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At the L.A. Weekly, Matt Welch looks at the unlikely resurrection of John McCain's campaign.

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  1. “Here’s the funny thing about independent voters: They still love John McCain, think he’s a straight talker. No matter how many times he claims to run a positive-only campaign on the same day he releases an attack ad; no matter how many ways he violates the spirit of his own campaign-finance legislation (do yourself a favor and Google “The Reform Institute”); no matter how unconvincingly he stammers his way through wanting to make permanent the same tax cuts he eviscerated in 2001 and 2003; no matter how inaccurately he slimes Romney and others for insufficient support of “our troops”; no matter how many immigration bills bearing his name he now opposes; and no matter how many times he confesses to manipulative, ambition-driven lies in his own damned books, independents still come out for their maverick – 42 percent of them in open-primary South Carolina, and 39 percent in New Hampshire.”

    Any sour grapes there Matt?

  2. McCain is every bit the festering boil on the ass of American politics you say he is Matt. But I think it unlikely He’ll beat HRC in the general election. Especially if, as it now appears, the Taliban re-open for business in Afghanistan.

  3. McCain says “I hate the gooks” much more recently than the newsletters that weren’t written by Paul…why no articles on McCain beign a racist?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/02/18/MN32194.DTL

  4. Matt, do you think those independent voters who seem to be under the delusion that McCain is somehow anti-war will wake up during the general election?

  5. Any sour grapes there Matt?

    Oh hell no, there isn’t. It’s certainly in my personal interest that anti-war, anti-Bush and independent voters continue to prefer John McCain by 2 to 1 in the primaries. But it’s also in my professional interest to help them understand who they’re voting for.

  6. I think it unlikely He’ll beat HRC in the general election.

    Nice capital “H”.

    Hillary would certainly rally disaffected conservatives to hold their noses….

  7. Matt, do you think those independent voters who seem to be under the delusion that McCain is somehow anti-war will wake up during the general election?

    First, don’t discount the possibility that many of them know McCain’s record perfectly well, but they just kinda like him. Second, if Obama wins the nomination the (nine-month) election will largely be about the War, so yes, I think people will have a bit better of an idea. If Hillary wins, who knows?

  8. I don’t get why people like him. His speeches are so lackluster. It will be fun to have McCain drinking games though. Phrases to watch for-

    “My friends”
    “Transcendent challenge”
    “white flag of surrender”

  9. McCain says “I hate the gooks” much more recently than the newsletters that weren’t written by Paul…why no articles on McCain beign a racist?

    Because he was talking about a discrete group of people — his Vietnamese captors, who tortured and humiliated him in prison for more than 5 years — and not the Vietnamese nation as a whole. You might note that just yesterday (I think it was) he received a slew of endorsements from the Vietnamese-American community. He was also instrumental — foundational, even — in restoring full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, and opening up a U.S. embassy there.

    It’s my judgment, reviewing his career and his writings, that racism — either exuding it, or consciously appealing to it, or having it appealed to in his name — is not part of his modus operandi. In fact, hostility to racism has informed some of his behavior and decisions over the years, for both good and ill.

  10. “Oh hell no, there isn’t. It’s certainly in my personal interest that anti-war, anti-Bush and independent voters continue to prefer John McCain by 2 to 1 in the primaries. But it’s also in my professional interest to help them understand who they’re voting for.”

    Maybe they know exactly who he is and they just don’t agree with you? Isn’t it possible that some people are anti-war in the sense that they disagree with the invasion of Iraq but don’t see leaving now as a good option? Or perhaps they are smart enough or cynical enough to think that neither party is going to leave Iraq in 2009 so it really doesn’t matter what any individual candidate thinks about it. You seriously can’t be saying that there is anyone in this country who doesn’t know that John McCain is for the war? This is McCain’s second Presidential Campaign. He is nothing if not a known commodity.

