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No We McCain't: Part I No We McCain't: Part I
by N. L. Wilbur
2008-10-29 08:39:49
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I knew in my gut I was being lied to, conned, even manipulated into believing the campaign e-mail that offered free tickets to an event deceptively described as a political "rally."

mccainrallyi_400Anyone who's followed any part of the U.S. presidential campaign over the past two years knows that there is one candidate in particular -- an old, crotchety bastard whose sense of the political winds is about as heightened as a blood-sucking bat's sense of sight -- who somehow finds comfort, eight years later, in the stable albeit deceitful style of eye-gouging expert Karl Rove, who ruined John Kerry's bid for the presidency in 2004 and John McCain's attempt in 2000.

This season's candidate, ironically, is John McCain, and he has followed closely with Rove by launching character assassinations and hypocritical "socialist" claims -- even "terrorist" insinuations -- against his opponent the past month. Having seen some of the best and all of the worst from McCain down this last stretch toward Election Day, I've learned to question the truthfulness of his every word.

Being the skilled, thorough, fact-checking journalist I sometimes try to be, I returned home immediately after McCain's event Saturday and double-checked to see if it did indeed qualify as a "rally."

Read it here first: According to the dictionary -- a paper-bound one that even the computer illiterate John McCain could understand -- rallies are indeed meant to "rally" people, preferably a "large group" of people, usually in relation to a political cause, and hopefully with the end result of "inspiring and generating enthusiasm among those present."

Much to my chagrin, the definition did not include either pictures or average numbers of what constitutes an official "rally." After talking to a few former secretaries of state, a handful of highly reputable political analysts, and two of Albuquerque's most renowned fortune tellers, I concluded that it's very possible another word exists in the dictionary that better describes the type of event McCain hosted Saturday morning here in the center of the great swing state of New Mexico. I've narrowed the list to three: picnic, family reunion and 72-year-old's birthday party.

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My girlfriend and I hoped for some enthusiasm at this alleged "rally," but the most exciting moment came an hour before McCain ever got up from his makeup chair and stumbled to the lectern to address a crowd of half-asleep, wealthy, mostly out-of-state or rural-dwelling Republicans.

As we stood in line whispering about what we might expect from the geriatric old bastard, we overheard a 60-something cowboy, who was clad in leather boots, a Stetson hat and enough cologne to suffocate an elephant, making a comment on the length of the line. "'F'all these people vote, betcherass McCain'll win," he said

Simultaneously, Anita and I turned to each other in horror, then nearly fell over laughing. The man did an about-face and stared me down like a drill sergeant about to use a wire brush to wipe the grin off an insubordinate grunt's face.

I was reminded of earlier days, sitting in church with my best friend Stevie, who was Catholic. Everything was somehow gut-twistingly funny, but we were expected to be quiet and respectful, so we'd try our hardest to think of unfunny things, like church, and avoid the urge to burst into hysterics.

As the man glared, I felt the evil-eye of Stevie's angry grandmother returning, and I stood straight and bit my cheek as hard as I could.

"What'th hell you laughin' 'bout, Junior?" he asked.

Composing myself, I replied, "I just…um, I think maybe your crowd estimation is a bit more liberal than realistic."

He seemed puzzled by this, and I realized later when Anita noted my use of the word liberal, that his reaction likely stemmed from his mental struggle to put into context the word that in the past year has only been used in its political -- radical, socialist, extremist, Democrat-loathing -- sense.

Finally, after observing me head-to-toe and apparently abandoning any hope of finding meaning of my word choice, he said with a smirk, "Nice hair."

As Anita reached up to twirl a lock of my nearly shoulder-length hair, I added, "Keep hoping."

He finally let his anger show. "What?" he asked, a vein in his forehead protruding about as far out as the brim of his hat.

mccainrallyii_400"You think that if everyone here voted, McCain would win?"

"Well, there's a lotta people here."

"No offense, sir, but probably a third of this line -- including those guys with the Barack Obama stickers, pretty much that entire group there on the other side of the street, and my girlfriend and I, who came just to confirm that the gnome didn't look like a corpse just on TV -- we're all voting against your man. So by your numbers, and considering the sparse crowd here, that'd leave McCain with about 800 votes -- an estimate that doesn't even consider how much larger the line looks because ya'll brought your grandkids to this poor excuse for a campaign rally. And as you well know -- I assume you know this -- children cannot vote."

"Just stop it," his wife finally interjected. She too tried whispering, but we heard every word. "Don't engage those kinds of people," she said, avoiding eye contact.

I couldn't help myself. "Yeah. It's useless engaging with the people whose futures you're deciding in this election."

The couple stepped out of line and we never saw them again, which was rather surprising considering the puny size of the crowd.

That, folks, was the highlight of the McCain "rally" Saturday morning. And even official news reports will back me up on it.

