Sunday, August 24, 2008

One of My Favorite Fiction Writers Gets McCain (and Arizona) Wrong, Part 1

I hate, I absolutely hate, to say bad things about J.A. Jance. I've read every single one of her excellent Joanna Brady mysteries, which I love, including the most recent one which was released just last month.

But it looks as if I must. Because Ms. Jance has a longish piece in today's Outlook section about McCain and Arizona, and a lot of it is, quite frankly, full of shit.

"What I know about McCain reminds me of a lot of people I've known in my home state over the years. He seems to be a straight shooter," Jance says. Well, we've all known a lot of people who were good at giving the impression that they were straight shooters. I'm sure Arizonans know the breed just as well as the rest of us do.

And that's exactly what McCain is - someone who's done a good job of conveying the impression of being a straight shooter. But he's not: here's Steve Benen's list of McCain's flipflops - 74 and counting. By the time a man is 70 years old, and running for the Presidency to boot, he ought to know where he stands on most things. He shouldn't be reversing himself on literally dozens of positions on major issues like Iraq, Gitmo, tax cuts, and Social Security.

Jance adds that McCain "has what we in Arizona like to call cojones, and from what I know of Arizonans, that's something they like and respect in a leader."

We all do. But most of us like it if those cojones are tempered with a sense of the possible.

Jance's fictional sheriff, Joanna Brady, has to deal with limitations all the time, and it's one of the things that lends a sense of realism to her books. There are always numerous demands on Brady's small police force, and limited staff, vehicles, money, you name it, to deal with those demands.

It's the same in the wider world. If you're President, and you've decided to throw every available soldier into Iraq, that means you've got nothing left for the next emerging crisis, whenever and wherever it raises its head. To then say, "We're all Georgians now" isn't demonstrating one's cojones, but is rather an exhibition of meaningless bluster. It sounds good, but if he'd already been President, he wouldn't have been going to the aid of the Georgians any more than Bush did, because he, like Bush, would have had no troops to go to their aid with.

As Si Kahn once sang, "It's not the fights you dream of, but those you really fought."

Jance: "Like my parents, he's...someone who's not afraid of hard work and who's determined to get the job done."

Pardon me, Ms. Jance, but what evidence is there that McCain's a hard worker? One of the distinguishing features about McCain as Senator and Presidential candidate is how little he works to understand difficult issues - even those, like Iraq, that are supposedly in his wheelhouse.

He's demonstrated his ignorance about who's for and against whom in Iraq, lumping Sunni and Shi'ite opponents of the U.S. occupation into an imaginary alliance that neither side is interested in. In an interview, he disagreed with an interviewer who pointed out that he was going to limit carbon emissions through the use of mandatory caps, apparently not realizing that that's what the 'cap' part of his own 'cap-and-trade' proposal really means. And these are just two of many for-instances. If he was a hard worker, he'd know these basics about his own proposals, and about the issues he takes most seriously. I have to believe he's not.

Finally, Jance says:
Some people complained that he moved here for the sole and calculated purpose of starting his political career in a place where his second wife's family connections could help make that happen. But how is that different from generations of miners who were also "opportunists" when they came to this patch of desert looking for better jobs or better lives -- the same way my father did?
McCain's real bit of opportunism was wooing and winning the daughter (and eventual sole heir) of a very rich man, while still married to his first wife. There he was, a man in his forties, putting the moves on a woman in her early 20s, who just happened to be worth more money than most of us can imagine, while he was still married to wife #1.

In the long-ago words of SNL's Chico Escuela, "Charlie Hustle, you bet."

Yeah, that's just a wee tad different from moving to Arizona for the dry desert air, or in the hopes of striking it rich with a copper mine claim.

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