Friday, August 29, 2008

That Great Feminist John McCain

Let’s set aside that John McCain has consistently campaigned against abortion rights. Let’s ignore that he has opposed legislation requiring that women receive equal pay for equal work. And voted against a bill that would have provided $214 million in breast cancer research. And stood against a $9 million increase in funding for the Office for Violence Against Women. And even tried to defeat a law providing aid to children exposed to domestic violence.

Let’s even overlook that he insulted women’s intelligence by thinking that disaffected Hillary supporters would flock to the GOP because the presumptive Republican nominee chose the imminently unqualified Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate because she has a vagina.

The also fiercely anti-choice Palin, whose wafer-thin resume includes finishing second in an Alaska beauty pageant, serving two terms as mayor of Wasalia, Alaska (a speck on the map that serves as home to only 6,500 frozen people) and 20-months as governor of the also thinly populated Alaska, has not only opposed abortion but has supported hunting endangered polar bears and has fiercely denied the existence of global warming even as the ice sheets and glaciers of her state melt into a lukewarm puddle. Steve Doocy of Fox News argued that Palin has foreign relations chops because Alaska is so close to Russia. Other than that, her familiarity with world affairs seems limited to a late-night, beer-soaked game of Risk.

McCain obviously reasoned that the so-called PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) Clinton loyalists don’t care about the feminization of poverty, or the death of so many sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, or all those women and children allowed to drown in filth after Katrina, or the growing number of working families unable to pay the mortgage or the price tag for filling their gas tanks, or the crumbling of so many inner city public schools, or rising college tuitions, or the climbing number of women unable to obtain health insurance for themselves or their children, or that insurance companies won’t cover the cost of birth control pills but will cover purchases of Viagra.

To McCain, Hillary supporters don’t care about ideas or policies. It’s all about the genitals. Women, he thinks, will have no concern that this parochial rookie might be asked to serve as president should anything ill befall her 72-year-old running mate who has a history of skin cancer. And we’re supposed to believe that because of this glib appointment of a skirt-wearing political neophyte that McCain is somehow a soul mate of Susan B. Anthony or Betty Freidan.

This condescension should not be surprising to anyone familiar with the disreputable biography of McCain, who has been puffed as an honorable and decent man by a typically lazy and unimaginative mainstream media. Let’s review the record.

When McCain returned to the United States in 1973 after his famous five-year stint in a POW camp (where he landed after being shot down during a bombing mission killing innocent Vietnamese civilians), McCain encountered his once beautiful wife and former swimsuit model Carol, a woman whose car three years earlier skidded on an ice-coated road on a chilly Christmas Eve and collided with a telegraph pole.

The accident shattered her arm and pelvis and the original Mrs. McCain spent six months in the hospital as doctors removed huge chunks of bone from her legs, which cut down her once stately height and left her dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Requiring a catheter, Carol gained weight and her body was a collage of plates and screws. Friends say that McCain, who gained a reputation as a quick-zippered rake before his first marriage, and had bedded, according to the London Daily Telegraph a tobacco heiress and a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’” before his nuptials, was appalled by his wife’s change of appearance. While Texas computer bazillionaire Ross Perot funded Carol’s medical care as she learned again to walk, McCain resumed his habit of sleeping around.

It was then that McCain met a super-rich beer heiress, his current wife Cindy. While Carol struggled to escape the confines of a wheelchair, McCain caroused with Cindy all around the country. He asked Carol, who had patiently awaited his return during his five years as a POW, for a divorce. Cindy’s Rockefeller-sized fortune allowed McCain to feign generosity as he bought Carol’s silence, promising to fund her pricey medical care, leaving her their jointly-owned townhouse and agreeing to pay a respectable sum for alimony and childcare. By 1980, McCain married Cindy and moved to Arizona as his new father-in-law gave him a lucrative job and his new family provided him the contacts and the cash he needed to buy his way into the United States House and Senate.

There’s a word for folks like McCain: gigolo. Sharon Churcher, in her scathing June 8 Daily Telegraph story on McCain’s treatment of his ex-wife, quote Special Forces veteran Ted Sampley, a Vietnam War vet, who describes his long-time acquaintance McCain this way:

“I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

‘Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.”

McCain’s one-time patron, Ross Perot, told Churcher, “McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory. After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.”

Unlike his constant flip-flops on the issues, McCain has since shown a remarkable and distasteful consistency regarding women. Norma Coile, a reporter for the Tucson Citizen, reported in 1986 that McCain had told a joke about rape before the National League of Cities and Towns in Washington D.C. He asked his audience if they had, “heard the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die?”

McCain’s punchline? "When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, "Where is that marvelous ape?"

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a man who found the prospect of bombing Iran funny would chuckle about rape.
McCain displayed similar sensitivity to his trophy wife Cindy during his 1992 Senate campaign. According to campaign aides, Cindy apparently began playing with her husband’s hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain, who has the temper control issues of a Marvel Comics superhero, exploded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt."

McCain later attributed his shocking disrespect for his second wife by lamely saying he was tired after a long day on the campaign trail. We could only hope, if McCain manages to ride the idiot vote into the White House, that he doesn’t meet with Vladmir Putin after a long, tiring day. I would recommend not waiting and building a bomb shelter now.

McCain personifies class. In 1998, in an appearance before a Republican audience in 1998, he quipped, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." What a sad trail taken by this “tough guy” McCain who once stared down North Vietnamese interrogators (as he compulsively reminds us) and moved on to verbally bully teenage girls.

Perhaps he was just treating Chelsea like family. Rather famously, this year the Arizona senator attended the Sturgis Biker Rally in South Dakota and suggested to the audience that Cindy should compete in the “Miss Buffalo Chip Contest.” Mr. McCain was pimping his 54-year-old wife to participate in a topless, and often bottomless, Hell’s Angel-style meetup that often featured simulated sex acts, included blow jobs on bananas.

This year, McCain also refused to return $300,000 to one-time Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams who, while running against Ann Richards in 1990, infamously compared bad weather to rape, suggesting that one should just “lay back and enjoy it.” Sounds like McCain and Williams have the same gag writers.

After being questioned intensely by a reporter about his connections to a scandal besmirched Nevada politician, McCain denied any involvement in the controversy and added, “And I stopped beating my wife a couple of weeks ago.” Hilarious. Kind of like Lenny Bruce without the wit, satirical edge or intelligence.

McCain’s appointment of Palin, who is implicated in a scandal concerning the firing of an Alaskan trooper involved in a nasty child custody case with her sister, must not paper over the presumptive Republican nominee’s uninterrupted record of misogyny. What a sad irony in a year in which a woman won 23 primaries and 18 million votes if it ends with the election of a man who has less respect for women than Larry Flynt.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.