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Johnny McCain’s Childhood: The Strangest Lie of All

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You’d think John McCain would feel a twinge of shame when he hears Sarah Palin gush patriotic over the “pro-American” areas of the country, as opposed to, say, Washington, D.C. – a sentiment she clarified with these words:

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe – we believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. (1)

Just a twinge. After all, John McCain spent nearly half of his childhood — ages nine through his early twenties — living in Washington D.C., (2) in that very hotbed of elitist anti-Americanism. Of course,  you’d never know it, since John McCain’s life histories skim over his entire childhood, as if he were born, then didn’t exist again until the age of fifteen.  

John McCain’s Boyhood Years: The Google Bio vs. A More Accurate Bio

I’m not the first to google McCain’s childhood bio and find only this, scattered with a few stories about his scrappy temperament: 

A more accurate bio looks like this, with two years unaccounted for, during which time his father completed three different submarine missions. Did McCain attend 20 different schools between 1949-1951?

A Lie is Born

McCain’s childhood resume wouldn’t really bear mentioning at all, had he not spent the past 25 years lying about it, and then spent the past two months lying about Barack Obama’s childhood resume. Did John McCain really go to 20 different schools? And was Hanoi really the longest he’d lived any one place up until the age of 46, as he’s asserted so many times over the years?

Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi. — John McCain, 1982, defending himself against accusations that he was a big-moneyed, carpetbagger opportunist during his first political campaign, as a new Arizona resident, running for an open seat in Arizona’s 1st congressional district.

According to historian, Mary Hershberger, “After that dramatic claim, raising the carpetbagger issue seemed unpatriotic. It worked like magic and he said it showed him that his time as a POW was ‘a good first story to sell’ on the campaign trail. He’s been selling it ever since. The problem, of course, is that it’s far from the truth, at least if he lived with his parents while growing up. With the exception of two years, from the time that John was nine until he was in his twenties, they lived in Washington, D.C. They had a house on Capitol Hill where Congressional leaders regularly dropped by for meals. When he returned from Vietnam in 1973, he lived and worked in Washington, D.C, four more years. So, when he made his political claim in 1982 about living longest in Hanoi, he surely knew that it wasn’t true, but nobody checked it out and he kept saying it.” (2)

McCain most recently incanted the Hanoi claim in late Sept. 2008, in a 60 Mintues interview on CBS:

Pelley: You were born in the Panama Canal Zone because your father was stationed there. Where’d you live as a kid?

McCain: Well, we lived in San Diego, we lived in Norfolk, Virginia. We lived in the Washington D.C. area. We lived in New London, Connecticut. My dad was a submariner.

Pelley: Longest you’ve lived any one place?

McCain: Hanoi. Hanoi was the longest- I lived any place, five and a half years.

Pelley: When you were in prison?

McCain: Yup, yeah, I certainly don’t wanna call that my hometown. (3)

If John McCain lived in Norfolk outside of his Navy pilot days, as an adult, there’s no paper trail to prove it. There is mention of him staying with his aunt Rowena in Windsor Square, Ca, and briefly attending Third Street School during the time the family still lived in New London (time period unknown), but if young John ever even visited San Diego as a child, much less lived there, there’s no trail to prove that either since — unlike his campaign opponent, Barack Obama — John McCain’s life history has not been well-documented, and can only be gathered piecemeal by scrutinizing various documents and biographies (e.g. 4, 7). Which makes particularly odd his frequent attacks (spoken before jeering audiences, perhaps in the hope of reinforcing his campaign’s ploy to paint Obama as a Muslim terrorist) as McCain wages accusations that the details on Barack Obama’s life are unknown and unknowable: 

Even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don’t know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign….For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. (5) 

You all, America knows me…. You know my story, my convictions. You need to know who you’re putting in the White House and where that candidate came from and what he or she believes in. …. In short, who is the real Barack Obama? My friends, you ask such questions and all you get is another angry barrage of insults. (link here)

The question is: Why would anyone need to ask Obama ‘where he came from and what he believes in,’ since Obama has already told us over and over and over? Obama has been an open book on this –both literally and figuratively –having published his life story, and having repeatedly stated these things outright while on the campaign trail. And, for anyone who missed hearing the details of Obama’s childhood, a simple google of the term, “Barack Obama’s childhood” will deliver his entire childhood resume to you at the touch of a button. It’s so simple, actually, that it can be condensed into one sentence: Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, where he spent his entire childhood, except through the ages of 6 through 10, when he lived in Indonesia with his sister, his mother, and her new husband. 

