Blogs > Cliopatria > It's Quietly Judging You

Oct 15, 2010 6:20 pm

It's Quietly Judging You

History is cold, but it sees. It's like a patrician appellate panel that lives under the Arctic seas, sending up a periscope to see how the mortals are doing. And then it issues its decision. And man, does the underwater judicial circuit not love what it sees in John McCain. So pronounceth the reliably middlebrow Todd Purdum, the perfected embodiment of the permanent political class and its conventional wisdom. Quoting a longtime McCain lieutenant who worries that the"real McCain will be lost to history," Purdum purses his lips and hands down the ruling in the latest issue of Vanity Fair:
Yes, you can make that argument—that the grand sweep of history, in all its majesty and indifference, will leave behind a false version of John McCain. But you can also make another argument, and it’s the one John McCain himself has been making powerfully by his behavior and example. It is that history has revealed the real McCain at last.

"History" isn't a constructed story, a set of interpreted facts put together by human hands -- it's a conscious viewer with flawless vision. It pulls aside the curtain of the merely human and reveals the deep truth: there, standing naked in the light of nature's god, do we see the ontological John McCain.

In short, history is Todd Purdum.

But history is awfully confused, for a third-omniscient narrative god-judge. For example, it starts its majority opinion by identifying McCain as the guy who"reigned as the nation’s most popular politician" until pretty recently.

Why? Well, because of his courage, his willingness to take damn-the-consequences unconventional positions. For example,"he was steadfast in maintaining that the country should commit more troops to Iraq, not withdraw the forces already there."

We all recall how much courage it took, a few years ago, to argue for a sustained American war in Iraq. Remember in 2005 how the administration kept hollering that we had to get out, but McCain stood boldly in the wind and demanded that we stay? He was the voice in the wilderness, for sure. That's why the American military has been forced to completely withdraw from Iraq so quickly.

Having established McCain's recently destroyed status as the most-loved politician in America, the cold eye of history then goes on to describe the most-loved politician's career:

But he was never a team player, never popular with his Republican colleagues, with whom he publicly quarreled on the slightest pretext, which made him seem more independent. It could just as easily be that he was more selfish. In high school, McCain’s nicknames included “McNasty,” and for more than two decades, the overriding majority of his Senate colleagues, in both parties, have repaid his angry outbursts against them with active and unrelenting dislike.

Well, sure, but other than that, he was the most-loved politician in America!

After surviving his brush with shame during the Keating Five influence-peddling scandal in 1989...

Well, but other than that, he was the most-loved politician in America!

...the hometown Arizona press corps that never much liked him...

Okay, okay: But other than to his colleagues, his home state press, everyone who noticed the S+L crisis, and everyone he went to high school with or worked with personally, John McCain was the most-loved politician in America.

But now, sadly, the old McCain has turned partisan and unprincipled, because he criticizes Barack Obama and doesn't vote with Democrats in the Senate. He's become so nakedly unprincipled that he often even acts like he's a Republican. Purdum sits McCain down and nails him with the charge that his political beliefs have drifted. Isn't he ashamed? The next two paragraphs, with italics from the original, reveal Purdum's class and place far more than they reveal the subject of Purdum's story:

“Wel-l-l-l,” he began, stretching the word out as Ronald Reagan used to do, and I thought I saw a wistful look flicker across his face, “I’m proud of my record; I’m proud of the support that I have throughout the state of Arizona, ranging from the sheriffs here, and mayors, Arizona Chamber …the growers …the homebuilders. You know, it’s pretty obvious that they are very satisfied with my performance and, so, I believe that what I have done is stand up for Arizona, no matter whether it’s against my own president or whether it’s against President Obama, or whoever. And again, I’m proud of my record, and I’ll stand on it.”

The sheriffs, the mayors, the Chamber, the growers, the homebuilders: these are the small-bore, self-interested lobbies that are the lifeblood of any run-of-the-mill state legislator, not the constituencies of a man who was nearly president and could still be a statesman.

Indeed, my friends, indeed. What statesman gives thought to mere growers and homebuilders, the small-bore types that clutter up our days? Oh, my friends, such small people are not the stuff of statesmen, who look above the earthly forms of mere people to stand in statesmanlike nonpartisan alignment alongside the giants of the earth. Like, I don't know, Dick Durbin.

At the risk of provoking the majesty and indifference of the omniscient god that is history, I think I'd get contact illness if I even drove through Washington, D.C these days. Couldn't we just bulldoze the whole thing and start over again?

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