Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Is John McCain?

While we were all told growing up that anybody can become president, the reality is that most U.S. presidents have come from the upper class. Forbes says that John F. Kennedy and George Washington were among the superrich; only a couple, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were born poor.

John McCain’s campaign has been doing its best to present Barack Obama as an elitist, out of touch with ordinary people. Since McCain made the charge, isn’t it fair to ask the same questions about him?

Washington and Kennedy were able to shed the blinders of their social class and wealth enough to see and act in the best interests of rich and poor. Kennedy
put it well:
The Republicans "talk about their prosperity, but it is a prosperity for some, not for all. And it is an abundance of goods, not of courage. We have the most gadgets and the most gimmicks in our history, the biggest TVs and tailfins, but we also have the worst slums, the most crowded schools, and the greatest erosion of our natural resources and our national will. It will be for some an age of material prosperity, but it is also an age of spiritual poverty." March 28, 1960
John McCain soars around the country in his wife’s personal jet presenting himself as a regular guy who can empathize with Americans facing an overwhelming economic crush. McCain is a multimillionaire who owns ten luxurious homes. Frank Rich has
argued well that McCain is “the candidate we still don’t know.”
What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.
Voters need to have a sense about whether McCain can shed the blinders of his wealth to see and act on behalf of our country’s money-strapped majority.

I received a note from Robert Greenwald about a new
short video he has directed titled, The McCain Mansions. The video juxtaposes McCain’s wealth and his policies against the reality of a woman about to lose her home. Take a look at it see if you think John McCain is the regular guy he presents himself to be.

McCain doesn’t compare himself to JFK. With some pride he says with regularity, “I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” As Bob Herbert said in today’s New York Times

That’s about as elastic as the facts can get. In June, Mr. McCain (“We’re gonna drill here! We’re gonna drill now!”) got a big boost in donations from oil industry executives after he reversed course and came out strongly in favor of offshore drilling. A Washington Post headline pointedly said: “Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling.”

To put it mildly, that was not very Rooseveltian. Around the same time that the McCain campaign was pocketing its oil industry windfall, the historian Douglas Brinkley was poring over letters in which Roosevelt, running for his first full term as president in 1904, was indignantly ordering his campaign to return a $100,000 contribution from the Standard Oil Company…

Roosevelt believed passionately in regulating industry and curbing the excesses of the great corporations. He favored the imposition of an inheritance tax and fought his party’s increasing tendency to cater to the very wealthy. And, of course, he was a ferocious protector of the environment.

John McCain is no Teddy Roosevelt Republican. He sounds a lot more like George Bush than Teddy. Isn’t it time we find out who he really is?

- Milo

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