Pit Bull Moose and Mugwumps

17 09 2008

So John McCain’s latest power of story is that Teddy Roosevelt is his ACTUAL Republican soulmate, not the pitbull moose in his hand nor two Bushes in the Byrd.

Did John McCain’s Rove-Cheney handlers and rich corporate and foreign power lobbyists, vet the Bull Moose any better than the Pit Bull? The kids and I are having all sorts of fun playing with the power of story in Teddy Roosevelt’s wikipedia entry.

We see similarities between John Sidney McCain and TR, sure — TR left his daughter to be raised by others while he was off adventuring, he loved to fight even within his own party, his views on race were so belligerent and extreme that President NIXON had to clean up after him (see below); and he promised if elected to limit his terms voluntarily–

Roosevelt argued the frontier conditions created a new race: the American people that replaced the “scattered savage tribes, whose life was but a few degrees less meaningless, squalid, and ferocious than that of the wild beasts with whom they held joint ownership.” He believed, “the conquest and settlement by the whites of the Indian lands was necessary to the greatness of the race and to the well-being of civilized mankind.”
. . .In The Winning of the West (1889–1896), Roosevelt’s frontier thesis stressed a racial struggle between “civilization” (white, especially Germanic peoples) and supposed savagery (of people of color, i.e., Native American Indians). Excerpts:

1. “The settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.”
2. “The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages.”
3. “American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, — in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.”
4. “..it is of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races.”
5. “The world would have halted had it not been for the Teutonic conquests in alien lands; but the victories of Moslem over Christian have always proved a curse in the end. Nothing but sheer evil has come from the victories of Turk and Tartar.”

In Brownsville, Texas, racial tensions were high between white townsfolk and black infantrymen stationed at Fort Brown. Two white townspeople were murdered and the townsfolk blamed the infantrymen. Roosevelt immediately dishonorably discharged all soldiers in the three all black companies (that fought alongside Roosevelt in the Spanish American War) due to their “conspiracy of silence.” Further investigations in the 1970s found they were not involved and they were pardoned by President Nixon.[citation needed]

We also found a few outright disqualifications for this um, tale wagging the dog.

Theodore Roosevelt was a magna cum laude Harvard man who then went to a top law school (though politics beckoned before he finished.)
Sounds more like Obama than McCain . . .but this was our favorite:
Teddy was the YOUNGEST man ever to become president, not the OLDEST.



20 responses

17 09 2008

It would be hard for McCain to live up to the greatness of T.R., but by redistributing wealth into the hands of the few as opposed to the many, a philosophy he has championed for twenty six years, McCain is making his mark.

17 09 2008
Nance Confer

And how exactly am I supposed to relate to any reference to Teddy Roosevelt? A few years before my time. And I’m getting old. 🙂

Now, Franklin Roosevelt. Maybe that is a name we will be hearing more. I can see that applying.


17 09 2008

TR was a trust-buster. He didn’t loan them billion-dollar bailouts. What’s McCain’s position on that?

17 09 2008
Crimson Wife

TR was directly responsible for the creation of a number of national parks including the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in AZ. He also fought for the Antiquities Act, which gave presidents the right to preserve important landmarks as national monuments. 108 of the 378 areas in the National Park System as of 1999 were authorized by this act.

He was also a noted Progressive, and championed such things as presidential primaries (as opposed to backroom dealing), direct election of senators, the vote for women, greater regulation of the trusts, and a ban on child labor.

We should hope that if Sen. McCain wins in November he follows TR’s example rather than the conservatives’ favorite 20th century Republican president. Would you rather see another TR or another Reagan?

17 09 2008
Crimson Wife

Also, I don’t think it’s fair to hold individuals who lived a long time ago to today’s standards of political correctness on race. What if veganism becomes the prevailing moral norm decades from now- would it be fair for future generations to condemn those of us who are not vegans when it’s considered perfectly acceptable by mainstream society at this point in time to eat animal products?

17 09 2008
Nance Confer

CW, is there any basis for that hope?

And I do agree with you about racist attitudes, etc., from the past. We’ve come a long way, as a country. Not sure it’s a PC analogy you’re using but. . .