    The fact is Matt, they just don’t agree with you. In fact, I think the vitriol being directed against McCain by the ideologues on the Libertarian and Corporate Right represented by Reason and National Review is probably helping him with independents. Most people don’t like ideologues and they figure a guy with those kinds of enemies can’t be that bad.

  11. Isn’t it more than just the libertarian and corporate right though John? For example, Rush Limbaugh et al.

  12. So Matt, you’re saying that if Ron Paul had been mugged by a fleet-flooted criminal of African-American descent, and was endorsed by others of African-American descent, and that hostility towards racism informs his policy decisions, then you shouldn’t have reported on the old ghostwritten newsletters?

    The last two of your moral criteria are met. He is endorsed by people of all races and his opposition to racist and racial-collective policies is well known. But I guess his lack of victimization justified Reason’s “me too” coverage of the newsletters.

  13. “Isn’t it more than just the libertarian and corporate right though John? For example, Rush Limbaugh et al.”

    I would put Rush in with NRO. I think most of the hostility from National Review and Rush and like has more to do with childish personal grudges than McCain. As much as I like to pick on Matt Welch, he at least has legitimate ideological reasons to dislike McCain. I think the rest of the rightwing media really doesn’t or to the extent it does has no less of a reason to dislike McCain than they do Romney. National Review will run third hand un sourced accounts of McCain throwing a fit in a Senate cloak room over a judicial nominee he ended up supporting as evidence of McCain not being trustworthy on judges but then totally ignore Romeny’s very checkered record of judicial appoints while governor of Massachusetts. For the National Review crowd, McCain has been rude to them and they have personal grudges against him. The whole reaction by the rightwing media about McCain is driven by childish personal grudges as much as anything. It makes them look a lot like the KOS people.

  14. Maybe they know exactly who he is and they just don’t agree with you?

    John, see the comment directly above that.

  15. Because he was talking about a discrete group of people — his Vietnamese captors, who tortured and humiliated him in prison for more than 5 years — and not the Vietnamese nation as a whole.

    Uh huh. Somehow I doubt you’d give the same consideration to someone who called one, specific, say street mugger, the N-word — even if that person later had working relationships with the black community.

  16. Looks like Brandybuck beat me to it.

  17. “First, don’t discount the possibility that many of them know McCain’s record perfectly well, but they just kinda like him.”

    That is what is going on. Further, most people are very cynical and don’t beleive politicians anyway. They are therefore not bothered by his pro-war stance since they don’t believe the Democrats when they say they are going to end the war. Also, I think his temper helps him. Most people don’t like journalists and politicians and enjoy someone who kicks them around. All of the National Review shilling for Romney about McCain being a volcano is just helping him.

  18. I think you miss the point. Its not Ron Paul’s personal beliefs. Hes not a racist. Its the fact that he keeps company with shady characters who ARE racist, and he apparently doesn’t vet what they do in his name.

  19. So Matt, you’re saying that if Ron Paul had been mugged by a fleet-flooted criminal of African-American descent, and was endorsed by others of African-American descent, and that hostility towards racism informs his policy decisions, then you shouldn’t have reported on the old ghostwritten newsletters?

    McCain was talking about a limited group of people — his captors — and not the Vietnamese race as a whole, and his comments were not part of a deliberate outreach program to excite and organize anti-Vietnamese sentiment.

    What’s more, there isn’t (to my knowledge) anything useful for me or us to add or improve on or contextualize from those 2000 San Francisco Chronicle and Nation stories; nor have there been any readers (besides point-scoring Paul supporters furious at our newsletter coverage) who have urgently requested further investigation into McCain calling his ex-captors “gooks.”

  20. Most people don’t like journalists and politicians and enjoy someone who kicks them around.

    McCain seeks the favor of mainstream journalists possibly more than any other modern Republican politician.

  21. x,y,

    I hereby cite the example of Robert Byrd and joe’s defense of same.

