McCain’s descent into the absurd
McCain’s latest tack against his challenger J.D. Hayworth is a TV ad saying that the former congressman is too dumb to be a U.S. senator. But, as Salon asks, if Hayworth is not a serious opponent, why has McCain blatantly reversed himself on key issues to outflank Hayworth on the right, making himself a laughing stock by the sheer, Arlen Specter-scale cynicism of the effort?
To get a sense of what I’m talking about, watch McCain’s ludicrous, jaw-jutting performance in his campaign ad on border security. McCain is so shameless that he even says in the ad, “Complete the danged fence.” The remark inevitably reminds us of a famous incident that occurred during the period following the crash of the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007, when presidential candidate McCain was claiming to have “learned his lesson” on amnesty and was repeatedly telling Republican primary voters that he now agreed that we must have border security, including a border fence, before there was any effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform: at some speaking appearance, perhaps in early 2008, McCain got so annoyed at a questioner pushing him on this point that he angrily said through gritted teeth something like, “Yeah, let’s build the damned fence,” showing by his tone and manner that he didn’t believe at all in building the fence which he had repeatedly pledged to build and that he despised the people to whom he felt compelled to promise that he would build it. And, indeed, as soon as McCain had clinched the GOP nomination and no longer needed to win over Republican voters, he began saying that comprehensive immigration reform would be the first item on his agenda if he were elected president, thus making a total lie of his numerous statements over many months that he had learned his lesson and was committed to border security first.
Given this background, there are two ways of understanding McCain’s “Complete the danged fence” remark in the current ad. Either it is a conscious reference to his 2008 “build the damned fence” comment, in which case the ad is an expression of multi-leveled, post-modern irony, mocking anyone stupid enough to believe McCain’s newly re-minted persona as tough-talking border guard; or McCain has no memory of his “build the damned fence” comment and is simply lost in his own lies, in which case the person being inadvertently mocked by the ad is McCain himself.