December 19, 2007


McCain Calls for End To Alternative Minimum Tax (SETH GITELL, December 19, 2007, NY Sun)

A relaxed Senator McCain, campaigning Barack Obama-style without a necktie, is offering New Hampshire voters a recipe that combines a morsel of the maverick, a bit of the bipartisan, a hint of the hawk, and a tablespoon of the tax-cutter.

Mr. McCain added to his campaign today a call to eliminate the alternative minimum tax and to make the research and development tax credit permanent along with a ban on taxes on the Internet and cell phones.

John McCain’s Last War: As it counts down the days to New Hampshire, his campaign is humbler. But the angry candidate is not. (Chris Jones, 12/19/2007, Esquire)
John McCain greets this autumn morning from his bed at the Sheraton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the same hotel in the same town he has gone to sleep in and woken up in so many times before, but today there’s no call for spotlights. It really is sunny outside. He climbs on board the bus -- no longer the luxurious, expensive Straight Talk Express, a shabbier ride, beat-up and worn, adorned only with a McCain banner strung up in the rear window. “Frankly, I don’t relish it,” he says of the loss of his front-runner status. But despite his protestations, this seems to be how he likes it best of all, John McCain and a couple of old buddies -- ”Morning, Orson!” -- and a seat in the back, shrugged free of the demands of the machine, carried on down the road instead by pink chicken and fortunes in cookies: The game isn’t over until it’s over.

“I still believe I can out-campaign anybody,” he says, sounding more motivated than he has sounded in months, motivated by anger, motivated by war. Portsmouth to Rochester, Rochester to Franklin, Franklin to Concord, Concord to Hudson, Hudson to Nashua, and at every stop, before big crowds and small, McCain grips the microphone and makes a few jokes -- ”I tried to enlist in the marines, but my parents were married” -- before he lifts himself out of this small VFW or that smoky Legion Hall and launches into his practiced, impassioned plea.

“I think it’s pretty obvious the American people ran out of patience,” he says, referring to the first of his wars. “And we did pay a price for our failure. We’re friends with the Vietnamese now, but we shouldn’t forget that thousands were executed, hundreds of thousands were put in reeducation camps, I don’t know how many fled on boats, died at sea. And in Cambodia, there was a genocide of incredible consequences. We have a tendency to forget that. But the Vietnamese never said we’re going to follow them home. They had no radical extremist cause that they thought was part of the struggle between them and us. That’s the difference. . . . I want us out, too, but I want us out with honor. And as terrible as the consequences of failure in Vietnam were, I don’t think they are as consequential as failure in Iraq.”

Whenever he talks like this, McCain almost always looks down at his right wrist, not because it’s partially frozen by the wounds that war inflicted on him but because around it is a bracelet, about as thick as a ruler, with a photograph of a young soldier on it. Next to it is written:

SPC Matthew J. Stanley.

Army 12/16/06

Wolfeboro Falls, NH.

The date is the day Stanley, twenty-two and newly married, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. McCain was given the bracelet by Stanley’s shaken mother, Lynn Savage, who took it off her wrist at a New Hampshire campaign stop a few months ago and put it on his. Today, she has joined him on the bus, and it’s her turn to tell a war story, her voice trembling only a little.

“I thought maybe, if I just offered the bracelet, he might take it and remember the reason why we need to finish what we’re doing and not let my son die in vain and not let thousands of others die in vain. . . . I just wanted it to be a gesture, to connect with him, so that he would understand. I’m sure he had friends who were killed during the war and he might know what their

parents went through. And I thought maybe it would just be a connection, and it really was -- he was very emotional when I gave it to him. That wasn’t my intention. But as long as it remains a reminder for him to honor my son and all the other soldiers who have fallen, it’s a wonderful thing. Never let the memories die, that’s so important.”

And then she will stop and smile a thin, sad smile.

This is what’s left for John McCain, the man and the message stripped down to the base coat. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, he’s trying to be one or two things for just a few, and maybe enough of them will hear him and think well of him for it. He’s run out of the time and the money and the love that allows a man to speak of beginnings. He’s finally realized that beginnings are a young man’s game.

Now, like most old men, he’s become obsessed with how the story will end.

After another fifty miles, after another meandering, mirthful conversation in the back of the bus, he shouts up front how long we have until the next stop.

“Twenty minutes? Oh, my God.”

But the truth is, he would like to stay on this beat-up bus forever. He knows too well what will happen when it stops. “I talk to Bob Dole,” he says, his voice quiet as a lake. “I was with him the last two weeks of his campaign, constantly. One of the things that was very moving -- and admittedly, he didn’t give great speeches and I understand that -- but you’d see in the crowd these older men with the crossed skis, the 10th Mountain Division hats on. And after the speech you’d kind of see Bob go over and they’d come over, and it was fascinating to see that. It was very touching to see that. It makes me emotional even now when I think about it.”

Suddenly, McCain smiles his own thin, sad smile, and his eyes brim with tears.

He has rarely attended his own military reunions; when he has, he says, he could pick out the guys who had retired by how much closer they seemed to death. Maybe that’s why he’s always looked ahead, always pushed forward, always tried to sell us on our futures and never on his past. Until now -- until now, he never dwelled much on history, partly because he has so much of it to get lost in, mostly because he wanted to seem strong and vigorous. But now he wants to remember, and he would like for you to remember, too.

Forty years ago, John McCain was filmed in black and white, wrapped in a body cast and smoking what might have been his last cigarette. This footage was little seen until what’s left of his staff -- Rick Davis, Brooke Buchanan, everything cut back to the bone -- convinced him it was finally time to play that card in an ad called Courageous Service. (“I’m slightly embarrassed by it,” McCain says.) There he lies, all of thirty-one, interrogated by an invisible man with an Indo-French accent -- What is your name, what is your rank, where were you educated, what is your official number? . . . “Six-two-four,” McCain says, his smoke burning down, “seven-eight-seven.” And then the screen fades to black.

The clip is powerful, because the John McCain we know today seems so far removed from that John McCain. It speaks of such long journeys. There’s a subtler message hidden behind it as well: It serves to remind us, gently, that after he refused early release, he spent more time in a Vietnamese prison camp than America has spent in Iraq -- that old men, and old soldiers especially, use a different abacus when making sums out of sacrifice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 19, 2007 10:01 AM

More selective amnesia from OJ. How many times has OJ told us senators as candidates are doomed because they get tied to their votes/actions? McCain's call to end the AMT flies in the face of his stance against other tax cuts over the past 6 years. A significant portion of McCain's support comes from the liberal media who are trying to keep him around now so that they can take him down later.

Posted by: AWW at December 19, 2007 1:31 PM

Yes, if Bill Richardson is the Democratic nominee he'll beat McCain, as Clinton edged Dole, though that required Perot. In a match-up between senators a senator will win, though a senator on the GOP would beat a woman or a black anyway.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2007 6:33 PM