    Not to jump on joe, but he does excuse Byrd’s past racism because of his work with the black community since. Penance seems to be the key. Byrd has it from the left, McCain has it in the MSM, and Paul doesn’t seem to get it from anyone except the vocal minority.

    (This is in no way intended to re-ignite the tired-ass cosmotarian bullshit. Nor does it change my mental nickname of McCain: Grandpa AngryPants.)

  22. I hereby cite the example of Robert Byrd

    There is just an enormous gap between being a former Klansmen, and being someone who calls his own torturers — and no one else — “gooks.” I don’t cite McCain’s post-Vietnam (and pre-Vietnam) works and statements as some kind of penance, but rather as context for why I don’t think he is a racist, or has ever had a pander-to-racists strategy. I am, of course, eager to learn of any evidence to the contrary.

  23. Matt,

    We don’t disagree. I was more refuting the “nobody forgives racism” angle.

    McCain seems to have no animus toward Southeast Asians and I was not making an equivalence between Byrd and McCain.

  24. Oddly enough, as much as public figures are under microscopic scrutiny, they are simultaneously allowed to get away with most things we catch them doing. Lies, low-level corruption (low level to the extent that we can see it, anyway), inconsistent positions, pandering, immoral behavior, etc., etc. just seems to get ignored or “spun” away. It’s our willingness to allow this that accounts for a lot of the problems we have. And which is why I drone on and on about adding the Office of the Censor to the federal government. Removal from government should be easy to do, not hard, and the presumption of guilt wouldn’t be a bad starting place ?

    That’s a roundabout way of saying that Matt should abuse McCain now and abuse him a second time when he gets elected to the presidency. Sure, some of his criticisms may be invalid or incomplete, but plenty of them are accurate enough. McCain has some virtues, but he’s also a little frightening.

  25. Somehow I doubt you’d give the same consideration to someone who called one, specific, say street mugger, the N-word

    Totally true. Because there’s a substantial difference between, say, being mugged by a black guy in DC (as I was during my first visit here, on Election Night 2000, no less!), and being humiliated and tortured for 5 and a half years by communist Vietnamese prison guards while voluntarily serving in the U.S. military.

    And there’s a difference between extrapolating about an entire race based on limited experience, and not.

  26. Actually, come to think of it, McCain would make a pretty good Censor if we had that office. You need a grumpy old guy in there.

  27. Cesar,

    It’s funny, but I was just thinking that the other day. I’ve always pictured a panel of censors, rather than just one guy, but McCain certainly is crotchety enough. On the other hand, is he really an ethical and moral paragon? The Censor should probably be one of those, too, and I fear that McCain may be lacking.

  28. tortured for 5 and a half years by communist Vietnamese prison guards

    Why does he choose to condemn the “Vietnamese” characteristic of his captors first, rather than the “communist”? Isn’t the fact that he chooses to see them as “gooks” first, “commies” second, somewhat revealing? After all they were our enemies because they were communist, not because they were Vietnamese.

  29. Pro, I would include Mike Gravel as a possibility as well using that standard. Hes old, hes grumpy, and hes pissed off.

  30. “McCain seeks the favor of mainstream journalists possibly more than any other modern Republican politician.”

    Yeah but perception is reality. People percieve him as his own person and not a suck up. That is why I think his critics railing against him for lack of ideological purity helps him. Further, you may disagree with McCain, but he is what he is. I think most people will take that over Romney, someone who tells them what they want to hear.

  31. “The year was 1968. We were on recon in a steaming Mekong delta. An overheated private removed his flack jacket, revealing a T-shirt with an ironed-on sporting the MAD slogan “Up with Mini-skirts!”. Well, we all had a good laugh, even though I didn’t quite understand it. But our momentary lapse of concentration allowed “Charlie” to get the drop on us. I spent the next three years in a POW camp, forced to subsist on a thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk, and four kinds of rice. I came close to madness trying to find it here in the States, but they just can’t get the spices right!”

