"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Senator sock puppet

rainey BARRETT


Damned near impossible to turn on your old HDTV these days without seeing the master political ventriloquist and his sock puppet – McCain and Graham. Often, McCain is out of the picture so you don’t see his lips move. But ol’ Lindsey has his mouth flapping aplenty, mimicking the words of a former national hero that – as Dangerfield used to say – “can’t get no respect.” Especially in Arizona.

Public Policy Polling – one of the most reputable question-asking outfits on the planet – queried about a thousand Arizonans in recent days. Bottom line: McCain has a 55% disapproval rating around the homestead. PPP says he’s now “the least popular senator in the country.” Take that, Ted Cruz! Quite a come-down from years back when the Navy war hero – and former North Vietnamese POW – came down the gangplank and decided to turn his military celebrity into a career in public office. But that’s where he is today.

Perhaps it’s ironic that sock puppet Graham is also a guy with some military experience. Of course, his is more paperwork and less suffering. Depending on how you feel about lawyers. Graham has a combination of active and reserve USAF and even had G. Bush the younger prominently pin on his eagles sometime ago. But – there IS that one part of his resume that always gives readers pause.

Graham apparently believes he spent some of his military time in “confinement,” too. As a USAF attorney. In his resume, he points proudly to his “service in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.” He does so as some who served at the same time point out Graham never left South Carolina during those campaigns. When challenged, Graham said he never meant to mislead – he was just “in uniform” during those years. Meaning if you and I were in the military in Oregon at the same time, we’d be entitled to wear the same ribbons even if we, too, didn’t go. How do you suppose those that went and ducked the IED’s feel about that?

With the advent of the Obama presidency, McCain became one of the most vocal in the Republican pantheon with repeated – and often nutty – criticism of anything Obama. Like a stopped clock that can be right twice a day, McCain sometimes latched onto something legitimate. Unfortunately, like that broken timepiece, he was wrong a lot of the time, too.

McCain is a master junketeer. Wherever an internal political struggle turns to violence, there he is. He’s slept in a lot of beds on former Soviet real estate and lent his loud support to nearly all. “We are all Georgians,” he pledged to citizens of that breakaway nation when Russians were pounding on the Georgian door. He will, I’m certain, show up in Crimea in a few days – promising “We’re all Crimeans.”

With Graham speaking from the sock on his right fist, the two have been war hawks for several years. They seem to have never encountered a foreign internal struggle that couldn’t be settled with more American arms and – in some cases – troops. McCain wanted us to bomb Syria. Graham, too, of course. McCain wanted us more militarily active in Lybia. Graham, too. Of course. It must be their military affiliations that have made them so disposed to violence when statesmanship and negotiating more often are the pathways chosen by others. Like war, those two efforts are not always successful. But fewer people die when they’re tried first.

In our house, McCain and Graham have worn out their welcomes on the Sunday political talk shows. Not so much for what they’ve said as much as for continually saying it. Frankly, I’ve never heard Graham say anything on Sunday that hadn’t already come from McCain’s mouth.

At one time, McCain had a great deal of credibility because of his years of honorable military service and his experiences in North Vietnamese prisons. We cut him a lot of slack and – while not always agreeing with his outlook – we paid attention because he had certainly given more than his share. Now, even at home in Arizona, more than half the voters are saying publically they’ve had enough and are ready for someone new.

As for Graham, the Tea Party is chewing on him from the far right in South Carolina. So, he’s running that direction quickly to out-flank the crazies by getting on the record first with “righter” positions than the fringe GOP candidates. For all his years of public service as a moderate in the Republican ranks, Graham has been fairly well respected. Now, he’s making the Koch’s and the three-cornered-hat crowd happy campers.

I mean no disrespect. I was raised to honor various points of view even while disagreeing with them. But these two long ago left the point of civil disagreement to engage in often mindless criticism simply for the sake of criticism. At a time when we’re talking about ending production of weapons designed to re-fight World War II – while redesigning our military to fight the battles of the future – McCain and Graham offer irresponsible rhetoric as outdated as a cavalry horse. Rather than use their military experiences to help lead the changes necessary to deal with today’s battles – and tomorrow’s – these two long for the “good old days” and criticize those who’re thinking ahead.

Critics we’ve always got. It’s leaders we’re short on now. And these two ain’t helping.

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