It’s not so easy for John McCain.

But, then — as John McCain will be the first to tell you — nothing has ever been so easy for John McCain, beginning with his boyhood school days, which he’s repeatedy described in detail. Here’s one such version, provided by the Hoover Institution:  

McCain calls the base schools “substandard.” Sometimes the schoolhouse was “nothing more than a converted aircraft hangar,” he writes. “The classes mixed children of varying ages. We might have one teacher on Monday and a different one on Tuesday. On other days, we lacked the services of any teacher at all.” Needless to say, he was “often required in a new school to study things I had already learned. Other times, the curriculum assumed knowledge I had not yet acquired.”

If the accommodations and scheduling were not idiosyncratic enough, the frequent moves, says McCain, were the “chief obstacle to a decent education…. As soon as I had begun to settle into a school, my father would be reassigned.” Though McCain says that such a “transient childhood” was simply a way of life, it was not a life lived by most Americans. “Seldom if ever did I see again the friends I left behind,” he says. (6)

Convincing stuff. Kinda tugs at your heartstrings, don’t it? Makes for good copy, too — much like his Hanoi claim, which is pure bunk. Given what is known about John McCain’s actual boyhood history, plus his propensity for, uh, stretching the truth, his 20-schools-in-2 years story is dubious — even if one is extremely generous, taking into account his visit(s) to his aunt Rowena in California. Again, McCain’s childhood resume wouldn’t bear mentioning,  had he not spent the past 25 years lying about it, and then spent the past two months lying about Barack Obama’s childhood resume. Here, a few questions beg answers: What’s true and what’s not? And why does McCain feel compelled to lie about any of his boyhood history? What’s to be gained? Did he simply get caught up in a small lie, that turned into a big lie, which he’s now doomed to forever repeat?

Answer: It Was Invented in Increments

I’m not the first to wonder about John McCain’s childhood history. The internet is riddled with unanswered questions about the most rudimentary aspects of his elementary years. One such inquiry turned humorous, when one googler attempted to locate childhood photos of McCain and — turning up nothing — decided to google, “When was the camera invented?” Interestingly, there are no childhood photos of John McCain on the internet — not that I could find, anyway — while there are a wealth of Barack Obama’s childhood photos, which easily substantiate Obama’s stated life story.

 

A similar body of McCain’s boyhood photos from infancy through age 15 would surely substantiate the stories he’s repeated throughout his political career, regarding his “transient childhood” and the geographical whereabouts of at least some of the 20 schools he attended. Or not.

Perhaps these photos simply don’t exist. Odd as this theory may seem, it is plausible, given that his mother, Roberta McCain, couldn’t produce a single photo of John from the dozens of family photos displayed on her dresser-top (see video, below, starting at 2:35) during a tour of her Washington, D.C. apartment, (although she did allow that there are boxes containing some of his childhood photos, which she’s been meaning to dig out). Perhaps one day we’ll see them. Or not. 

 

 