  32. What’s more, there isn’t (to my knowledge) anything useful for me or us to add or improve on or contextualize from those 2000 San Francisco Chronicle and Nation stories

    What was there useful to improve on and or contextualize from those old Ron Paul ghostwritten newsletters? Sure, you had to report it. But then you (Reason) kept on reporting it, over and over. What possible contextualization was there in the repetition?

  33. All of this mainstream media love for McCain will come to an abrupt end at the exact moment that both nominations are decided.

    I certainly would have to tune out of the months on end of Hillary vs. McCain nastiness, but watching those two vipers attack each other in the debates might be entertaining reality TV. I see them as essentially two sides of the same coin, with the difference that McCain might have trouble making it through a single term.

  34. Brandybuck — But we *didn’t* keep reporting on it. Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez wrote a great piece that was of use to a lot of people here (we can agree to disagree about that), and there was maybe one other bit of additional reported info on the blog (the split between the Paul campaign and his congressional office, IIRC), but that’s about it.

    There was a burst of individual (and varied) reaction here the week the newsletters surfaced, including a column from Jacob Sullum about why he’s still supporting Paul, and a post of Brian Doherty embracing Voltairian tolerance, and since then there just hasn’t been that much.

    We’re continuing to report & comment on the Paul campaign, and on other matters, and I think it’s just wrong to characterize that stuff in any way as newsletter-obsessed, let alone anti-Paul.

  35. All of this mainstream media love for McCain will come to an abrupt end at the exact moment that both nominations are decided.

    I think the media will prefer McCain to Hillary.

  36. “I think the media will prefer McCain to Hillary.”

    REally? On what basis do you say that? I can’t see the media ever prefering a Republican do a Democrat. I would be very curious to hear why you think that.

  37. On what basis do you say that? I can’t see the media ever prefering a Republican do a Democrat. I would be very curious to hear why you think that.

    It’s a gut feeling, admittedly, but recall that I was working in the belly of the MSM three months ago.

    McCain inspires palpable enthusiasm in newsrooms, for several reasons — he’s a gen-u-ine war hero, he kicks Republicans in the nuts, he shares ed boards’ takes on a number of issues they find important (campaign finance, torture, global warming), he gives them flattering attentions; and, importantly, he shares their basic brain patterns. See problem. FIX problem! The actual details don’t matter, and there’s little if any sense of restraint on what the guvmint should and shouldn’t do.

    Clinton? Remember that the Washington media, at least, really did not like the Clintons, from the git-go. There might be a wave of ’90s nostalgia right now (which I share), but that ain’t for Hill. She has none of his charm and political genius, and I’ve just never heard a newspaper employee go on about how much they like her (as opposed to, say, Obama or McCain).

    Check out the tenor of the competing newspaper endorsements — first of all, McCain has a much higher percentage than Hillary; second of all, they gush over him while clench their teeth for her.

  38. “I certainly would have to tune out of the months on end of Hillary vs. McCain nastiness, but watching those two vipers attack each other in the debates might be entertaining reality TV.”

    The Clintons have played the gender and race card, get ready for them to play the “age” card.

  39. After all they were our enemies because they were communist, not because they were Vietnamese.

    Exactly. He’s out of touch if he doesn’t know how extremely offensive that word is, but apparently he can get away with it.

  40. “he kicks Republicans in the nuts”

    The MSM may like McCain kicking Republicans in the nuts, but they won’t like McCain kicking a Democrat in the #@^%$.

  41. I think the media does have a strange attraction to McCain. Remember, while many journalists may have leftwards leanings, they’re like us in preferring someone who seems like more of a straight shooter (even if he really isn’t) than the usual crowd. And, of course, they like the idea of a president who will make a good story. Clinton is a re-run, and I’ll wager that few Democrats are in the throes of fanatical zeal when they think of her. Unlike Obama, who does have some true fans (for whatever reason).

