Programming note: Tomorrow, Thursday, I'll be back with Tucker Carlson, live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Mail bombs seem likely to be on the agenda.
~As I wrote on Saturday, we're marking the twentieth anniversary of Canada's National Post by dusting off some yellowing columns, and my moldy old byline pic. We started on Monday with a shameful account of the tie that binds me to Tony Blair, while Tuesday found me inside Buckingham Palace and outside Bar Erotica. I said yesterday that a columnist has to get out of the house once in a while, but it helps if where you need to get to is just down the road. For much of 1999 and 2000, I was preoccupied with the US presidential primary season, much of which takes place in New Hampshire. So I spent a lot of those months tracking Bush, Gore, John McCain, Bill Bradley and others up and down the Granite State.
The caravan moves on, of course, to South Carolina and Super Tuesday, and the candidates drop out, until only the nominees remain. But, in an effort to "unify" the base, the winner reaches out to his rivals, and so it was that three months after the New Hampshire primary George W Bush and John McCain returned to my backyard to demonstrate to the world how much they liked each other. It proved harder than you might think...
Well, they got that over with. Prodded to use the words "endorse" and "Governor Bush" in the same sentence, John McCain replied in quick succession and an amusing variety of pitches: "IendorseGovernorBushIendorseGovernorBushIendorseGovernorBushIendorseGov ernorBushIendorseGovernorBushIendorseGovernorBush."
Message: I loathe Governor Bush.
Governor Bush responded: "I love you, man."
Message: I loathe you, man.
"John's a friend," said Governor Bush, as he has done many times before, though it always seems to come as news to Senator McCain. In testimony to their relaxed, affable relationship, Governor Bush calls Senator McCain "John" and Senator McCain calls Governor Bush "Governor Bush."
We hardened correspondents choked back our tears. Most of us hadn't seen that kind of spontaneous warmth and affection since the Prince and Princess of Wales' last tour of Australia. In a ringing endorsement, "John" added that "Governor Bush" would perform as president "more than adequately" -- the sort of money review they kill for on Broadway: Cats -- "More than adequate" -- The Newark Star-Ledger.
While McCain hailed Bush as one of the most mildly above average presidential candidates he'd ever had to put up with, Bush, invited to respond to Pat Robertson's assertion that McCain would be "very dangerous" as vice-president, said McCain was "a good man. He's a man of good judgment, and I look forward to working with him."
As if to confirm their new commitment to working together, immediately afterward McCain's man bitterly complained that Bush's remarks were insufficient. McCain doesn't want to be vice-president. But he wants Bush to want him to be vice-president and, in failing to salute him as the best vice-president America could ever hope for, Bush had apparently dissed him.
Poor old McCain. It's like asking Diana Ross to sing back-up. The McDiva had already pulled out of one scheduled reconciliation meeting with Dubya because the summit had lacked a formal agenda -- unlike, say, Yalta. The Bush camp's idea of an agenda was:
1) Order coffee, juice, Danish. Eggs Benedict optional.
2) "John" endorses "George."
3) Bush returns to campaigning, McCain returns to obscurity.
The McCain camp faxed back a revised version:
1) Order coffee, juice, Danish. McCain makes self-deprecating crack about lack of menu options at Hanoi Hilton.
2) Ceremonial presentation to McCain of Star Wars light sabre as used in senator's campaign. McCain says, "Come and get me, Darth," and waves it at Bush.
3) McCain makes further self-deprecating crack about Vietnam.
4) Bush endorses McCain as "the best vice-president any man could ever have."
5) McCain says he's not interested and attacks Republican Party voters as "the forces of evil."
6) Bush orders more coffee. McCain makes self-deprecating crack about getting the gooks to do refills.
7) McCain agrees to "support" "whoever the nominee is."
8) McCain reprises his side-splitting Chelsea/Hillary/Janet Reno gag but with "Laura Bush" substituted for Chelsea.
The Bush camp tried again:
1) Order coffee, juice, Danish. One self-deprecating Vietnam crack max.
2) Ceremonial presentation of light sabre. McCain says, "Come and get us, Darth", and waves it at picture of Gore. McCain addresses Governor Bush as "Obi wan Kenobi" throughout.
