September 4, 2008
Trying To Make Nice
By Mary Lyon
Dear Senator McCain,
Well, gee, look at you, 'eh? Have we finally met the "kinder, gentler" Republican that Republicans have been teasing us with for 20 years now? And why is my first instinct still to pull away? Maybe because it's a Republican talking. Pure and simple. Perhaps you've heard the joke about what's actually going on when a Republican's lips are moving.
Hey, don't mind me. I'm used to this. I've had to suffer the embarrassment, disappointment, and discouragement of the last seven-and-some miserable years of GOP/Bush rule. Our whole country is on its knees as a result. Your fellows at the Republican convention seem to agree, while not actually saying so - or mentioning the name of the guy who's been calling all the bad shots all this time. Otherwise, they'd have been wallowing in his wonderful triumphs for most of the week instead of just bashing us Democrats all day every day. Overreaching is still your thing. There was a moment provoked by a rather lurid "Memories of 9/11" film that aired before prime time. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann broke format with a subdued emotional interruption. Voice choking, he quietly slammed your party for its gory over-exploitation of a national tragedy in which he said some of his friends perished. CNN's Campbell Brown verbally recoiled from it also.
But was any of this surprising? Don't we know the game, after all this time? I can already hear a thousand riffs from The Who: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Out with the bad air, in with the new, you say. The problem is, you're still breathing with the same old diseased lungs.
I guess Barack Obama's overriding call for change really must be a pretty good idea. Seems everybody else wants their names on it, too. Senator McCain, you finished up at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul by assuring us you're different. There's that m-word, "maverick," again. You were solidly for the Bush-brand Republican-ism of most of this decade before you were against it. You've been in Washington for years, with most of what now afflicts America passing through your hands, but somehow your fingerprints aren't on any of it.
On the final night of the GOP convention, Senator, you've now said we should forget everything we know and have witnessed since your colleagues took the White House almost eight years ago. We're supposed to pay no attention to that political party behind the curtain. Never mind that you'll dwell on the same stuff, using the same language, coming from the same party spouting the same philosophy and mindset that's been our host on this freak-show ride since January 2001.
And you're going to earn our trust, you say. A trust that nameless, faceless, overgeneralized "Washington", I guess, has lost. You did briefly mention Republicans who "gave into corruption." But everywhere else, the blame was spread around to vague groupings of both parties. So much for being a real stand-up guy and accepting Obama's challenge of the week before - to own your party's failures. It all sounded like the noncommittal "mistakes were made" schtick we've heard too frequently already.
But no, it's gonna be nicer now, you insist. The Republican Party is new and improved and our arms are open.
And I suppose Sarah Palin didn't mean any of it, either. She was just funnin' the other night, I guess.
Look, Senator McCain, I'd like to offer you some of MY straight talk. The change you earnestly outlined in your acceptance speech is not about to promote the results we really need. You'll flatly reject what really should be done: a reversal of the penny-wise/pound-foolish, narrow-minded, short-sighted dictates of modern-day conservative rule. That dominance is what's gotten us to this sorry state that roughly 80 percent of the country agrees we need to abandon. The Republican Way has resulted in the largest debts, the greatest shame, and the most horrifying mistakes our nation has ever had to swallow. THAT is what has to change, and that's the one thing you can't and won't offer. You're not about to rethink the same stale old philosophy that's so easily led astray by greed, cronyism and lust for power and domination. It's a philosophy that still obsesses myopically on "what's in it for me" rather than considering a broader and more inclusive "how can we all help heal each other."
Senator, we know your story. We get that you've felt a longterm devotion to your country and you've endured great pain for it. I don't doubt your sincerity there. I almost believe you when you look into the camera and reach out to those of us supporting Barack Obama, soothingly telling us that we and our candidate have your respect and admiration. Okay. So what was last night about, then? What's with the nasty name-calling narrative with which liberals have been battered for a couple of decades by now? What about the ongoing demonization of Democrats from your party and your hate-radio buddies and your Fox News echo chamber? They're all doing it in your name and for your benefit these days. How about the fact that your pals never even do ours the simple decency of saying our party's name correctly (hint: it's Democratic Party, NOT Democrat Party)? Two or three token sentences of kumbaya, GOP-style, thrown in toward the end of several days of nonstop derision and all is forgiven?
Senator McCain, it will be hard to take your soothing words at face value every time I think back to the snide insults from the smug young smart-ass Sarah Palin. It doesn't matter than you ran down a list of nice, generous, selfless activities you urged us all to explore to enable a more perfect union. That business about teaching an illiterate adult to read or feeding a hungry child sounds an awful lot like the community organizing efforts that your mean-spirited minions on the convention's penultimate night couldn't mock loudly enough. It will be difficult not to feel my lip start to curl whenever I'm unlucky enough to look at the wretchedly cocky Rudy Giuliani and remember his sarcastic cruelty. Mr. McCain, you've got a LONG way to go before any stated claims to reach out to someone like me can be viewed with any credibility. This isn't the kind of surface boo-boo you can just kiss and make it all better. This goes much deeper.
To an outside observer like me, who will vote for Obama/Biden in November, you spent an hour massaging a rewrite of "message, I care" - even while you didn't even have the candor to mention that slogan's original owner, President George H.W. Bush, by name. And yes, I noticed that the closest you got to his feckless son was to name his wife Laura. You claimed that despite party preferences "we're all Americans" - "an association that means more to me than any other." Sounds nice enough. Why don't I believe it?
Like your predecessor before you, you're always going to want me to see it your way rather than the other way around, even though you insist you're here to serve and not to dictate. You're never going to revisit your view that my daughter and I must not be allowed to have the last word over what happens to our bodies. You won't get off the testosterone treadmill that will perennially lead you to want to impress people with an example of our power instead of the power of our example. You say you hate war, but I get the feeling you can't wait for your turn to "settle something." You're not exactly a newcomer here. You promise that the have-nots will get the breaks to revive our economy, but you'll continue to favor the interests of big corporations. You've been around long enough to remind me that those things that make me wary of you are your universal default positions. And I've been around long enough to realize that your party won't hail me as a maverick because I disagree. I'll be loudly condemned as a traitor instead.
I can trust one thing after listening to you: that I know enough not to want to trust you.