The first from The Atlantic on John McCain. I’ve been searching for some more good in depth material on my man, John. I’ve read a couple of his biographies (which are great, by the way) but haven’t found really compelling material in the past few months. This is incredibly so. Some choice selections:
“During the three years after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations, McCain was the rare Republican who was publicly critical of the administration, and in particular of General Casey and then–Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. His anger at Rumsfeld remains palpable. “You’ve got to tell people exactly what’s going on,” he said. “This goes back to ‘Mission Accomplished,’ ‘a few dead-enders,’ ‘last throes.’ I used to grind my teeth.”
By the beginning of 2007, his frustration was boiling over publicly. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he reprimanded Casey. “You will need to explain why your assessment of the situation in Iraq has differed so radically from that of most observers and why your predictions of future success have been so unrealistically rosy,” he said. ”
“In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals. It’s not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor—two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined—that he becomes truly unbending.
Kissinger learned this at their first meeting. “When I was in Vietnam for negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement, the North Vietnamese prime minister had a dinner—I was leaving the next day—and he said if I wanted to take McCain on my flight, it could be arranged,” he said. “I told him that I won’t take McCain or anyone else on my plane. The prisoner release would have to happen on a schedule previously agreed. Somehow McCain heard about this and months later, at the White House reception for returned prisoners, he said to me, ‘I want to thank you for saving my honor.’ What McCain did not tell me at that time was that he had refused to be released two years earlier unless all were released with him. It was better for him to remain in jail in order to preserve his honor and American honor than to come home on my plane.””
Pretty amazing stuff in there. Now, let’s switch gears.
The New Yorkers dives into Sarah Palin in a very solid piece of reporting (Vintage New Yorker). Choice selections:
“Palin, who studied journalism in college and worked for a time as a sportscaster, has an informal manner of speech, simultaneously chatty and urgent, and she reinforces her words with winks and nods and wrinklings of her nose that seem meant to telegraph intimacy and ease. Speaking recently at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, she said, “It was so cool growing up in this church and getting saved here, getting baptized by Pastor Riley in Little Beaver Lake Camp, freezing-cold summer days that we had at camp—my whole family getting baptized when we were little.” She sounded the same when we met, high-spirited, irrepressible, and not in the least self-conscious. On the contrary, she is supremely self-confident, in the way of someone who believes that there is nothing she can’t talk her way into, or out of, or around or through. There was never a hesitation before speaking, or between phrases, no time for thought or reflection. The words kept coming—engaging, lulling, distracting—a commanding flow, but without weight. Yet, for all the cozy colloquialism, she cannot be called relaxed. She’s on—full on.”
“Sarah Palin seemed to understand this. Earlier this year, she wrote in a newspaper column, “The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.” And, for all her talk of Alaska fending for itself, she told me, “There isn’t a need to aspire to live without any earmarks. The writing on the wall, though, is that times are changing. Presidential candidates have promised earmark reform, so we gotta deal with it, we gotta live with it, understanding that our senior senator, especially—he’s eighty-four years old, he is not gonna be able to serve in the Senate forever. We will not have that seniority back there anymore.” Suddenly she called out, “Alaskans, wake up!” Then she went on, “That means we have got to get ourselves in a position of seizing opportunities to develop and pay our own bills. ’Cause we’re not gonna see that largesse coming to our state as we had in all these years. Whether we like that or not or support that or not, that’s reality.””
Assuming you made it to the end, what do you think?