The Devil and John McCain

What possessed John McCain, with all of the makings to be a modern Daniel Webster, to descend into the depths of unprincipled contradictions?

"You see, for a while, [he] was the biggest man in the country.  He never got to be President, but he was the biggest man.  There were thousands that trusted in him right next to God Almighty and they told stories about him that were like the stories of patriarchs and such.  They said when he stood up to speak, stars and stripes came right out in the sky, and once he spoke against a river and made it sink into the ground."

The Devil and Daniel Webster, Stephen Vincent Benet, 1936

Those of us at a certain age recall our middle school days, when reading stories such as The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was expected and commonplace.  Rugged independence, moral dilemmas, and justice were interwoven into these American literature classics alongside patriotism and vivid religious sensibility.

One such story written in the early 20th century, combining these American ideals (now considered trappings of the obscene white bourgeoisie), was "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benet.  You can read it here.

Benet borrowed the storyline from Washington Irving, about a late 18th- or early 19th-century American farmer who agreed to the usual Faustian bargain with the devil.  The farmer unwittingly traded American ideals for a bountiful harvest and healthy animals.  When called by Satan to discharge his debts, the farmer sought an advocate to save him.  Thus, Daniel Webster, failed presidential aspirant, pre-eminent lawyer and statesman, constitutionalist, and abolitionist, took up the cause.

The remainder of Benet's tale tells of Webster, fearless counsel, facing down Satan by arguing in front of a jury comprising madmen; frontier murderers; traitors; corrupt sheriffs; slave-traders; and all-purpose anarchists, arsons, and kidnappers.  Webster's appeal to American patriotic zeal, and its values of liberty and independence and God-fearing citizenry, transformed the jury from a band of ruthless barbarians into Norman Rockwell-style Temperance League Methodists, relieving the beleaguered farmer from his contract with the devil.

And so Benet's opening description of Daniel Webster might have foretold Arizona U.S. senator John McCain, who fashioned himself a would-be president, once adored for his anti-establishmentarian streak and revered for his personal Vietnam War POW sacrifices.

John McCain could have been Daniel Webster in dissuading misguided Americans from electing a fraudulent, dissembling, and America-loathing Barack Obama.  Instead, John McCain ran an inept, cowardly, and deliberately underwhelming presidential campaign in 2008.  McCain was AWOL on the campaign stump just eight weeks before election day.  He squandered a respectable résumé, settling for a historical annotation as a ballot placeholder, enabling eight years of progressive and race-hustling hell.

John McCain, unwilling to confront Barack Obama's elaborate deceptions and racial animus, surrendering to the nation's infatuation with identity politics, was scorned and rejected, shunted aside for a darling nobody.

McCain could rejuvenate his forsaken ego only by emulating Ted Kennedy, self-anointed "Lion of the Senate."  Flipping Benet's allegory, in 2008, McCain shunned the cloak of Daniel Webster, only to reveal the snakeskin one-piece jumpsuit tailored for Benet's soulless farmer.

On the way to vainglorious heliocentricity, John McCain as a U.S. senator was unconvincing as a selfless statesman, an indefatigable advocate of his own press clippings.  In his thirty years in the U.S. Senate, John McCain accomplished nothing, neither for his constituents nor for the nation.  Yet he dreams of odes and eulogies, delivered by rivals and friends alike, for whom he could rarely muster a kind word, let alone a graceful final gesture.

McCain gleefully bargained away, or more aptly auctioned off, his respected if not sympathetic heroic image – a man of inestimable courage and endurance under unimaginable circumstances.  He morphed into an opportunistic sunshine patriot, malignantly self-centered, whose reward was fleeting adoration by media liberals using McCain to attack their antagonists when convenient.

John McCain could be trusted for a sound bite trashing presidents of his own party and voting against the interest of everyday Americans when it mattered, but little else.  His passing will be mourned, customarily so.  Whatever demons having possessed John McCain's better instincts will mercifully search for a different host.  Even Daniel Webster wouldn't be able to rescue McCain's ignoble political reputation.

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