17 09 2008
Crimson Wife

I was trying to come up with an issue that is seen as highly immoral by its proponents but which the mainstream American society finds perfectly acceptable. Veganism was the first thing that popped into my head, probably because the vegans I’ve encountered tend to be extremely passionate about it. They go beyond the typical vegetarian concerns about health, budget, eating low on the food chain, factory farming, etc. (many of which I share, which is why I eat a “flexitarian” diet myself) to make the claim that eating animal products is inherently evil. The Christian vegans I know see it as an extension of the pro-Life movement; they believe that animals have a “nephesh” or life spirit that is unethical to end for non-essential purposes like supplying food or clothing for humans when there are alternatives available.

I could foresee a time when this POV becomes the prevailing norm in America. If that happens, future generations may wonder how so many people who were otherwise good & decent could’ve participated in the wholesale slaughter of millions of animals. Just as we today look back in horror at the widespread acceptance of slavery a few centuries ago. Our descendents may dismiss the idea of “humanely-raised” meat as we today (quite rightly) dismiss the notion of “humanely-treated” slaves…

17 09 2008

After escaping the lipstick illogic loop, don’t let’s go off into some vegan, um, valley? 🙂

The musical is in nightly rehearsals and DH is out of town (and the Red Sox are losing, grrr!) Also I only have blog access late at night and early in the morning for the next few weeks, so I just read all this and want to join in the comments quickly before bed, then I’ll get another look around 9 am EDT tomorrow:

1. McCain picked TR’s mold into which he would cast himself. (I didn’t pick TR to criticize or to compare McCain to, for his race norms or anything else.) But let’s be reasonable – if NIXON as a fellow Republican 40 years ago, had to clean up after TR’s race overreactions 100 years ago, then making excuses for either TR (or Nixon) now would seem less the point, than that both were R leaders outside the morality norm in some ways even in their own time.

2. One thing I liked a lot about TR was his research and writing, his photographic memory, his Harvard honors. I see McCain these days as not up to that standard intellectually or education-achievement wise — although to the above point about different times and norms, of course Harvard wasn’t then, what it is now, either . . .and neither were dads, I guess.

3. It wasn’t race per se that struck me in the TR bio, as much as what I suspected was also behind Palin’s psychology, that confident if not downright arrogant sense of divine destiny, conquering the frontier by being the toughest, firing first and never blinking, yee-haw! — using up resources and forging on for your own benefit while natural resources and lesser beings in your way were meant for your control, plenty more where they came from. . . it may have been perfectly appropriate in TR’s time but is it right for America now, in a global society in which wasteful white frontier folk are such an unsustainable and frankly unappealing minority?

18 09 2008
Nance Confer

it may have been perfectly appropriate in TR’s time but is it right for America now,


No, and that’s the point. The Rs are just so out of touch it is painful to watch.


20 09 2008
Betty Malone

Dear daughter Emily is having such fun in her first Western Civ class in college. As a science major she only has to take this one history class.. She loves the prof..a Dr. something or other at IU..and he really must be one of those rare great lecturers that spark a student’s imagination and thinking. She’s full of all those earnest insights that we all probably had in our freshman year of college..as though we were discovering new truths never before revealed! Our conversation this week via email has been about her first real college paper. for this class..on the myths of western civilization..to prove or disprove them. And she’s full of excitement but some fear at the challenging of synthesizing and coming up with her own valid thesis..lots of ideas boiling over..but she seems to be coming to ..how western civilization’s myth need to become just that..myth and memory..and the TR stuff you posted JJ…are food for thought for her. Thanks again for sharing..He held strange fondness for me as a young girl..the cowboy maverick of a president, protecting the little bears and the wild forests..never knew he didn’t protect the native people

20 09 2008

Oh, I remember! Heady stuff.
“She’s full of all those earnest insights that we all probably had in our freshman year of college..as though we were discovering new truths never before revealed!”

Favorite Daughter too. My dad the quiet, thoughtful college professor used to say it was an honor and a privilege just to listen to me talk, and I would laugh and think what a silly and obviously exaggerated compliment, but now I understand it might have been thoroughly heartfelt. I absolutely love getting to be a bit player or even having a seat in the audience for the power of life story she’s staging!

I went through so many ideas and identities. Tell Em that I “actually” wound up minoring in history, Southern history because that was my family heritage and I had loved Gone With the Wind as a child, etc — and what an education that was, talk about learning myth and memory and how to integrate an identity!

Another completely different part of my dad’s identity was Air Force colonel, from the Korean War. He wasn’t merely a brash ballsy fighter pilot type though, like Bush-McCain-Palin, without developing the self-examined, executive judgment, scholarly part of his humanity too. I don’t know about TR but he sounds like he might have been more like my dad and less like these intellectually deficient mavericks.

