The Monday Morning Teaser

Throughout his career, John McCain’s ability to get favorable news coverage exasperated his opponents. (He once jokingly referred to the pool of reporters covering his campaign as “my base”.) Well, he did it one last time this week, as events recalling McCain’s life took over the news stations for four days. Just about every major American political figure other than the President attended some event, and several of them spoke in his honor.

The theme was obvious: Praising McCain’s virtues was also a way of dissing the man who clearly doesn’t have them, Donald Trump. It was a way of saying good-bye to an era when politicians could oppose each other as Republicans and Democrats without hating each other as Americans, when a political rival could be “my distinguished colleague from Texas” rather than “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” or “Little Mario”.

As I watched all this, part of me loved it, both because I have always felt a partisanly inappropriate affection for John McCain, and because the thought of Trump fuming makes me smile. But another part of me chafed at the injustice we were doing to the truth: We were telling the Legend of John McCain because it’s the story we need to tell right now, and ignoring anything about McCain that didn’t fit.

And then I thought about one of my favorite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ranse Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) had his life taken over by a legend: He was the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the lawyer who killed the gunslinger, symbolizing how Law replaced Violence as the ruling principle in the West. That legend launched a long and successful career, but now Senator Stoddard is finally in a position to tell the truth: He didn’t shoot Liberty Valance. The editor who hears his confession tears up his reporter’s notes, reasoning that the West needs Stoddard’s legend more than it needs the truth.

That’s where we’ve been this week, I think. The Legend of John McCain is the story we need to tell right now. And if it’s only kinda-sorta true, we should acknowledge that, but then go ahead and tell it anyway.

So the featured post this week is “John McCain Shot Liberty Valance”.

Predicting when any post is going to appear today is tricky, because I’m in the middle of moving to Massachusetts. (I know that’s a bad move politically; New Hampshire needs my vote more.) But let’s predict the McCain post for 10 EDT, and the weekly summary for noon. Somewhere in there I need to go down to U-Haul and rent a van.

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  • knb  On September 3, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I hope that after you move to Massachusetts that you’ll still go back up to New Hampshire for some of the thirty-people-in-a-bookstore early campaign events that tend to be uniquely New Hampshire.

  • Jill Drury  On September 3, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Best of luck with the move. We’ll be sorry to no longer count you and Deb as neighbors. I’m kind of perplexed why you’re going to Massachusetts after years of commuting from NH to Mass (and now you don’t NEED to do that commute, if I’m right about your current employment situation), but I hope whatever is going on makes this a positive and happy relocation.

  • coastcontact  On September 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Most of your postings are too long. This commentary on John McCain was just right

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