  1. Huffington Post: Palin Explains What Parts of Country Not “Pro-American”
  2. John Dean Interview: Reflections on Historian Mary Hershberger’s Piece on McCain’s War Record, and a Q&A with the Author
  3. CBS 60 Minutes Interview, Sept. 21, 2008
  4. John McCain: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg (p. 23): At Saint Stephen’s, an exclusive private school in the Washington, D.C. area, [McCain] had begun to display a defiant, unruly streak. But it was not until a few years later when he entered Episcopal High School, a boys’ boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia, that those qualities emerged with a vengeance. (pg. 29): During this period, [McCain’s dad] took on two jobs that some feel jump-started a career on the verge of stalling. As the Navy’s first chief of information, a public relations post, he cultivated influential Washington correspondents. A short time later he became the Navy’s senior congressional lobbyist. Soon many of the nation’s most powerful politicians were streaming to the spacious McCain town house at First and C., S.E., now the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP’s official watering hole. (pg. 87, on McCain’s conversations with his POW cellmate, Bud Day): Day was ten years older, but McCain was the more worldly, regaling his cellmate with tales of youthful carousing and womanizing. He was also more politically sophisticated, having kept an ear to the wall when his parents entertained senators, congressmen, and other big-wigs at their Capitol Hill home. Day said McCain helped him understand how Washington really worked, with emphasis on the human dimension.
  5. New York Times: McCain: ‘Who is the real Barack Obama?”
  6. Hoover Institution: The Early Education of Our Next President 
  7. Man of the People by Paul Alexander
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McCain’s Bogeyman Politics: The last refuge of a scoundrel

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! A terrorist plane! An Arab! A Muslim! An Islamic extremist! A scary black man! A rock star! The anti-Christ! A commie! A socialist! A traitor! A treasonist! It’s un-American! It’s… it’s….

It’s election year.

And the McCain campaign, ever-desperate for something to run on besides their shoddily repackaged version of the Bush Administration, is grabbing at straws. As such, they’ve amassed the most reprehensible stump tactics in political history and repackaged them into a plank, of sorts: bogeyman politics. A scary mix of race-baiting, red-baiting and kitchen-sink demagoguery, bogeyman politics can turn a garden-variety politician into a scarecrow. By the same token, it can transform a great man into the very embodiment of terror: the bogeyman. History bears this out. The McCain-Palin bogeyman platform pays great tribute to the architects of fearmongering: Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Westwood Pegler, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace.

And to anyone who would accuse Rep. John Lewis (GA) of going ‘over the line’ by mentioning George Wallace in his recent rebuke of McCain-Palin for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” I would ask you to tell me: What are McCain, Palin, their surrogates and supporters doing — in both words and foulness of spirit — that is so different from what we saw during George Wallaces’s campaigns?  

Barack Obama is not even worthy to shine the shoes of John McCain. — PAC member, Deborah Johns, speaking from the pro-McCain-Palin “Stop Obama Tour” October 17, 2008

 

I’m a proponent of the “we must remember history, lest we repeat it” school of thought. Apparently, there are many in this country who have either forgotten, or they’re too young to own a visceral perspective of those bleak lessons that history has so painfully taught us over the past 60 years. Else, how could our media so easily disregard the McCain-Palin campaign’s flirtation with McCarthyism? And how could any American, except die-hard racists, embrace a platform that engages in the scary black man/scary Muslim race-baiting rhetoric (an amalgam of 1950s era racism and 21st century Muslim terrorist fearmongering)? How could anyone embrace a campaign that soils the character of a good man, based solely on the color of his skin and the unfortunate coincidence of his middle name?  

The history books will one day record the McCain-Palin campaign as being every bit as flagrantly ridiculous and dangerous as it truly is. The shame is that that we don’t recognize these destructive campaigns in their time. It is only in retrospect, years after the damage has been done. The demagogues of Nazi Germany, the McCarthy era and White Supremacy did not seize power overnight. That power had to be cultivated — word by word, fear by fear — conjuring forth the darkest elements of human nature to do war against imaginary evils. 

History tells the tale: good men and women can be drawn to do dark deeds, given the incentive of fear. While human beings may never lose their fear of the bogeyman — that amorphous being that hides in the shadows, in closets, under the bed at night and flies planes into buildings — we can choose to become more wise. Great leaders, like Obama, shed light into the dark places. Fools, like McCain/Palin, draw us further into the darkness. Wise men know the difference between the two camps. 

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Billboards showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 are erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration is a "communist plot" against the "Southern way of life." Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a "communist."

Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a “communist plot” against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a “communist.”