  42. When a journalist asked McCain about his use of the word “gook,” McCain said, “Yes, and I’ll call them that again. ‘Gook’ is the only word to describe the animals who torture people.”
    That’s why it’s not an issue, because people can understand the anger and bitter resentment of a man who went through five years of torture.

  43. “Clinton is a re-run”

    I have no desire to see a repeat of that soap opera.

  44. Herman the German,

    Nor do I.

  45. I’ll wager that few Democrats are in the throes of fanatical zeal when they think of her.

    There are plenty of Democrats who worship the ground she walks on. A lot of it breaks down on the basis of age group. On the other hand, Matt might be right about the reaction in the newsrooms. There does seem to be increasing skepticism about the Clintons in that corner.

    Herman makes a good point about what happens when McCain starts attacking Democrats, though. Hillary is quite adept at playing the victim card, and the media ate that shit right up in New Hampshire, didn’t they? Look for Billy Boy to be sent on a long slow cruise after the nomination is sewn up.

  46. Oh, and just so everyone knows, I will not vote for any of the four remaining “major” candidates. The LP just started looking a whole lot better recently.

  47. “‘Gook’ is the only word to describe the animals who torture people.”

    Wow. It was 25 years ago at the time. You’d think that in 25 years he’d have been able to think up a word that isn’t a racist insult to a quarter of the earth’s population. Frankly, I have to wonder at the stability of someone whose thinking works like that.

  48. “I don’t get why people like him.”

    Perhaps it’s a grandfather image.

  49. The phenomenon of independent antiwar voters supporting McCain recalls the Cato study by Ilya Somin that reveals that most voters are ignorant of what they’re voting for.

    How big of a role does the Reform Institute play with McCain? Is it his child or is he following the wishes of its supporters (Soros, Carnegie, the PROTEUS Fund (snicker), etc)?

  50. It amazes me that someone who works alongside the Democratic propaganda machine could possibly believe they will support McCain over a Dem, any Dem, Matt. Even if they despise the Clintons, the msm is going to do everything in their power to elect the Democrat, every time.

  51. “Hillary would certainly rally disaffected conservatives to hold their noses….”

    I can’t picture any conservatives voting for Hillary. I think they would be much more likely to hold their noses and vote for McCain.

  52. Perhaps it’s a grandfather image.

    People just love nasty, smirking grandfathers.

    I confess, the basis for his appeal escapes me, too. He combines the charisma-free clunkiness of Dubya with the Washington Insider stench of Bob Dole.

  53. Italics off. I can work the Internet real good.

  54. You seriously can’t be saying that there is anyone in this country who doesn’t know that John McCain is for the war?

    I’d bet money that most people in this country know very little about McCain beyond his status as a former prisoner of war. I’d even bet money that over a third of the adults in this country couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.

  55. “I can’t picture any conservatives voting for Hillary. I think they would be much more likely to hold their noses and vote for McCain.”

    I think that’s what Welch meant.

  56. Shorter Welch:

    It’s OK to call a few people “g***s” if they tortured you for a few years.

    It’s not OK to called a few people “n*****s” regardless of the circumstances.

  57. mccain uses racist words like Gook and has even been quoted using them….ROn Paul has not….ROn Paul was a flgiht surgeon…he had to deal with dying men killed by vietmanese…yet he doesn’t go around soundign like a racist. In fact he still fights against communism while McCain fights FOR Communism(the income tax and central banks and federal departement of education all being central planks of the communist agenda). McCain also fights against freedom of speech…I’d really like to hear him distance himself from these xenophobic “gook haters” and at least give him the opportunity to denounce communism instead. no way I can respect a president who fights for communism and is a a racist self described “gook hater”. I’d also love to hear his take on the USS Liberty and why his dad thought it was peachy for LBJ to order that a hundred americans be allowed to be slaughtered.

