A few nights ago John McCain treated us all to a masterful concession speech. He was gracious, articulate, noble – he said all the right things and struck all the right chords as the nation and his party look toward the future in the wake of an epic statement on the part of the American electorate.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering: where the hell was this guy for the last several months?
I always marvel at the civility of concession speeches. Your opponent spends months degrading your character, questioning the legitimacy of your parentage, slandering you, your momma, your horse and everyone you ever passed in the street, fabricating the most staggering and colorful lies imaginable, and then when the votes are in he extends his hand like you’d been trading good-natured barbs over the monthly potluck in the church fellowship hall.
You – the slanderee – then take the opportunity to tell us all what a great guy your opponent is and how goddamned lucky we are to have such a great fucking American in our midst.
This sort of civility is probably preferable to dragging his punk ass into the parking lot and administering the righteous nard-stomping he deserves, I suppose. I mean, sure, it always makes for fun TV when WrestleMania breaks out on the floor of Parliament in Southeast Goatfuckistan, but in the grand scheme of things that’s not how lasting democratic traditions are forged.
Still – you have to be kidding, right?
The candidates may feel bound by a code of etiquette that would chafe the nipples off of Louis Quatorze, but there’s no reason for us to canonize St. McCain just yet. The man ran what was arguably the dirtiest, most hateful campaign in recent presidential history, and while we don’t have much of a record of racist campaigns per se (lacking, as we do, any meaningful history of non-white presidential candidates), his electioneering certainly set a daunting standard for those who will find themselves up against minority candidates in the future.
McCain was not worthy of Obama’s graciousness and his own remarks forged new frontiers in hypocrisy. The fact is that McCain’s carefully crafted and meticulously fluffed image – the hard-charging, America-first, convention-be-damned maverick – was always a fiction. We should not allow our intelligence to be further insulted by suggestions that this now-thoroughly-discredited relic of a dead age has some honorable and critical role to play in helping us dig out of the hole he and his cronies spent the last quarter of a century or more digging us into.
I know America is big on forgiveness – a little too big, for my taste. But in this case, can we at least withhold absolution until he repents? A few pretty words shouldn’t distract us from the fact that, politically speaking, John McCain is holding a blood-soaked chainsaw and standing amidst a pile of body parts.
McCain wasn’t the only dirty campaigner out there, either. Voters in Colorado’s 4th District called home Marilyn Musgrave, one of the vilest weasels to ever slither into DC. Musgrave’s campaign made sure that no lie went untold, and if you want a sense for how appalling her ads were, understand that she lost by 12% in a district that would sooner vote for bin Laden than a Democrat.
Then there’s Elizabeth Dole, who’d better hope that there’s no god. Or that if there is, He’s nothing like the one she professes to believe in. Otherwise, she’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do come Judgment Day.
I haven’t checked to see if the Guinness Book tracks world records for bearing false witness, but if they do, Liddy just blowed the former holder’s doors off. She told the citizens of North Carolina that a Sunday School teacher was part of some kind of shadowy conspiracy of godlessness and in doing so depicted a guy who taught college courses in Biblical Studies as one of the cabalists. A note, Liddy – next time you sell your soul, you might make sure you get something more for it than an embarrassing, very public ass-whipping.
I’d like to point out that in this election we saw some prominent cases of dirty tricks not paying off. Obama took the high road and McCain took the sewage ditch running alongside the low road, and for once the nobler route paid off. But I’m not so stupid as to expect those gearing up for 2010 to conclude that filthy campaigning doesn’t pay. More likely they’ll convince themselves that McCain (and Musgrave and Dole and all the other 2008 losers) simply didn’t play dirty enough.
Which brings me to Obama’s desire to forge a new, post-partisan spirit of political togetherness. I respect his sense that America has been too divided – my colleague Dr. Slammy has carped on this subject a time or two, in fact – but I think he needs to carefully consider the specific character of the unity we’re pursuing. For starters, I think Sen. Obama needs to step away from the nation’s euphoric post-election fuzzies and understand that he has a mandate here.
You’ll recall that in 2004 George Bush banked in a half-courter at the buzzer and interpreted the “lowest electoral vote count for an incumbent president’s re-election since 1916” as some kind of big honking license to do what the fuck ever he felt like doing. (And by all means, click that link and draw your own conclusions about the math skills of America’s media hacks.) If 286 electoral votes is a mandate, then what happened Tuesday must be approaching King-Hell Emperor of the Whole Damned World territory.
Instead, we’re hearing a lot of happy talk about reaching across the aisle, something that seems likely to benefit the very elements that America so soundly rejected at the polls. Sen. Obama, I’d advise you, were I one of your advisors, to remember what you have seen and heard from across the aisle over the last few months. Specifically:
- You’re not an American.
- You’re a terrorist.
- So is your wife.
- Your preacher hates America.
- And by the way, since you’re a Muslim he must not be your real preacher.
- You launched your campaign in the living room of a known terrorist.
- Shall I continue?
You want to be a uniter (not a divider), but let’s be clear about unity. Unity is, in and of itself, of limited value. Lemmings are marvelously unified as they run over the cliff, and if I recall correctly, Congress was strikingly unified in supporting Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
So make sure that you’re inviting the good folks on the other side of the aisle to your party – our party. They’re already looking for ways of kneecapping you and playing your inexperience to their advantage. Your good faith commitment to bipartisanship, if you lose sight of who elected you and why, may lead to some huge Republican celebrations four years from now.
So, please – let’s be careful that in reaching across the aisle you don’t get caught up in a grand reach-around, okay?