economic problems can be prevented, cured or resolved by the promises of the government and its agencies.

    Ignoronus (noun): A pollster, talking head or radio personality who deliberately omits Ron Paul from any political discourse or dismisses Mr. Paul’s candidacy altogether, e.g., “Stevie Wonder could see that Hannity is a real ignoronus.”

    Imminent Tomain (noun): The reality that with governmental organizations looking after one’s health and welfare it’s only a matter of time until you become sick or poisoned due to their incompetence.

    Incompetense (noun): The stress felt as one waits for the government’s next boneheaded move.

    Neoconsensus (noun): Unity generated by a bogus cry against terror, under a blanket of state-sponsored security, e.g., “The phrase, ‘If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists!’ is intended to drive neoconsensus.”

    Proctician (noun): A cross between a proctologist and politician. Acts obsessively to snoop, sift, and sniff into every nook, cranny and orifice of private citizens. Believes every action and transaction should be subject to taxation and regulation. Feels property may be owned by individuals, given proper permits and other statist whatnottery, but also believes government should dictate how the property may be used.

    Properganda (noun): Information, typically gathered by simply reading press releases, that has been approved for wide distribution to the US public by the mainstream media.

    Rudycule (verb): The use of a derisive remark, intended to cause contemptuous laughter towards anyone suggesting that US foreign intervention and militarism abroad may cause blowback.

    Subcity (noun): An urban hell created by a misguided application of government funds, e.g., “The best way to create a subcity is to pay people for personally negligent behavior.”

  37. Maybe joe is going to form some 503c like the swift boat guys to discredit McCain’s military service, as if anyone cares what he did 40 fucking years ago

  38. I’ll be the last guy here to say anything dismissive about McCain’s military service. He proved he was everything an officer should be during his time as a POW.

    Of course, since then he’s demonstrated an almost complete incomprehension of the document he’s spent his adult life swearing to uphold. Sad, really.

  39. Maybe we could freeze McCain in Carbonite, put him in the national mall, and then everyone could reflect on what a wonderful maverick he is was. I doubt anyone will try to break him out by showing up with a thermal detonator.

    Hell, I’d vote for the candidate who promises to do this. Carbonite or Fight!

  40. “I still don’t understand why people think he’s a maverick.”
    Ok, I’ll take you guys card.
    McCain showed courage in standing up to the religious right during his primary campaign against GW (he is in the REPUBLICAN party you know?). He showed courage when he stood up for campaign finance reform (I know it’s not popular here, but certainly you realize he bucked his party on this). He showed courage when he stood up to Bush concerning torture (how many GOP Senators did the same???). He stood up to his party on immigration (I don’t like his stance but I recognize it was brave). He’s in a party that does not allow much deviation from the party norm on most issues and he does it with some regularity.

    And I don’t think anyone said he was a living legend as a fighter pilot, just that he became a very capable one (no smll feat) and then acted heroically as a POW. How many of us would do the same out of our armchairs?

    It slays me to see libertarians fuming at a candidate because of campaign finance reform, as if most of you guys (including me) could have hoped to give more than the limit! Give me a break fellas, the folks at Reason have to serve their paymasters who were effected by the law, what in the world is YOUR excuse?

  41. Let’s not forget the Iraq War. McCain spent 2004 and 2005 speaking out against the “Everything in Iraq is Fine!” party line, even as his colleagues were insisting that such talk was treason.

    I don’t like the guy, either, but it’s not hard to figure out that he’s made a habit of calling ’em like he sees ’em, even when his party is trying to shut him up.

  42. “And McCain showed that he hates the free speech rights of Americans so much that he even hates pro-McCain speech.” Or maybe he was trying to be consistent, you know? I’m not sure how to inform you guys that most folks that are for campaign finance reform see themselves as making average folks speech rights MORE effective. See, if we allow everyone to give a million dollars to candidates, me and you can’t give that anyway, so that’s not “freedom” to us. In fact, if the millionaire down the street in the gated community gives that million then his message get’s blurted much, much louder than our 100 dollar contribution. If we limit contributions to 100 then again, you and I’f freedom has been affected not at all, since that was what we could afford anyway. We’ve also INCREASED the effectiveness of our spending relative to the millionaires (and overall). And yes, we’ve limited that millionaire. Screw him.
    Now, maybe you still disagree. But that is how campaign finance reformers think, not “God I hate speech rights.”

  43. Mr. Nice Guy:

    There is absolutely no allowance in case law for campaign finance reform to equalize speech. The SCOTUS has authorized campaign finance reform for one reason and one reason only: to eliminate impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. [They were wrong to do even that, but that’s the current state of case law we have to work with here.]

    How does the pro-McCain speech being undertaken by independent actors in South Carolina create impropriety or the appearance of impropriety? It doesn’t. And actually, McCain is in a better position than anyone to know that, since we can presume he knows if he’s been bribed by these guys or not. With no issue of impropriety to deal with, the only reason for McCain to denounce these guys is hatred of free speech. There can be no other reason.

    And as for why I care: I have never run a political radio ad. I have no desire, currently, to run a political radio ad. But John McCain wants it to be a criminal act for me to want to walk down to the radio station and pay to run a political ad, if he thinks I’m doing it on the wrong day. And I’d gladly beat his worthless old coot ass with a hammer if he tried to enforce such a law on me.

  44. To think that a man who didn’t crack in a Vietnamese prison camp, cracked after a smear campaign in South Carolina, it is just really sad.

    He *did* crack in Vietnam, by his own admission & record.

  45. Brian
    Breyer for one has talked about limits on wealthy speech being justified by the contribution to “active liberty” (he mentions public confidence but also making others participation more effective), and people thought his ideas may have moved the Court towards the deference found in McConnell.Either way I was telling you what many campaign finance reformers argue, not necessarily what SCOTUS case law on the subject it.

  46. McCain ought close out his career w/

    “I tried to be faithful to our articles of depredation; but there came a limit”

  47. This is stomach churning but the kiss-ass dreck you are constantly writing about Ron Paul isn’t? At least McCain isn’t receiving huge portions of his campaign money from antisemitic bigots and nutjobs who think the US government destroyed the Twin Towers.

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