Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

PERIMORTEM: The Legacy of John McCain

Desperation to resurrect his increasingly hopeless Presidential aspirations has led John McCain to press his divisive rhetoric even further beyond the pale: associating Barack Obama with the specter of socialism. Consequently, he has fueled the irrational fears of his less than reality based supporters to such an extent that they equate Obama with terrorism, with treason, and with the bizzaro belief that the Democratic nominee is somehow a danger to the Nation. Fostering an atmosphere of anxiety and anger may likely earn McCain a place in history alongside the likes of Joe McCarthy.  Whatever honor lies extant in him has suffered under the yoke of his blind ambition.


How will history judge John McCain?  As the son of a public high school History teacher, I was taught to look to the past when seeking to learn about our present–and our future.


The year was 1860.  A day after the election of Abraham Lincoln, the pro-Southern Washington Constitution predicted:

…gloom and storm and much to chill the heart of every patriot in the land…We can understand the effect that will be produced in every Southern mind when he reads the news this morning-that he is now called on to decide for himself, his children, and his children’s children whether he will submit tamely to the rule of one elected on account of his hostility to him and his, or whether he will make a struggle to defend his rights, his inheritance, and his honor.

Such was the rhetoric that preceded the Civil War.  To my mind, the divisive tone of today’s Republican ticket is nearly as nasty.  Sarah Palin, McCain’s “mavericky” choice as running mate tells us that some parts or the United States are patriotic, while others are not. The intended message is clear: if you don’t love McCain (and by proxy the Republican agenda du jour), you don’t love your country.  Rep. Michele Bachmann took the message to heart, extending the suspicion beyond the electorate to those elected to represent our interests in Congress:

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed on Friday that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle held anti-American views and couldn’t be trusted in the White House. She even called for the major newspapers of the country to investigate other members of Congress to “find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”

Not only does this kind of rhetoric add to a cultural climate that has long stultified our politics and corrupted our discourse, it has inflamed the discordant wounds of racial and social intolerance–traumas the United States longs to heal, or ought to.  We’ve seen a malicious attempt to race bait by a troubled McCain volunteer. Aides to the McCain/Palin campaign in Pennsylvania aggressively pushed the mutilation hoax long before the reality of the story had taken shape.

For John McCain and Sarah Palin, Country First is but an empty slogan.  What’s worse, the toxic atmosphere they embrace is now leading to actual violence. Most recently, the ugliness that the McCain/Palin campaign has cultivated became apparent at a McCain event in Florida.

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that’s what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.


“People were screaming ‘Terrorist!’ ‘Communist!’ ‘Socialist!'” Sorando said when we caught up with him. “I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me.”

Asked what had precipitated the event, “We were just chanting ‘Obama!’ and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy.”

We’ve seen McCain’s Get off my lawn! message carried to the extreme, when an Ohio man fired his rifle at a trio of teenagers who intended to molest his McCain yard sign.  

Kenneth Rowles, 50, was charged with felonious assault in connection with the Saturday afternoon incident, which resulted in one boy suffering a minor bullet wound. According to a Warren Township Police Department report, Patrick Wise, 16, yelled, “This is for Obama” as he knocked over the McCain sign. Wise’s cousin, Kyree Flowers, 17, was waiting in the passenger seat of the SUV, which was struck by three bullets fired by Rowles. One bullet hit Flowers in the arm, while another shattered the passenger’s and driver’s side windows. Rowles, pictured in the above mug shot, claimed in a police interview that he “shot three times attempting to scare the subjects.”

John McCain, it seems, believes that the cultural war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam–a war over race and religion–is one that should be intensified.  He has staked his hopes on the notion that voters will choose to prolong a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America, and at time when the world needs it most.  Country First?  I’m reminded of a poem by Walt Whitman:

I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;  

I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;

I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;

I see the wife misused by her husband–I see the treacherous seducer of young women;

I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid–I see these sights on the earth;

I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny–I see martyrs and prisoners;

I observe a famine at sea–I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;

All these–All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,  

See, hear, and am silent.

John McCain is no reformer.  He is no “Maverick”.  Today, John McCain stands silent.  This is how history will remember him.


  1. I’m going to reread it now. I have only one additional quite scary thought.

    McCain will be seen as a footnote to the demonic rise of Sarah Palin, the new McCarthy of US politics.  

  2. sricki

    This sort of negative campaigning and fear-mongering is especially dangerous. This isn’t like the Swift Vets or even Willie Horton. This creates an oppressive atmosphere of fear, riles the tempers of the worst elements of our society. And the sort of violence it could spark is appalling to imagine.

    History will not be kind to John McCain.

  3. NavyBlueWife

    I am not worthy of such excellent and smart compadres, but I am humbled to be a baby moose among MOOSE!

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