John McCain's Ideas Of A Role Model And The American Dream
When McCain first ran for the House, he won for two reasons: his father-in-law's great wealth and connections and his ability to exploit his POW status. McCain's father-in-law and his friends-- many of whom were criminals (as we will examine below)-- and not just the white collar kind, like Charles Keating who has bragged about bribing McCain. (McCain got far more from Keating than any of the other Keating 5. "Between 1982 and 1987, McCain had received $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates. In addition, McCain's wife Cindy McCain and her father Jim Hensley had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. McCain, his family, and their baby-sitter had made nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard Keating's jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.")
When McCain was challenged in his first race for being a carpetbagger and not living in the district, he viciously turned the tables on the Republican state legislator who had pointed it out by bringing up how he had been living at the Hanoi Hilton. It worked; even his opponent cried when he heard it! And he's never stopped milking it. In his 2002 book Worth the Fighting For, the ghost writer quotes McCain admitting: "Thanks to my prisoner of war experience, I had, as they say in politics, a good first story to sell." He's still selling it and hoping it will take him all the way to the White House.
I rarely pay any attention to Maureen Dowd but in yesterday's NY Times she told a story the media has been complicit in covering up: how McCain constantly manipulates audiences with his POW tales. McCain's "brutal hiatus in the Hanoi Hilton," she writes, "is one of the most stirring narratives ever told on the presidential trail-- a trail full of heroic war stories."
So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. His campaign is cheapening his greatest strength-- and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience-- by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor who married Jenna Bush and who is part of a new Christian-based political action committee supporting Obama, recently criticized the joke McCain made at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally encouraging Cindy to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. The McCain spokesman Brian Rogers brought out the bottomless excuse, responding with asperity that McCain’s character had been “tested and forged in ways few can fathom.”
When the Obama crowd was miffed to learn that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”
When Obama chaffed McCain for forgetting how many houses he owns, Rogers huffed, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years-- in prison.”
As Sam Stein notes in the Huffington Post: “The senator has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, he offered that his knowledge of music ‘stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile.’ ‘Dancing Queen,’ however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain’s plane was shot down.”
As for the crooked father-in-law, McCain tried using his military service to clobber his enemies yesterday too. When a reporter started straying into a place McCain doesn't like-- that, through marriage, he is a multi-millionaire and completely out of touch with the lives of everyday Americans, he got very defensive:
I am grateful for the fact that I have a wonderful life. I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair, and I know what it's like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation. Cindy's father, who barely finished high school, went off and distinguished himself in World War II in a B-17 and came back with practically nothing and realized the American dream, and I am proud and grateful for that, and I think he is a role model to many young Americans who serve in the military and come back and succeed.
“So the fact is that we have homes, and I'm grateful for it... I'll continue to say I am blessed and very proud that Jim Hensley, a war hero, a man who barely graduated from high school, was able to pass on to his daughter what he struggled for and saved for. That's the ambition that all of us have for our children and grandchildren. If someone wants to disparage that, they are free to do that."
Like McCain himself, Hensley was a crook and a cheat-- a role model? Maybe for gangsters and other Republicans who think the rules are for suckers. Phoenix's New Times put the myth about Hensley being a legitimate businessman to bed many years ago. The New Times story was more an investigation into why McCain gets more contributions from the liquor industry than anyone else in the Senate-- this year they've coughed up $384,110 for their boy and they've given him $644,630 since he was first elected-- but they went into the family history as well, and how Hensley started down the road to so many homes for his daughter as a gangster and bootlegger.
Until McCain dumped his first wife for Cindy he had never earned more than a respectable $45,000 a year. Now he claims a networth of $36 million, although Cindy's is several hundred million. The story "examines the roots of the Hensley fortune and John McCain's implacable bond to the liquor industry -- how it has enriched him personally and as a politician, and how those ties have dictated his actions on questions of public policy... The Hensley saga, meanwhile, swirls with bygone accounts of illicit booze, gambling, horse racing, deceit and crime. James Hensley embarked on his road to riches as a bootlegger... [A] 1948 federal criminal indictment charged, the Hensleys made approximately 1,284 false entries related to the sale of thousands of cases of liquor by their two companies-- United Sales Company in Phoenix and United Distributors in Tucson."
McCain's father-in-law was convicted on seven counts of filing false liquor records and on much more serious federal conspiracy charge. Hensley refused to testify and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. Strings were pulled and he didn't serve much time, even though he lost his appeal. Henlsey, the one McCain calls a role model, was a henchman for a bigtime mobster who had a reporter murdered and also took out a hit on then Arizona Attorney General Bruce Babbitt. It's amazing that national journalists cover this story up so thoroughly even though the car Hensley's boss had blown to bits (with the journalist inside) is on display in DC at the Newseum.
UPDATE: ON McCAIN'S QUALIFICATIONS
No one said it better than Roger Ailes.
The McCain campaign keeps emphasizing that McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam, as proof of his qualification for the Presidency.
Well, so was Gary Glitter, and I'm not voting for him either.