Inherit the Whinge
James Fallows ruminates pityingly on the dyspeptic old husk that John McCain has become...
"I can remember when McCain seemed to be a potentially Eisenhower-ish, as opposed to an increasingly Bunning-like, figure in American public life. Broad-minded, tolerant, eager to bridge rather than open divides -- this was the way he seemed to so many people starting from his arrival in the Congress in the 1980s.
"Seeing him now is surprising not simply because it reminds us: this man could be the sitting president, but also because it again raises the question, how did he end up this way? Even if his earlier identity had been artifice, what would be the payoff in letting it go?"
And tries to find historical parallels.
I have been trying to think of a comparable senior public figure who, in the later stages of his or her career, narrowed rather than broadened his view of the world and his appeals to history's judgment. I'm sure there are plenty (on two minutes' reflection, I'll start with Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh), but the examples that immediately come to mind go the other way.
George C. Wallace, once a firebrand of segregation, eventually became a kind of racial-healing figure near the end of his troubled life.
May I suggest that William Jennings Bryan (or his cinematic alter-ego, Matthew Harrison Brady) and his involvement in the Scopes Trial probably comes closest.
The issues at hand in the Scopes Trial were, in crucial ways, remarkably similar to DADT:
"I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy. You can only punish. I warn you that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys everyone it touches — its upholders as well as its defiers."And the conflict's central antagonist -- a once-popular, perpetual candidate for President who never closed the deal on the top job and ends up being publicly humiliated in a legal battle he should never have inserted himself into ---- Henry Drummond, "Inherit The Wind"
is about as close to a dead-bang match to McCain as you are likely to ever find.
They are both stories of once-towering figures in the twilight of their lives who have plunged off a cliff with both feet because, where years ago there was once vigor, there is now only a bilious mental and spiritual rigor mortis: only hubris and rage, being channeled though an increasingly narrow and bitter mind.
Or, as Henry Drummond put it at the end of the movie:
"A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away."