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by Alexander Cockburn

McCain: Loose Cannon, Not Maverick

Where's the spice in this campaign? The only fun available is the National Inquirer's deadly pursuit of John Edwards's alleged mistress and "love child." The wretched Edwards isn't even a candidate, but his scandal offers the only game in town. Now that Hillary Clinton is out of the race, the campaign has gone flat.

This time in the presidential race four years ago, the press was stuffed with rich fare about John Kerry's love affairs and the ample millions of his tiresome Portuguese wife, formerly married to the Heinz ketchup fortune. Eight years ago, there was an equally nutritious menu featuring George Bush's taste for cocaine, his drunk driving rap and his de facto desertion from the National Guard.

For those eager to detect conspiracy in high places (approximately 98 percent of all adult Americans), there was the membership of Bush Sr. and Jr. and also Kerry in Yale's Skull and Bones club, where novices endured abominable rites, excitingly related on various Christian sites. Sample: "After this the initiate is brought before a picture of Judas Iscariot, whose name the group screams three times, and then he is led to the heart of the rite: the initiate is pushed to his knees before a human skull filled with blood placed at the foot of a human skeleton called Madame Pompadour. The crowd implores him to 'Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!' and he does. Then he is hurried to a man dressed as the Pope. But not before the D whips him in the face with his tail."

And before that there was Clinton time, ripe with scandal for eight delightful years.

The Obama-McCain face-off is dull stuff thus far. The nastiest financial scandal in John McCain's life -- his efforts to protect Arizona banker Charles Keating -- exploded 18 long years ago. His caddish behavior to the first Mrs. McCain when he dumped her for the younger and very rich beer heiress Cindy Hensley was given a thorough workout in the Los Angeles Times last week. The Times reported that Nancy Reagan has never forgiven McCain for his foul conduct, hence her tepid endorsement of McCain. But since many Americans are divorced and stand accused by the betrayed partner as utter swine, McCain's not going to face too much trouble on this one.

Stories swirl around McCain's famously terrible temper and whether this has led to physical abuse of Cindy, prompting her to seek solace from gentler hands. But nothing credible by way of hard detail has surfaced this far. Her majestic credit card debt -- as much as half a million owed to American Express -- excites only envy.

John McCain's conduct as a POW in North Vietnam has prompted fairly detailed accusations that he collaborated with his captors and gave them significant details of U.S. Navy flights plans. But these have not yet displayed any traction that might have dented his "war hero" status. Efforts by The New York Times some months ago to link him to an attractive young lobbyist also failed to stick.

Obama weathered efforts to tie him to the Chicago real estate tycoon Tony Rezko, now convicted by a federal jury in Chicago on counts of fraud. Sillier attempts to turn Obama into a fan of the Weather Underground -- a violent '60s antiwar group -- have failed. His married life with Michele seems beyond reproach. His career in the Illinois legislature and then the Senate have not produced charges of direct corruption, though he has been a dutiful serf to large corporate interests, as has every member of Congress with the possible exception of Ron Paul.

So, bleary Americans have nothing much else to brood upon beyond the fact that Obama is half black, has "Hussein" as a middle name, spent formative years in his childhood in places like Indonesia surrounded by Muslims and is married to an attractive black woman who said earlier this year that because of her husband's campaign, for the first time in her adult lifetime, she is really proud of her country.

The most recent New York Times-CBS poll shows that whites esteem Obama less than blacks do and many of them don't care for Michele. But the same poll shows that Obama leads McCain among Hispanic voters by 62 to 23 percent and that he's leading McCain overall by 6 points.

The best thing, almost the only thing, that the Republicans have going for them is the race card, often a reliable item in the American political deck. Thus far, because McCain is playing a very weak game, it has not brought them significant advantage.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor   July 24, 2008   (

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