----------

So there we were, waiting patiently to get through security in a line that lasted a trifling 13 minutes, and as we approached the gates, Anita and I continued to discuss our expectations for the event. I could bore even myself with a "McCain is scared shitlist" of things he's said in desperation to change the recent political winds, but I'll get to the point and note only what was not on our list: the odds that the Dustbowl State senator would include in his stump speech anything original, comprehensive or inspirational. Perhaps it was of the useless kind of hope, even for these vague possibilities, but we did it anyway, and before we knew it we were inside.

We saw right away that despite their frugality, the intellectual capacity of the McCain staffers failed to accurately estimate the support for their candidate. They scheduled the event inside a part of the fairgrounds that held a maximum 3,000 people, proving they were cognizant of their odds of winning New Mexico, but one could describe this picnic area as "packed" only if each attendee had brought with him or her an over-stuffed suitcase and a life-sized Teddy Bear. It was at least half empty, and although I'm sure the idealistic candidate would describe it as half full, either way I couldn't in good faith say that the McCain camp utilized its resources by choosing this rally location.

Media reports after the event said the Dustbowl State senator's message of "change" and "reform" in Washington "inspired and generated enthusiasm" in fewer than 1,500 people -- and perhaps only 1,000, according to some reports. With that kind of turnout, McCain could have saved a pretty penny by renting out my driveway -- not that I'd actually allow a self-entitled neo-con like him utilize my property, but you get my point.

mccainrallyiii_400There was a moment there, upon seeing the size of the crowd, when I turned giddy about the election. If this 450,000-population city is only capable of turning out a mere 1,000 people for a presidential candidate, whether they supported him or not, one has to wonder if this is any indication of what's happening elsewhere -- in Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio or Iowa. I hoped it was "any indication," and I prayed I would have nothing negative to write about America and its ignorance come Election Day, when, for the first time in a decade, we could vote for someone who is actually worthy of sitting in the great Oval Office, and who got there legally.

----------

Money, we know, is tight on the Republican's side. McCain has been left to toss quietly in the campaign fundraising dust ever since Obama realized that public financing was a drop in the bucket compared the profits he could make from T-shirt and button sales at rallies.

I have some sympathy for the old bastard's disadvantage when it comes to his ability to rile the masses, and raise money, but I was still disappointed, upon entering the picnic area, to hear a group of unpracticed "musicians" of a nameless cover band making embarrassments of themselves by attempting songs like "Doctor Doctor."

It was rather cheap to hire a no-hit-wonder of a band for an official campaign event, but I thought it was even cheaper that in the 40 minutes preceding McCain's teleprompted stump speech, the band played records more than half the time. Cheapest of all was that the band exercised poor, McCain-like judgment in choosing songs like Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" and "Highway to the Danger Zone," the latter of which is itself a good tune, but which reminded me of the movie Top Gun. That film, again, itself wasn't a bore, but it nonetheless drew a mental connection to the short, spoiled brat of a Navy pilot who played as the film's main character.

My mind wandered to other songs I might expect to hear. Perhaps Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," and as we were wandering around looking for a place to smoke, I began humming the diva's tune.

As "Danger Zone" played from a pair of probably donated Sony boombox speakers, Anita said, "This really could be McCain's theme song -- at least the Headin' into twilight part.'"

"Yeah," I said, "assuming whoever wrote it didn't publicly defile McCain for using it, like Heart, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp and the Foo Fighters did when the old fart tried to play their songs as his campaign theme."

It was my first and probably last defense of the Dustbowl State senator, and I was disgusted for making it, so I returned at once to Houston's "I Have Nothing" song, this time singing parts I could remember aloud: "Take me for what I am, cuz I'll never chaaange, all my coloooors for youuu…Take my love, I'll never ask for too much -- just all that you are, and everything that you dooooo. I don't really need to look very much farther, I won't hold it back again, this passion inside, can't run from myself, there's nowhere to hiiiiiiide…Stay in my aaaarms -- if you dare…Don't walk away from meeeee, I have nothing, nothing, NOTHING! if I don't…have…youuuuu-ouuuuuuuu, you-ouuu, youuuuuuu."

----------
As we walked freely through the picnic site, and by freely I mean there was no arm-brushing or any of the squeezed-in feelings you'd expect from an actual rally, we took our time observing the pockets of people spread out across the fairgrounds.

mccainrallyv_400"They look so bored," Anita remarked. She pointed at one old vet who had fallen asleep on a railing near the band. Behind the stage two dozen women sitting in the only partially filled "Country First" bleacher section were filing their nails. The rest were on their cell phones, beating their children or staring open-mouthed at the clouds.

The crowd -- pasty white, mostly retired and about as culturally diverse as a KKK cross-burning ceremony in post-Civil War Tennessee -- was more flaccid than an entire monastery of castrated monks.

We watched with much amusement as the man we deemed the official "campaign fluffer" ran wildly throughout the fairgrounds waving a "McCain-Palin" poster and screaming like a madman to chant, clap, sing, dance and hoist their children onto their shoulders.

This did not rouse the old vet asleep at the gate, but we did see a man wearing a "Liberalism Spawns Terrorism" cut-off tee hoist his son onto his shoulders after the fluffer passed by.

