By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
“Gentleman Johnny” –a man of authentic refinement and moral sensibility (for a soldier), which he proved in the gracious manner he fought the “colonials.”
With this column I begin a three part series on “Gentleman Johnny McCain,” the likely Republican Party nominee. Why the moniker “Gentleman Johnny” when Senate colleagues have been anonymously quoted that he is anything but? Well, ever since I saw the movie of the George Bernard Shaw play “The Devil’s Disciple” (1959, starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and the incomparable Lawrence Olivier as the British Revolutionary War General, “Gentlemanly Johnny” Burgoyne) I have been fascinated by the latter personage. Having recently seen the play on stage for the first time, performed by the very fine Irish Repertory Company in New York City, he came very much to mind. So, you might ask, what are the comparisons between McCain and Burgoyne? Actually I can’t think of any.
Burgoyne was a gentleman indeed (even though he attained that status in the first instance by marrying well). McCain is hardly one (although after having divorced the wife who stood by him while he was imprisoned in North Vietnam for five years, he did marry a woman who, by conventional American Standards, is very attractive and of regal bearing). Burgoyne acknowledged his military mistakes. McCain has not. Burgoyne, at least according to the Irish nationalist Shaw, thought that his bosses in the British military were a bunch of incompetents who knew nothing about fighting wars against insurgencies and that the political leaders who were pursuing it were both incompetent and fighting an unwinnable enterprise. McCain — well I don’t have to detail his (public) positions on those questions.
Finally, Burgoyne was an intellectual, a successful playwright in fact, who wrote both serious plays and comedies. One of the latter, a satire on the British occupation of Boston, was being played before a much-amused group of British officers in Boston when a messenger broke into the hall to proclaim that the rebels were attacking British positions on Breeds Hill. The officer audience thought that the announcement was part of the play until General Howe, their commander, came into the hall to order them all to their posts to fight what the next day, April 19, 1775, became the first recognized battle of the American Revolutionary War, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. As for McCain, there is hardly any apt comparison with Burgoyne’s intellectual capacities. So why do I use the moniker for McCain since there are no viable comparisons between the two men? Oh just that to my ears, it has a nice ring to it.
There are a number of issues to raise about McCain. Let us first consider his now very well-known, and now often repeated projection (http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080215/pl_afp/usvoteiraqmccain_080215145036) that the United States will have to remain in Iraq for 50, 100, perhaps even 1,000,000 years (http://www.americanprogressaction.org/progressreport/2008/01/pr20080107). There has been much comment both pro and con about the position he has taken. McCain has built his political reputation and indeed his career on being a “Straight-talker.” Indeed his campaign bus is called the “Straight-Talk Express.” Of course, an American enterprise in Iraq of that length, with objectives not yet specified by the Senator, would have major consequences for the United States in terms of manpower, money, and a variety of other considerations. Since McCain is nothing if not a straight-talker, I know that you know that we can soon expect to see a report of a major speech by him on Iraq and the consequences of his policy for our country. Such a report of such a speech just might read as follows. (Just for the record, as of this writing, Feb. 17, 2008, I had not seen anything like a report nor have I heard anything like the reported “speech” coming from the lips of Gentleman Johnny McCain.)
“In a speech yesterday on Iraq policy and its connection to both U.S. domestic and foreign policy, after noting that the ‘million years’ was just put in for rhetorical emphasis (and since he has just converted to Creationism it is impossible to think of men being around for that many years), Sen. John McCain told the American people just what would have to be done in order to carry out the mission as he had stated it. He proclaimed that it is a mission that he feels is vital to the security of the United States and its people, to say nothing of being vital to fulfilling the mission that George Bush set forth so clearly when he originally ordered the Iraq invasion: to bring peace, stability and Democracy to the Middle East as a whole.
“First, being a military man he knows better than anyone how the current War on Iraq and the subsequent occupation has essentially destroyed the best of the American military’s ability to fight land wars and then run policing operations such as we have ongoing in Iraq. The U.S. is very quickly running out of military manpower, he noted. Thus his first act as President would be to send Congress a bill to reauthorize the draft, which is absolutely essential for the new 100-year mission.
“Second, he has put meat on the bones of his determination both to cut unnecessary government spending and to find the funds to continue the Iraq operation for the next century. Putting heft behind his verbiage on ‘cutting pork barrel spending,’ with the determination to show that his Party, not those spend-thrift Democrats, will lead the way, he will send to Congress a bill rescinding every single piece of pork-barrel spending that was passed during the first six years of the Bush Presidency, when the Republicans dominated the Congress. He will also challenge the Democrats to do the same for the 2006-2008 period.
“Third, he recognizes that for the 100 Years War he says is essential for peace and U.S. security, the U.S. cannot continue to carry it out on borrowed money the way it has been under Bush. Thus, regretfully, he will propose a rescission of all the tax cuts awarded to those who can most afford to pay for the effort and who appear to want it the most, that is the rich. Finally, recognizing the continuing burden that the War will be on all U.S. taxpayers, he will ask Congress to immediately cancel all contracts given to the military industry for ‘exotic, high-tech’ warfare, since they are absolutely unnecessary for the kind of war/policing action that the U.S. will be carrying out in Iraq and elsewhere. The country not only doesn’t need them any longer; but also it simply cannot afford them.
“Asked if he didn’t think that he was putting his candidacy at risk by making such a speech, he said that he knows that above all, the American people value honesty and integrity, and that it was time that somebody from his Party gave it to them.”
More on John McCain and the “Straight Talk Express” next week.
This column is based in part on “Dr. J.’s ‘He Really Said That’: McCain and The Hundred Years War,” which originally appeared on BuzzFlash on Fri, 01/18/2008, (http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/jonas/096).
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jonas is a Contributing Author for the webmagazine The Political Junkies.net (www.thepoliticaljunkies.net ); a Columnist for the webmagazine BuzzFlash (http://www.buzzflash.com ); a Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online (http://www.bestcyrano.org/ ); a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC (http://www.oldamericancentury.org/ ); and an invited contributor to the weblog The Daily Scare (http://www.dailyscare.com/ ). He also has his own (currently inactive) weblog, “Dr. J.’s Short Shots, II” (http://drjsshortshots.wordpress.com/).
He is the author of The New Americanism (1992), available at www.amazon.com . In this book, Dr. Jonas presents his proposal for that “new vision and mission” for the Democratic Party that so many, for so many years, have been urging it to find. He finds them, needed with increasing urgency as the Georgites drive our nation towards frank theocratic fascism with increasing speed and determination, in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He is also the author of The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022. Under the pseudonym “Jonathan Westminster” this book was originally published in 1996. It was republished with a New Introduction in 2004. Under Georgite rule, the “fictional non-fiction” scenario of this work of “future history” is, most unfortunately, becoming all too real. The 2004 edition is available at www.barnesandnoble.com (search with the book title) and www.xlibris.com (click on “Bookstore,” then “Search” with the title). Both versions are available at www.amazon.com (go to “Books;” search with the title).