Feathered Bastard

John McCain's Pitch: Vote For Me Because I Was Tortured.

More effective than a bucketful of Sominex...

A colossal yawn. That's what a CSPAN cameraman caught one of the GOP delegates in the middle of last night during John McCain's speech, and it pretty much summed up my experience watching it. A real snoozer. I could barely keep from flipping channels, it was so dull.

Of course, the Republican Party faithful in St. Paul lapped it up, save for yawn-boy and the protester who was ejected during McCain's address. The turkey-necked geezers and MILFy Stepford Wives were applauding nearly every line like they'd been coached to do so. If Grampa McCain had announced, "And yesterday, I found a corn on my big toe," these breathing applause machines would've given him a standing ovation.

This, despite the fact that McCain is both creepy looking and creepy sounding. This wrinkled homunculus seemed to shrink into his suit as I watched him, and that Halloween pumpkin-gash grin of his reminds me of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers flicks. Also icky, that weird, patronizing monotone of a voice. It's as inspiring as hearing some alter kocker asking a kid if he wants a lollipop.

The substance of the address itself smacked of outright desperation. Trying to glom onto Obama's change message? Doesn't that tell you how successful Barack Obama's message is when his opponent attempts to co-opt his central theme?

"And when we tell you we're going to change Washington," McCain wheezed, "and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it."

I half expected him to end that sentence with, "You can count on it, young people."

Sorry, but a vote for McCain is a vote for four more years of Bush. It's a vote for stasis, and decrepitude. If you think McCain's going to "shake up Washington," after having been there for a quarter of a century, I've got some oceanfront property in Kingman I think you might be interested in.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable part of the whole address dealt with his experience as a prisoner of war. I know the guy suffered, but to trot through it in such agonizing detail in a platform such as this seemed outright morbid. It was practically torture listening to it.

"But after I turned down their offer," said McCain of his North Vietnamese captors' proffer of early release, "they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me."

I know he couched this in terms of him becoming less selfish and learning to love his country more than himself, but it still came across as a macabre, unseemly pitch for pity. I honor the pain and suffering, sure. What's unappealing is this tale being used to garner sympathy and political support.

"I know how the world works," McCain informed us, almost pleading. "I know the good and the evil in it."

If that's the case, then how does he explain the last eight years, his embrace of Bush, and his support for the invasion of Iraq? Hell, even I sensed we were being sold a lie about the WMDs. I marched along with thousands of others in L.A. against the invasion. As the occupation dragged on, we were proved correct about that fake casus belli. How come McCain with all his vaunted military acumen didn't suss it out?

I'm no McCain hater. In fact, for a Republican, the country could do a lot worse. I was reminded of that when McCain made an appeal for openness and compassion regarding new immigrants to this country.

"We believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential," McCain intoned, "from the boy whose descendants arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We're all God's children and we're all Americans."

The line received only polite applause. The statement certainly rankled the many nativists in his party. I give him major points for having it in his speech.

Still, as Jim Carville once rightly said of George Herbert Walker Bush in the seminal documentary The War Room, McCain is yesterday's man. And the last eight years of yesterdays is what we all have to get past.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons