Democracy Now's Amy Goodman speaks to author Matt Welch on the subject of his book, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick. What is so striking is how this myth of being a maverick has continued long into his congressional career and is exhibited in the votes he's receiving from the anti-war crowd despite being more pro-war than any other GOP candidate.
It’s really interesting that in the primaries so far, if you look at the exit polls, among people who voted in the GOP primaries who consider themselves antiwar, anti-the-Iraq-war, and among voters who consider themselves angry at George Bush—and that’s a quote—and among independents, McCain is beating his opponents by two-to-one. If you actually look at people who describe themselves as just Republicans, McCain has not yet won a single primary. So he is basically winning the GOP primaries on the back of the antiwar vote, when in fact he would be the most explicitly interventionist president since Teddy Roosevelt, and he certainly makes George Bush look gun-shy by comparison.
Seriously, that's taking voting against your own interests way too far.
Transcripts of video below the fold. Full program and transcripts available here.
MATT WELCH: John McCain, being the third generation here with a lot of expectations on him, rebelled against those expectations. He finished near the bottom of his class, 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. And he was a real sort of maverick in the kind of Top Gun way, always getting into trouble, sneaking off to drink beer and smoke cigarettes and date strippers, and had a pretty colorful kind of straining-at-the-leash type of life, because he knew he didn’t really have a choice but to fulfill his sort of family’s destiny.
And he became a flyboy in the Navy and was involved in one of the worst—and in fact, I think the worst—Navy sort of tragedy after World War II, which was the Forrestal fire in Vietnam, which killed 130-plus men. He tumbled off the nose of his airplane as it was sort of exploding on the deck of this aircraft carrier in Vietnam. And then on his—I believe his fifth mission was flying over Vietnam on a—Hanoi on a bombing run and was shot out of the sky and, of course, became a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years, where he, you know, withstood torture with great bravery and distinction. He eventually cracked, like most prisoners of war do under the duress, and taped some statements, you know, disparaging his country and apologizing for his crimes, but stuck it out and then came back to the US in ’73 and became the Navy liaison to the Senate and eventually started his political career in 1982.
AMY GOODMAN: And that political career, he started in Congress?
MATT WELCH: He started in Congress. He humorously—he had divorced his first wife, married a young woman named Cindy—Cindy McCain now, Cindy Hensley. Her father was—owned the exclusive beer distributorship for Budweiser in Maricopa County in Arizona, and so was—had a lot of money. And he was shopping around basically for a congressional seat. On the day that Congressman John Rhodes announced that he was resigning—or actually even before he announced, but on the day that he decided that he was resigning from his seat, John told Cindy, you know, buy a house in the district. So he kind of moved to Arizona with the explicit idea that he would immediately run for Congress and then use that as a springboard to run for the Senate seat when Barry Goldwater retired in 1986.
And what’s very little sort of understood—one of many things that’s little understood about John McCain is that from the beginning he was spending crazy amounts of money. You know, he’s this champion of campaign finance, but he wildly outspent his opponents in Arizona time and time again, especially at the beginning of his career, with his father-in-law’s money, with money from Charles Keating and money from other people, and built up this political career and ended up going to the Senate and becoming the maverick we all know and love.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, Matt Welch, looking at the talk show programs yesterday, one of the commentators is Torie Clarke, Victoria Clarke, former Pentagon spokesperson. She was on George Stephanopoulos’s show yesterday on ABC talking about McCain, but they didn’t identify her as a former press secretary for John McCain—is that right?—in his early years.
MATT WELCH: Yeah. You know, I think that’s pretty standard fare, regrettably, in Beltway talk shows. Everyone has long and tangled relationships with everybody else, and people just don’t really feel like revealing it one way or the other.
But, you know, getting back to his military history, this is something, again, that is not very well understood. Not only were his parents—father and grandfather in the military, but his father used to go around giving these lectures about how, you know, the naval gap between the US and the Soviet Union was threatening democracy, how we—his nickname was Mr. Sea Power. You know, he would recite British colonialist poetry around the dinner table. They were constantly talking about the necessity for just a huge US navy to guarantee the world’s security. That is the background that John McCain was just marinating in from the time he was a child. And for much of that period, whenever his father or grandfather was not out at sea, they were living on Capitol Hill, usually in some Washington, D.C. capacity. So he was sitting around the breakfast table with senators and congressmen from the time he was a kid. There’s this big notion that he’s a man of the people, which is actually the name of a biography of him, when in fact, down the line, he’s been very much an elitist his entire life, for both good and for ill. He has just been surrounded by, you know, top historians, top senators and congressmen and top military brass.
But this tradition that he comes from is incredibly interventionist and expansionist. It’s really interesting that in the primaries so far, if you look at the exit polls, among people who voted in the GOP primaries who consider themselves antiwar, anti-the-Iraq-war, and among voters who consider themselves angry at George Bush—and that’s a quote—and among independents, McCain is beating his opponents by two-to-one. If you actually look at people who describe themselves as just Republicans, McCain has not yet won a single primary. So he is basically winning the GOP primaries on the back of the antiwar vote, when in fact he would be the most explicitly interventionist president since Teddy Roosevelt, and he certainly makes George Bush look gun-shy by comparison.
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