Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Becker

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It is now mid-November, 2020. I was in an extremely bad mood when this page was originally created, as the viciousness of my text below attests. Eight years after I wrote this page, on July 28, 2017 Senator McCain saved President Obama's Affordable Care Act, so I suppose that I should apologize. But that would not be an honest way to present my complete history, so I leave it as it was originally written.

John McCain is gone now, and his daughter Megan has joined those who deplore the utter degradation that the Republican Party has suffered since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. As of this writing, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected President and VP, and President Trump is challenging the electoral process itself so as to keep his base fired up. Republican Party legislators have themselves sunk to heretofore unimaginable depths by supporting his challenges, because they know that they will be challenged in the 2022 primaries if they do not. (This fact gives the lie to the common trope that the voters are innocent victims of elected officals' perfidy. In fact, America's legislators are a mirror image of the electorate.) The outcome of President Trump's challenges to the Biden-Harris victory is still uncertain -- not because Trump's challenges have any legal merit, but because Trump's mental instability portends genuine danger for our democracy itself. My original text follows:

An Apology to Senator John McCain
March 1, 2009

Not long ago I received an e-mail from Senator John McCain's re-election committee. I sent the Senator a response virtually identical to the following:

Dear Senator McCain,

I am sorry to say that I cannot in good conscience support your re-election campaign. I am an unapologetic progressive, and I confess that I "joined" your presidential campaign website in the later days of the campaign solely to obtain directly your appeals for funds. Naturally, I found them less than persuasive.

That said, and even though I know that your loyal gatekeepers will never allow this message to reach you, let me explain in two words why you lost my respect, even though my vote was never yours to lose: Sarah Palin. By choosing her as your running mate, you utterly disqualified yourself as presidential caliber. Perhaps you rue that decision, but I doubt that you understand the insult to the American people she represents.

Perhaps the perfect example of this insult is Palin's comment on fruit fly research, made during her October 24 press conference. She was her natural, perky self -- the "fun Alaska governor" -- as Salon's Kevin Berger noted. After a familiar swipe at government spending for bridges [to nowhere], she turned to projects that her audience might not know about, and which they would naturally want thrown overboard when McCain-Palin took the helm of the ship of state:

"And sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good, things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

She kidded them not. Cute. And incredibly, jaw-droppingly stupid.

Let us imagine the Palin strategists in conference prior to her meeting with the media. They are searching for those sound bites that will convince her audience that Barack Obama represents the end of civilized America. It's been an all-nighter, but they have filled Palin's quiver with a number of arrows to shoot at Obama and the Democrats. They are feeling good.

Just as the group is preparing to leave, an excited young staffer comes in waving a sheet of paper:

"Hey guys!! You have to see this!!" They look up. "Do you know what the government is spending money on?"

"No, ... what?" says Jack, the senior strategist.

"RESEARCH ON FRUIT FLIES -- IN PARIS!!" says the young researcher. He is close to tears at the importance of his discovery. Jack shrugs and resumes packing his briefcase.

"Hey Jack," says Bob, a Palin speechwriter. "I think we can use this."

"Don't be stupid," Jack says. "Genetic research is the biggest thing going in science today. And, the fruit fly is probably the most important organism in the entire field."

"But that's not what it's about, Jack. You know that. It's about winning the election," Bob replies.

"You don't win elections by letting your candidate look like a fool," Jack says wearily. He closes his briefcase and heads for the door. "Don't use it," he says as he closes the door behind him.

Bob makes a face. He is second-in-command, and the other staffers wait for his decision.

"We're going to use it," he says. "Most of the people we're after don't know squat about genetic research — we can make it sound like 'junk science.' Palin is smart enough not to ask whether fruit fly research has any real value. Jim, can you put together a sentence or two on this for tomorrow?"

"Sure," says Jim. "My pleasure."

"Jack" was right. The liberal blogosphere and the media had a field day. They pointed out immediately that through fruit fly research, a potential genetic risk factor for autism had been identified. You know of course, Senator, that autism is the terrible mental disability that Palin herself has made a personal cause. Shall we imagine that if you had been elected president, Palin would have advised you against funding further fruit fly research to enlarge on the genetic insights already gained. Of course not. By that time she would have been educated about the importance of such research, and would have accepted it. The blogosphere also pointed out that a particular species of fruit fly threatened to decimate California's multi-million-dollar olive industry.

(Disclaimer: the characters depicted above are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to any real Palin campaign strategist, living or dead, would be amazing. I gave the Palin campaign the benefit of the doubt by including Jack, a strategist with a measure of integrity. For all I know, the Palin campaign included no "Jacks," but only "Jims" and "Bobs.")

The standard defense of your choice of Palin, Senator McCain, was that she is bright, a quick learner, and if she became President, she would be surrounded by savvy advisers who would keep her from doing any real damage. This is at once damming Palin with faint praise and playing roulette with America's future.

In truth, Senator, you dishonored the electoral process by choosing Palin as your possible successor. Worse, you positioned her to prevent any real reform in the Republican Party. Instead of running for re-election, why don't you retire and get to know some of the houses you are unfamiliar with? I'll bet that Cindy would be very happy with that decision.

Bill Becker

I sent a copy to Sarah Palin as well.

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Page first posted March 1, 2009
Page revised November 16, 2020