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers  

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Quotes and other foodstuffs for thought:

George Wallace was fond of red-baiting. In his 1963 inaugural speech, he compared fascist Germany to the Civil Rights movement, and he blamed desegregation and the Civil Rights movement on communism: 

This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers, but if we amalgamate [desegragate] into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers, then the enrichment of our lives, the freedom for our development, is gone forever….And may we take note of one other fact…. There are not enough native communists in the South to fill up a telephone booth. — George Wallace

 

They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia. – George Wallace, 1968

I’ve lived here for at least 10 years and before that, about every third duty I was in either Arlington or Alexandria, up in communist country. —  John McCain’s brother, Joe, speaking about two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia, October 4, 2008

His voting record is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. — John McCain, when asked if Obama is an extremist, July 17, 2008

I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.– John McCain (same interview) when asked if he thinks Obama is a socialist, July 17, 2008

His answer actually scared me even more… It’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. I don’t want to share my money with other people. That’s not the American dream. — Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher, reacting to his discussion on taxes with Barack Obama, October 14, 2008

Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. – Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing in March 2008 what would happen if Obama won the presidency

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. — Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama, April 2008

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity. — Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, in comparing Michelle Obama to Sarah Palin, Sept 4, 2008

A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a “celebrity senator.” No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right – it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America. — Rudy Giuliani, in his Sept. 2008 RNC convention speech, makes a subtle nod to Affirmative Action as the conduit to Obama’s rise in politics. 

He worked as a community organizer. — Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama, Sept. 2008 RNC

This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer. — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.Sarah Palin, June 2008

Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God. — Sarah Palin, June 2008

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. — Aldolf Hitler

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay. He wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? – Sarah Palin on Obama, Sept. 2008

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.  – Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, Sept. 2008, quoting Westbrook Pegler, the racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist/writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe…. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom. — Sarah Palin, explaining an early comment regardings areas of the country that are “pro-America” vs. those parts of America that are not. — Oct. 16, 2008

We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans. And we don’t apologize for being Americans. — Sarah Palin, October 16, 2008

McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled. — Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy era

I think it should be a states issue not a federal government, mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. – Sarah Palin, October 2008

This nation was never meant to be a unit of one… This is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control. — George Wallace, 1963 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights/white supremacy. This was a prominent component of George Wallace’s rhetoric, as he tried to assert the state’s right to preserve prejudice as in institution. The above is but one example, from one of his more famous speeches, delivered from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering]

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ — Lee Atwater, explaining the evolution of the GOP’s Southern strategy, 1981

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. – Sarah Palin on Obama,  October 2008 

Our opponent is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.  — Sarah Palin, October 2008

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that…. In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? — John McCain, Oct. 2008 [In short, McCain would like us ask ourselves, “Is Barack Hussein Obama a *real* American? Just who is this dark stranger? And what is this scary, black, Muslim-y terrorist-like guy going to do with our country if we elect him?”] 

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I’ll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won’t give it a second thought. — John McCain, spoken before a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy in his senate race.

 It is not truth that matters, but victory. — Adolf HItler

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.” — from a McCain campaign press release, October 2008

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. — Paul Joseph Goebbels on the power of propaganda

“Sit down, boy.” — Shouted at an African American media soundman by a Sarah Palin supporter during a rally  

“Kill him!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Treason!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Traitor!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Off with his head!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“He’s an Arab!” — said by a McCain-Palin supporter at a McCain town hall meeting, Oct. 2008

“Commie faggot!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. — Adolf Hitler

In the wake of their ongoing, indendiary rhetoric — along with the unchecked, ugly responses from the McCain-Palin rally audiences — Rep. John Lewis of Georgia issued a statement to the McCain campaign, adding his voice to the many, many others (colleagues, media figures and journalists, etc.) rebuking the campaign’s negative tactics. In Lewis’ statement, he reminded McCain of the historical precedence for violent repurcussions in the wake of such dangerous rhetoric. McCain took umbrage at this and chose to turn Rep. Lewis’ reprimand into an attack on Obama: 

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track. I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America. — John McCain, Oct. 2008

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Perhaps, one day, John McCain will experience one of those death-bed conversions, similar to the one experienced by George Wallace, similar to the one Lee Atwater experienced while dying with a brain tumor. I’ve been around this world long enough to know that there are few burdens too heavy to bear. A heavy conscience is one of them 

I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul. It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.

Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn’t with me as against me…..My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything. — Lee Atwater, 1990