  58. How big of a role does the Reform Institute play with McCain? Is it his child or is he following the wishes of its supporters

    It’s his baby, through and through, and serves also as a way to keep his campaign staff employed between elections. See this, then follow the links here.

  59. It’s not OK to called a few people “n*****s” regardless of the circumstances.

    I recognize that I’m fighting a losing game even continuing this discussion, but believe it or not I have no interest in being the world’s Speech Cop. I found the old newsletters to be more retarded than anything else, and I thought it was interesting that for a few years there he was pocketing good money by having a newsletter operation that was part of a conscious Redneck Outreach program.

    It was more (and different) than just yelling the N-word at a street mugger, and it was something many reason readers wanted to know more about. This does not equal a desire to hunt down every uttered slur and declare its author “racist” (a term I’ve never personally called Ron Paul, and rarely use in any case). I suppose you either get that, or you don’t.

  60. Clinton? Remember that the Washington media, at least, really did not like the Clintons, from the git-go. There might be a wave of ’90s nostalgia right now (which I share), but that ain’t for Hill. She has none of his charm and political genius, and I’ve just never heard a newspaper employee go on about how much they like her (as opposed to, say, Obama or McCain).

    I wonder if what McCain himself loses in the Social Conservative Wing of the Party, Hillary rejuvinates. He may have that hardcore 20-30% that are unwaivering on the war, but I can’t picture him getting elected. Hillary’s record will outshine his, and that’s a sad fact. She’ll talk about how we need to solve the healthcare crisis. McCain will talk about being the only one fit to lead this country.

    I just don’t think the Politics of Fear will win this one. I think the domestic issues will be the focus of this election. Foreign Policy, which McCain will make his centerpoint, will cost him moderate votes. Also, McCain can’t really talk about the issues. I think in the presidential debates he’d get his ass handed to him. Just watch the recent debate in California.

    any takers on that?

  61. I have no interest in being the world’s Speech Cop

    I don’t either, but I find McCain’s flippancy in this “issue”–were it ever to be raised up to such–to be rather callous. And out of date: I wonder if he still laughs at buck teeth and taped-back eyes. It’s even a politically stupid move. Asians are a significant and growing demographic in most parts. They’re not so easy to brush off any more.

  62. I don’t either, but I find McCain’s flippancy in this “issue”–were it ever to be raised up to such–to be rather callous. And out of date: I wonder if he still laughs at buck teeth and taped-back eyes.

    As I recall, in Faith of My Fathers McCain actually criticizes his own dad (if not grandpa as well) for working up a race-based “hate” for the enemy. He also cops to his own indulgence on that front as well, and expresses regret. If I have time, I’ll prepare a blog post that touches on & quotes from these things.

  63. I wonder if what McCain himself loses in the Social Conservative Wing of the Party, Hillary rejuvinates.

    That, Mr. John Q. Public, is the $64 zillion question.

    If you read the comment sections in the conservative blogosphere over the last few days, you’d have to say no. But several months’ worth of media blather about Hillary might change things.

    One of the conservative ‘themes’ at the moment is that a President Hillary Clinton would serve as a wakeup call and reunite the movement in a way that a GOP win this year wouldn’t. Sort of like saying the lessons of 1993-94 need to be relearned.

  64. I found the old newsletters to be more retarded than anything else, and I thought it was interesting that for a few years there he was pocketing good money by having a newsletter operation that was part of a conscious Redneck Outreach program.

    “Retarded,” eh?

  65. McCain: Nixon without the sweat…

  66. Oh My god …matt welch and the cosmos are biggoted against low IQ people…throwing around the reta**** word…I’ve been reading mises.org text and articles on lew rockwell .com fro 10 years and I’ve never seeen them once use the retar* slur…nor the other racist words you accuse them of using…It looks like we need an explanation from reason …they should hold a press conference to distance themselves from such unexcusable language. if not then they are biggots…we alredy know they defend the usage of the word goo* in describign asians…Unbelievable!

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