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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chapstick on a weasel


And yes, I am talking about someone--John McCain.

We can talk all we want about the outright lies he propagates in his ads. We can talk about the fact that he seems to have taken a page straight out of the Sarah Palin playbook, hiding from the media who might just be tempted to ask about all the lies and the ooze seeping from his campaign. We could even talk about issues--like The Tax Hike That Dare Not Speak Its Name--though I doubt that would generate any comments at all.

Instead, I think we should talk about how he is a power-abusing weasel. After all, if reasonable conservatives--some might even call themselves "fairly" conservative, think they can lie with impunity about Barack Obama and take Obama's words out of context and twist them, then we ought to be able to talk about documented facts that show how McCain is, in fact, a weasel.

In 2000, and in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the run-up to the 2004 election, I really, really lamented that John McCain had not beaten George W. Bush. "At least," my enfeebled Democratic brain told itself, "John McCain wouldn't be quite such a weasel." In fact, one of the most compelling what-ifs of the whole President McCain scenario was that, all other things being equal, at least a President McCain would not have a Vice President Cheney, Dick Cheney being being worse than a weasel (a stoat? a radioactive mink with laser-beam eyes and musk glands that can shoot a guy in the face?). Cheney has made an art out of lying to our faces, stymying investigations, and pushing his agenda in the face of contradictory facts.

But it turns out that I didn't know Dick, or, rather, John: McCain has been revealed to be exactly the same weasel the rest of the Republican Washington establishment is. Where to start? Why not Troopergate?

Butwaitaminnit, you say, Troopergate is Sarah Palin's problem! Well, yes and no. It's true that some of the most recent revelations (a pre-governor judge smack-down, and governor-era ethics advisor telling Palin to apologize for "overreaching" because the situation was "grave") make it look worse for Palin that it looked in August, but the right keeps dutifully explaining to us that there's no there there. And that may very well be true, and given that Palin was more than willing to agree to a unanimously-approved bipartisan legislative investigation as recently as a few weeks ago suggests that Palin had no fear that she'd be shown to be in the wrong. (Or, to rephrase and borrow from conservative dismissals of, for example, warrantless wiretaps: If she didn't do anything wrong, she should have nothing to worry about.)

However, just seconds after McCain, perhaps without really understanding what happened in Troopergate, tapped Palin to be VP, the cover-up started in earnest. Palin lawyered up and sued to stop the investigation. The star witness got cold feet, citing the bogus suit. Seven other cooperative witnesses also lawyered up and canceled their scheduled depositions. If there's no there there, the McCain campaign sure seems to be doing an awful lot of water-muddying to keep the world from learning just how much there there is not.

Then there are the rape-kit revelations. I can think of no other investigative technique that requires the victim of a crime to pay the investigation. The fingerprint lifting, the witness interviewing, the dumpster searching--that's all covered by the taxes we pay that lead us to expect the police to do a through job and find the perpetrator. Yet in the 1990s, as DNA technology was still new, it was a not-uncommon practice to charge rape victims for the rape kits.

In 1994, as a follow-up to the acclaimed and bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, Joe Biden--yes, that Joe Biden--worked hard to get legislation passed the required states not to charge for rape kits if those states wanted funds under VAWA. Among the "no" votes to this again-biparisan legislation? John McCain. And it would seem to me that one of the things a guy with a a history of verbal and physical abuse against women, particularly a guy with aspirations for higher office, ought to do is support the idea of not forcing women to pay for rape kits, but again just last year, McCain voted against funding that legislation.

I suppose we should not have expected anything positive on rape from a weasel who thinks women being raped by gorillas is funny.

Which brings us back to Palin. You have probably read by now that Alaska was the last state in the union to comply with Biden's 1994 rape kit legislation, finally passing a state law in 2000 to bring Alaska into compliance. The sole reason Alaska was out of compliance? The city of Wasilla (mayor at the time: Sarah Palin) was the only city left in Alaska that still charged women for their rape kits. Which means, as Alaska was the last state to come into compliance, Wasilla was likely the last city in the entire United States of America charging women for their own rape exams.

Now, that was a policy that pre-dated Palin. UPDATE: Turns out I was given Palin the benefit of a doubt she didn't deserve. New information today is that this was not the Wasilla policy before Palin was elected--charging for rape kits began under her watch, in a budget she signed! But she did not change it when she took office; she did not even change it during the legislative discussion about how Wasilla was out of compliance. The police chief she had installed (she fired the one who was in the office when she was elected, because he wanted to crack down on drunk driving--I know! And now she's set to be become VP!) was quite vocal about what a burden free rape exams would be on the taxpayer. Never mind what a burden it is to be raped and then to have to pay to collect the evidence of your rape. New slogan idea: "McCain-Palin '08: Pay For Your Own Damn Rape Exam."

And now the weaseling: A campaign spokesman is now running around saying Palin "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test." Another weasel statement belied by the facts!

(Aside: Apparently some of Alaska's women's rights organizations are quite vexed by Palin's firing of Walt Monegan, the Public Safety Commissioner whose ouster is at the heart of Troopergate. Monegan was a staunch advocate for women who were victims of crime and abuse like rape, and Palin's original pick to replace Monegan, who lasted all of two weeks in the job, was a man who'd been fingered, so to speak, for sexual harassment in his previous position. But women are supposed to love Sarah Palin!)

And to the last item, for today, anyway. I was not aware that in the 1990s Cindy McCain was addicted to painkillers until just this week. Which is fine by me--I don't think that drug abuse by a candidate's spouse should necessarily disqualify the candidate. (A possible addiction to gambling on the candidate's part might disqualify him, but that would require the press to investigate. Not gonna happen.) But here's the thing: Apparently, John McCain lied about it then (despite Cindy's having been in treatment in 1991 and 1992, McCain was saying that he had just learned of it in 1994 when the story broke in Arizona), and he also may have used the power of his Senate office to stifle any investigation. And then he and his wife leaned hard, for more than a decade, on a potential whistleblower to keep the guy quiet.

As I said, I used to think that McCain in 2000 was an explicit rejection of the politics of the weasel, a rejection of what we've come to know lately as Karl Rove politics. As it turns out, all that was simply a result of the fact that George W. Bush had managed to hire the likes Rove, Steve Schmidt, and Tucker Eskew first. This year, all of those men are working for McCain. Eskew, responsible for the "McCain had an illegitimate black baby" smear that sealed the deal in South Carolina in 2000, is now working for Ste. Sarah of Wasilla, so is it any wonder now that she as well, the next (and, presumably better, though she doesn't believe in evolution) generation of Republican leadership has started, since she was tapped for McCain's ticket, to act the weasel, too?

The abuses of power, the stifling of investigations, the flat-out denials that clearly contradict indisputable facts in evidence, and he's spread it to Palin in just three weeks. That's not "maverick." That's corrupt. And no amount of Chapstick will uncrack those lips. Or something.

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