----------

It seemed like a lifetime before McCain finally arrived, and by my own account here, it feels like two lifetimes since I began. But so goes the life of politics. You wait in line to see it live, but you can watch hours of it on CSPAN without even waking from your nap.

When McCain came out, wobbled down the fenced-off runway like he was walking on a wooden leg, he shook hands with the group of fans sporting "Plumbers for McCain" T-shirts, made stiff-armed waves at photographers and scrunched his already-wrinkled face into a Nixon-esque smile for the crowd.

The three-foot-tall platform elevated the shrimp of a man to near eye level, and because the crowd lining the fence maxed out at two people deep, Anita and I were able to snag a close-up spot near the end of the runway. I begged her to hold out her hand toward the candidate for a photo, and although she promised initially to do so, she ultimately refused for fear of -- and I quote -- "having to actually touch the man."

Once he got on stage, the flaccid applause had fallen three points to the decibel level of an underground Egyptian tomb, and the senior citizen we'd all been waiting for finally began his speech: "My friends…"

He grilled Obama for his socialistic policies to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans and return tax rates for the rich to Clinton-era levels. He touted his unsocialistic plan to buy up all the "bad" mortgages in America at a cost of $3 billion. Having come from Arizona, he claimed to know about water, land and Native American issues, although the surface-level promise included no details whatsoever. And when he cited the liberal elite media pundits (and, in reality, the staunchly conservative ones too) who have written off his chances of producing even a respectable defeat come Nov. 4, McCain gave his signature line, "We've got 'em right where we want 'em."

mccainrallyvi_400As we listened, Anita looked at me as if to say our original plan to have no expectations ended up being a good plan to have. McCain delivered the same message he'd been reading from the teleprompter the past two weeks -- the same speech we'd read in the Associated Press reports from every major and minor city, town and village from California to Connecticut since August, when he really started dumping in the polls.

With that understanding, we therefore could not be disappointed in the Dustbowl State senator's rhetoric calling for less rhetoric, the desperate-toned claims that "We love bein' the underdog," or even the ill-fated "Sen. Obama is measuring the drapes" line, which George H.W. used before losing to Bill Clinton in 1992 and which George W. unsuccessfully used before Democrats took majority control of the House and Senate in 2006.

The best part of the whole day came during the parts I'd already memorized. It's a little trick I picked up, a side-effect of being a political junkie.

When McCain pounded his fist on the lectern and said "Barack Obama's tax policies will…" I cut him off and screamed as loud as I could: "PUT THE MIDDLE CLASS THROUGH THE RINGER!"

And when he said, "I'm going to make government live on a budget" I bellowed "JUST LIKE YOU DO."

When he took the poor-me tone in stating, "You know, we're behind in the polls a bit…" I couldn't help myself in screaming "BUT WE'VE GOT 'EM RIGHT WHERE WE WANT 'EM!" At the point in the prepared speech when he claimed "Sen. Obama wants to cut taxes for all but 2 percent of businesses," I impulsively barked, "THAT'S NOT AMERICA" -- even though had I been the speech-writer I would have said it's not American, as that would be proper English, even in America.

It was like watching a kindergarten version of Jeopardy, except the answers were half-truths at best, and the only way you could get them absolutely right was by ignoring the media's correction of the facts and memorizing the lines word-for-word as they'd been regurgitated by McCain each time before.

Despite my obvious mockery, the candidate seemed pleased with my participation, probably because I was the only one still awake by this point, and he threw me a round of thumbs-up after each outburst (although Anita still claims I was seeing the wrong finger).

----------

Although I initially intended to exercise my Constitutionally protected right to some all-American heckling, the low turnout, the cathartic feel of the crowd and the sense of sympathy I felt for McCain as he stumbled over the same words he'd rehearsed two dozen times in the past week -- all of these factors somehow took the excitement out of rousing the candidate.

Instead, when I got home -- which took 10 minutes because the traffic getting out of the parking lot was as congested as a funeral procession for Hitler -- I decided to voice my disdain by erecting a sign on my front lawn that read "No We McCain't."

Rather than dwell on the lost time, I looked on the bright side and decided to put stock in the possibility that later in the evening Obama would at least draw a New Mexico crowd large enough to constitute a true "rally.

He did not disappoint.

All photos by N.L. Wilbur


   
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Emanuel Paparella2008-10-29 09:04:09
Indeed, a sign on the office door of a colleague at Barry University here in Florida says it all: "I am too well informed to vote Republican." The lines of early voters are four hours around the block and they are mostly Democrats. Trickery will not work this time around. What did that Republican president Lincoln say? You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the times.


Asa2008-10-29 10:20:49
A great article; thanks for sharing it. I can't wait for the Obama rally article.


Alexandra Hussein Pereira2008-10-31 03:38:06
As Asa Hussein Butcher mentioned: great articles, both this one and the previous.

Keep them coming, brother N. L. Hussein Wilbur.


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