Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reading: Timothy Dickinson: "Make-Believe Maverick"

Rolling Stone contributing editor Timothy Dickinson has a cover story on John McCain this week that lines up every true story you've heard about the faux maverick--plus a few you might not have (did you know he's crashed three planes, not counting a fourth one that blew up, nearly sinking an aircraft carrier in the process?). The whole of his seamy, opportunistic career, assembled in ten pages, is greater than the sum of its overrated, self-serving parts.

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

Among the other questions Dickinson's article raises: Why do Republicans keep nominating mediocrities with daddy issues?

The article is going on the Reading list in the sidebar.

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