3) McCain concedes that "the forces of evil" comprise no more than 40% of Republican voters tops.
4) "John" agrees that, say what you like about "George," it's better than having your finger nails removed with bamboo shoots.
Bush supposedly needs McCain's help to win against Gore. And the more McCain declines to help him the more help Bush needs. McCain doesn't see why he should help Bush. "Am I my brother's keeper?" as the first McCain put it in the Book of Genesis. That may be what Pat Robertson has in mind when he calls McCain "very dangerous." If you know your Old Testament, you'll recall that, when McCain is asked, "Is your brother Abel?", he replies, "Well, I wouldn't go that far. He's barely adequate."
Barely Abel is a keeper of sheep -- registered Republican voters -- while McCain is a tiller who brings forth the fruit of the ground -- a reference to McCain's outreach to gays and other minorities. But unto McCain and his offering God -- I mean, GOP -- had not respect. And McCain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And McCain rose up against Barely Abel his brother, and slew him. And the GOP set a mark upon Cain -- the Mc of Cain -- and McCain went out and dwelt in the land of Nod, otherwise known as the U.S. Senate. Here endeth the lesson.
But Bush feels it's worth persevering with McCain. Or at least that's what the media keep telling Bush he ought to feel if he knows what's good for him. Bush needs McCain's support to win over what The New York Times calls the "independent-minded voters" who turned out for the senator in primary season. These "independent" voters are so independent-minded that one word from McCain to vote for the pampered fratboy with the annoying smirk and they'll be stampeding en masse to the polling booths to go with Dubya. Without McCain, say the media, Dubya appeals only to crackers, Jesus freaks and fat cats. There must be a lot of them out there because, in the latest polls, he's firmed up an eight-point lead over Gore.
Ah, well. McCain refused to take early release from the Viet Cong and he's refusing to take it from the primary campaign, either. He was all over the TV shows the other weekend "filling in" for his ailing friend Rudy Giuliani. He was all over them again reminiscing about Vietnam -- the man who says we've got to get the big money out of politics is happy to have his trip back to Hanoi paid for by ABC, a company regulated by a body overseen by his Senate committee. He's like that fisherman who rescued Elian: He doesn't seem to know his 15 minutes are up.
Dubya, by contrast, is Elian. He's a mystery. Does he want to go back home to his daddy? Or does he want to live in a media fishbowl with his vast extended family of strategists and donors? Is he being subjected to psychological abuse when he's forced to appear in public and tell Uncle John "I love you, man"?
Happily, Dubya will now be back in seclusion on the campaign trail for the next few months. It took his summit with McCain to get him on TV and the front pages for the first time since the primaries. On Wednesday, the day after the meeting, he was back to flat-out campaigning, with an appearance in Davenport, Iowa. Al Gore, meanwhile, spent the day campaigning in Arlington, Va. And Jacksonville, Ark. And Dallas, Tex. And Burbank, Cal. And the more people see him the worse his numbers get. Meanwhile, the less people see Dubya the better his numbers get. Let McCain hog the TV shows. The Bush strategy gives a whole new meaning to "negative campaigning."
~from The National Post, May 11th 2000
At John McCain's recent touring funeral, after George W Bush's fulsome oration, I could swear I heard the senator's coffin pronouncing it "more than adequate as eulogies go".
~Many of Mark's favourite Post columns are collected in The Face of the Tiger and Mark Steyn from Head to Toe, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore - and in one convenient bargain package. If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, don't forget to enter the promotional code at checkout to enjoy special member pricing.
If you're not in the Steyn Club, we'd love to have you. The Club will be presenting a brand new audio adventure in Tales for Our Time starting on Friday, and a special edition of The Mark Steyn Show next week. You can find more details about The Mark Steyn Club here. And stay tuned for details of the second Steyn Club Cruise with Mark and his special guests.
For our Massachusetts readers, this weekend - 3pm on Sunday October 28th - Steyn will be at the Boston Marriott in Newton to accept the Genesis Award from CJUI (Christians and Jews United for Israel). Aside from speaking, he'll also be signing copies of Lights Out, so if you're in the vicinity of Greater Boston we hope to see you there.