Friday, September 12, 2008

Marriott on McCain

I have just read and have to highly recommend Alexander Marriot's excellent post on John McCain. Marriot's elegant and erudite post goes to the heart of McCain's claim to fame and shows that "the North Vietnamese Got the Last Laugh on McCain" as the posts title indicates. Here's an excerpt to wet your appetite but be sure to read the whole thing:
...I will instead dedicate my analysis to John McCain's heroic battle with his North Vietnamese captors and his ultimate tragic defeat at their hands. Evidence for this defeat (which Senator McCain interprets as his victory) is drawn strictly from his nomination acceptance speech which was full of implicit admissions of the North Vietnamese triumph over Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain.


Paul Pennyfeather said...

I think Marriot's post is too clever by half. Yes, McCain spins his very real INDIVIDUAL triumph over communist thugs into a typical "we're all in this together" speech. But to conclude, as Marriot does, that this shows the transformation of McCain into his torturer's ideological doppelganger is to confuse form with substance.

In fact, McCain's triumph was real. It was an victory of the individual over the collective. I'm certain he knew it at the time. Over the years his very real victory has morphed with the corrupt ideologies that dominate both political parties (and dominate most of America, whose votes he needs to get elected). So he spun it in a way that works with Americans, but not with American objectivists.

Hell, I wish he'd had a copy of FOUNTAINHEAD or ATLAS SHRUGS to read during his captivity, but his present-day use of his past history is typical politician pandering. A pandering that Americans expect. This is not the same country that told McGovern to piss off.

I fear that posts like this one by Marriot just make Objectivists look mean-spirited and too quick to draw connections were they don't really exist, notwithstanding my dislike of McCain and my belief that he will screw us.

Alexander said...

I'm not suggesting an actual direct link between Ho Chi Minh and his minions and John McCain. My point was not to claim that McCain read Ho's words and saw the light, but as two men can, using their reason, come to the same correct conclusions on subjects independently of one another, so can two men, misusing their reason, fall into the same errors independently of one another. It just so happens that the symbolically tragic irony of this particular instance ties McCain with the leader of those who tortured him and, by all accounts, set his subsequent life on the path to where it is now, near the White House.

As for his political pandering, while I chose to focus only on his acceptance speech, McCain has been hammering the themes of his capture and capitivity as being indicative of the insufficiency of individualism for decades and in books, speeches, and tv interviews. The evidence on that is incontrovertable. And while I agree that his switching from poster-boy of corrupt politico to "reformer" is a classic example of political pandering and pulling a fast one on the public, this element of his thinking seems remarkably consistent over time.

There is, in short, no actual evidence that McCain ever saw his victory over his captors as the story of his individual triumph over the collectivism of his torturers. To say that he did see it that way is merely to assume that he did, in contradiction to all of his actual statements. Evidentiary skepticism is valuable, particularly in my line of work, but one cannot posit a theory on his thoughts in the absence of evidence, either his thoughts are what he says they were, or we simply cannot know what they were. As the latter would make for a distinctly dull essay, I chose to give McCain the benefit of the doubt and deal with his tale of triumph in the best possible light it was presented in. In other words, his own.

On a more minor note, given what McCain is campaigning on, I have no problem appearing mean-spirited. His heroism in war gives him no more immunity to criticism of his ideas than it has ever given any of the heroes of our republic from its very inception. If he merely wanted to sit on the laurels of his heroic war service he should never have entered into public political life.