As I explain so often, we think and talk in movies and musical power of story here. Every time I hear McSame-Flailin’ hammering home that label as the identity they choose to run on, I flash on an image of crazy Tom Cruise in Top Gun going by “Maverick” and displaying all these same multi-talented, dashing and sexy but dangerously self-absorbed and undisciplined fighter pilot traits, both attracting and repelling us at the same time, hurting himself and many people serving with him, including the country for which he fights so wildly, finally getting his best friend and companion — who foolishly dared to trust this Maverick as a leader — killed. Widowing and orphaning his little family.

And then whose pain did Maverick feel most keenly? His own. It was STILL all about him.

And this is the kicker. Who is least likely to understand or care about this point, the most likely to reject it as blather or drivel or cowardice from lesser beings? Why, the Mavericks of course! That’s why in movie power of story Tom Cruise’s character was able to learn from his suffering and became a Real Boy (and a worthy teacher) before the lights came up in the theatre.

I read somewhere that the “smalltown” quote Palin used in her RNC convention speech came from a human monster who among other perversions hoped to see FDR assassinated— she surely had no idea, didn’t ask and wouldn’t understand why someone like me would find that disturbing. (As we get to know more about her myth and memory, she is coming to seem like the type who just “uses” and then throws away without another thought, bits and pieces of claims and ideas, people and money and power, like a sort of locust.)

It’s an outright disqualifier for me, this lizard-brained lack of human intellect and engagement. Especially after Bush.

Being a woman and mom obviously doesn’t make Andrea Yates, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin interchangeable or even similar as human stories.
It’s not that courage, confidence, church, charisma or the call of the wild is bad (or good) — it’s how it all fits together and what it serves. Is it “actually” pro-life, for example? How can leading an animalistic unexamined life reflect the true value of human life? Only a clueless hypercompetitive hotshot maverick breathing rarified air and flying too high above real human-sized life to see their differences, would dare buzz in without blinking and confidently shout out “the” woefully wrong answer to such questions . . .

20 09 2008

Oh yeah — got carried away and forgot what I’d been thinking first, Betty.

Sarah Palin shows no sign that she experiences her beautiful almost-grown daughter’s development and life story the way you and I are experiencing Em’s and FavD’s. If she never experienced college as “boiling over with ideas” then she’s not likely to foster that in her children. The girl is 17 and her future is already her mother’s past. “Actual” exploration of identity and life-changing ideas is tragically missing from the Story.

21 09 2008
Betty Malone

I think Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy troubles me the most about the myth of Sarah Palin. While I can only offer this anecdotal evidence..of having raised five children to adulthood, all the time with frank and open discussion about sexuality and how they might handle it as young adults…We never preached abstinence or birth control or any one method..but we did talk about it…very much..and …and all five took different paths in their sexual growth..but none of them became pregnant and all of them have found or are finding mature, open, loving relationships of their own…

And here stands this woman preaching to the world that she has the answers, she is qualified to not only show us the way to perfection, but she claims to be totally ready..and yet to me, her willingness to place her daughter on such a large public stage..at this time, isn’t indicative of bravery or support, but to me is selfish and self centered. Not that she should hide her daughter’s pregnancy, but to so publicy display the child instead of privately loving her. She has made her daughter a political pawn..and I find no respect for a mother that would do so..

21 09 2008
Nance Confer

A pawn in her mother’s schemes — exactly!


21 09 2008

Let’s not forget Palin’s eight month old. The fact that she chose deliver a baby with Down’s Syndrome is definitely being used for political points. If you bring a child into the world, I think you should take more responsibility for that child.

With Mom in the political arena, as well as pursuing her own interests such as running and hunting, and Dad working and hunting and racing dogsleds, exactly who is raising the Palin children? I feel bad for all of their children because it seems like they are being shortchanged.

I don’t see how someone with as much ambition and self-interest as Sarah Palin would further the interests of all children if given the opportunity to do so. Maybe I’m not the feminist I thought I was, but if I saw that at least one of the parents was making some sacrifices for the benefit of their children, I would feel alot better.

21 09 2008

To me it’s about a larger personal lack that affects her public choices too. That disturbing policy of making women and girls who are raped pay for their own forensic examinations, and cutting the special olympics funding while declaring herself a champion for special needs families, fits with everything else we’re learning now about her ACTUAL politics, and it all smacks of unusual lack of empathy or compassion — I’m not seeing any sign she can relate to other people’s lives and needs, either individually or collectively as “people.”

