McCain/Palin: Wearing a Woolworth’s Wig
Political near-sightedness can be as intellectual as a cheap poorly-fitting wig or a halloween mask.
The floundering McCain campaign has caused me to reflect with some humor on the casual carelessness with which one of my aging aunts wore her inexpensive and unmaintained “Woolworth’s” wig. As I observe the antics of Senator McCain and his running mate I can’t help but wonder if they, like my aging aunt, are simply unaware that shallow attempts to mask unpreparedness signal real trouble and a departure from the realities and reasoning of much of mainstream America.
My aunt was a proud and brilliant woman of some means, a retired attorney with an extremely strong will and quick temper to match. As she aged, without any apparent loss of cognitive ability, she began to wander into a generally unaware tattered state that became her comfort zone. I often wondered why this woman that I loved and knew so well even made an effort at such a transparent façade on my behalf. Being in her eighties I clearly knew that she was totally grey haired and more times than not I could see a significant portion of her silver braids exposed around the auburn wig that she donned like a hat. This is the comparative vision that the disjointed and disheveled McCain/Palin campaign currently presents.
Senator McCain’s age is not the source of this comparison. It is rather his cognitive ability as tied to decades of political conditioning that is causing his image to suffer and his campaign to collapse. There were many centrists who once admired Senator McCain for his well deserved reputation as a maverick and man of character. And I am at a loss as to how he allowed himself to stumble into such a narrow and rigid ideological position. In doing so he has abandoned the much needed support that the centrist voting blocks may have provided. Further, he has also begun losing the support of many Republican purists who believe in their party policy positions. Senator McCain has not been able to keep pace in this political contest. He has not controlled and managed his campaign at any level. He has failed to present consistent and hard hitting messages that are appealing beyond his staunch right wing base.
Clearly, there are tremendous issue challenges as presented by the current administration from which Senator McCain needed to distance himself. Unfortunately, he did not react to these well known problematic issues in time to soften their political impact over the course of his campaign for the presidency. Moreover, he allowed his opponent to tie him to the current president in a way that paints them both as the primary sources of the nation’s greatest problems. Even removing the opinion from such a statement, there can be no denying that many Americans are convinced that Senator McCain is committed to carrying out many of the policies that the current and intensely unpopular president supports.
The massive unpopularity of George W. Bush is unquestionable on a grand scale. In the face of this fact, fully aware of the burden placed on his image and his campaign, Senator McCain’s selection in a running mate has proved even more problematic. Current polls across the board indicate that Governor Palin’s negatives are a drain on the ticket. Not just a drain, but more of a drain that Senator McCain’s policy ties to the president.
The McCain campaign is a legitimate disaster! Remembering Governor Palin’s use of Hillary’s eighteen million cracks comment at the Republican National Convention, it is more accurate to suggest that number might be indicative of cracks in the McCain campaign image! Think about this. Senator Obama has provided some real ammunition throughout this campaign season that, in the eyes of many, could have been intensely destructive. These gaffes ranged from Reverend Wright to Bill Ayers to the bitter comments about Pennsylvania. There have been problems that were certainly fuel for distraction, which the right wing media has attempted to exploit along with the McCain camp.
The problem was and remains, that as McCain and his operatives sought to create a cloud over the image of their opponent, they failed to provide significant rays of political sunshine to a broad swath of potential supporters. Viewing this without passion and through an exclusively political lens, they were given their openings. They stuck with character assault tactics and failed to prepare for the difficult questions that Americans wanted answered. They failed to create a dynamic ticket and they failed to develop any campaign ideological goals and messages which signaled clear and comforting departures from Bush administration logic. They were as shabby and unprepared as my old aunt with the crooked wig perched on her head.
Most troubling is the fact that they, like my old aunt, became comfortable with or unaware of the negative impacts of their approach. These impacts were at times humorous, but were often unsettling. Sometimes it is more damaging to make a half-hearted effort in creating a façade to that which you are not committed. It may have been a much different contest had Senator McCain been more attuned. If he was truly feeling the pulse of America he might have provided more clarity in broad based solutions. What we are left to imagine is that he was simply over a political barrel and uncertain as to what to do. That is not what America expects to hear.
Perhaps the problems are actually so vast that any Republican policy solutions or proposals would have naturally isolated the centrists. Perhaps any attempts to develop and present more centrist positions might have damaged the support of the rigid right wing base. There can be no doubt that McCain would need significant portions of both blocks on route to victory.
Perhaps the problems are so significant and daunting that he decided to carelessly rely on proven, but outdated political tactics alone. Unlike his running mate I sense that Senator McCain did not understand the risk involved in this strategy. Perhaps given his decades of exposure to pure politics as his primary instrument, he could not truly sense the growing fury in the electorate as they demanded that the nation take a new course.
I do not expect Senator to win this election. Certainly, there is no shame in losing when the fight is honorable. Today, Senator McCain is doddering around like a political Don Rickles, wearing a cheap Woolworth’s wig. And from where I sit, he looks pretty ridiculous.
But hey, if he’s happy, I’m happy.
L. A. Walker, © Leon A. Walker