Not that anyone is making it easy for us to see anything . . .

22 09 2008

Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing tv president advising Obama, via Maureen Dowd:

GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.”

You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back.

Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. . .

They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too?

It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too?

. . . There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

22 09 2008

And let’s not forget the odd lack of compassion and connection with others suffered by McCain’s other soulmate, his wife:

While McCain’s accounts have captured the pain of her addiction, her journey through this personal crisis is a more complicated story than she has described, and it had more consequences for her and those around her than she has acknowledged. . .
“So many lives were damaged by this,” said Jeanette Johnson, whose husband, John Max Johnson, surrendered his medical license. “A lot of good people. Doctors who volunteered their time. My husband. I cannot begin to tell you how painful it was. We moved far away to start over.”

McCain’s addiction also embroiled her with one of her charity’s former employees, Tom Gosinski, who reported her drug use to the DEA and provided prosecutors with a contemporaneous journal that detailed the effects of her drug problems. He was later accused by a lawyer for McCain of trying to extort money from the McCain family.

“It’s not just about her addiction, it’s what she did to cover up her addiction and the lives of other people that she ruined, or put at jeopardy at least,” Gosinski said in an interview this week.

Cindy and John McCain declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article. The McCain campaign also declined to comment.

Based on the limited details they have provided in earlier interviews, it is impossible to tell the full story of a difficult period in their lives.

Cindy McCain had “actual responsibility” for their adopted Bangledesh baby during this time and had a toddler too, I believe, but the worrisome political implications don’t depend on that. (The American public felt free to judge Oprah when something beyond her control went wrong that hurt girls at her school, even though she’s not a mom, wasn’t running for office and clearly was giving back selflessly by setting up her own school in the first place.)

The twin-pronged strategy of truculence and propaganda that sold Bush and his war could yet work for McCain. Even now his campaign has kept the “filter” from learning the very basics about his fitness to serve as president — his finances and his health.

The McCain multihousehold’s multimillion-dollar mother lode is buried in Cindy McCain’s still-unreleased complete tax returns. John McCain’s full medical records, our sole index to the odds of an imminent Palin presidency, also remain locked away. . .

This is the same tactic of selective document release that the Bush White House used to bamboozle Congress and the press about Saddam’s nonexistent W.M.D. As truthiness repeats itself, so may history, and not as farce.

. . .When questions arose about a vacation the McCains took to Keating’s home in the Bahamas, Cindy McCain, as family bookkeeper, was asked to document that they had reimbursed the Keatings, but she could not.

22 09 2008

Back to McCain claiming TR as his closest presidential ancestor, Paul Krugman says it’s actually Herbert Hoover.

Here’s new video of McCain telling CBS how his 1999 efforts to deregulate Wall Street were “helpful” to the growth of our economy and so he doesn’t regret it.

14 11 2010

With two more years’ perspective and another campaign already, here’s how Vanity Fair sees Mr. McCain’s political identity:

It’s quite possible that nothing at all has changed about John McCain, a ruthless and self-centered survivor who endured five and a half years in captivity in North Vietnam, and who once told Torie Clarke that his favorite animal was the rat, because it is cunning and eats well. It’s possible to see McCain’s entire career as the story of a man who has lived in the moment, who has never stood for any overriding philosophy in any consistent way, and who has been willing to do all that it takes to get whatever it is he wants. He himself said, in the thick of his battle with Hayworth, “I’ve always done whatever’s necessary to win.” Maybe the rest of us just misunderstood.

McCain has always lived for the fight, and he has defined himself most clearly in opposition to an enemy, whether that enemy was the rule-bound leadership of the United States Naval Academy, his North Vietnamese captors, the hometown Arizona press corps that never much liked him, his Republican congressional colleagues, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Barack Obama, or J. D. Hayworth.

He has always been more of an existential politician than a consequential one, in the sense that his influence has derived not from steady, unswerving pursuit of philosophical goals or legislative achievements but from the series of unpredictable—and sometimes spectacular—fights he has chosen to pick.

As his daughter Meghan recently wrote, he has always been more of a craps guy than a strategic poker player. He has never been a party leader, like his old friend Bob Dole, of Kansas, or a wise elder, like his colleague Dick Lugar, of Indiana, or a Republican moderate, like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, of Maine.

He flies solo, first, last, and always, and his paramount cause has always been his own. That is the bracing reality of John McCain. It is the tragedy, too.

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