This is from the May, 2000 issue of Liberty Magazine, via archive.org. In a sign that I'm getting older, I read this the first time it was published. It's by Gene Healy, and as we go into the 2008 election cycle, it's worth asking if McCain has changed:
The littlest megalomaniac
A friend of mine, who once worked for an Arizona congressman, told me a joke that Arizonans on the Hill like to tell about John McCain. When the Senator's name came up in conversation, someone would occasionally deadpan: "He was a war hero, you know."
Yes, John McCain was a war hero, and neither he nor his media fan club would let you forget it during McCain's presidential bid. John McCain's a real hard guy, he doesn't mind telling you, and his war record proves it. McCain's tough enough to take on the Jesus-squeezers of the Christian Right, as well as those timid libertarian types who would let the First Amendment stand in the way of a good campaign finance bill. When Michigan Governor John Engler complained about McCain using Democrats to hijack the G.O.P. primary in that state, the senator snarled: "My advice to Governor Engler: be a man." You could almost hear the rest of this diatribe, as it echoed in McCain's head (along with the whirring of helicopter blades and Jim Morrison singing "The End"): "Shut it, fat boy. How long do you think you'd last in the Hanoi Hilton without your nightly box of Dove Bars?"
McCain's tough-guy posturing and gratuitous trumpeting of his war record resonated particularly well with neoconservatives. Bill Kristol, David Brooks, et al, swooned over the candidate like preteens at a Ricky Martin concert. But in a February 25, column in the Washington Post, neocon Charles Krauthammer outdid them all. Krauthammer explained the Significance of the McCain Moment, and in the process descended into self-satire. John McCain, you see, is Jesus Christ. Of McCain's war experiences, Krauthammer wrote: "He suffered for our sins. He did not die for them, though he came very close. At a subliminal level, this suffering has become in the public imagination a kind of expiation for the war itself." Oh, Jesus. As Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com likes to say: "Are we to be spared nothing?" Even state-worshipping leftists have enough good taste to wait until a president is assassinated or at least elected before they start to deify him. And since when did a Beltway hawk like Krauthammer think we had any sins to expiate from Vietnam, anyway? What is he referring to, our shameful failure to nuke Hanoi?
However disappointed we might find ourselves with the two major party candidates, we ought to be thankful that the McCain bubble has burst. At best, the man is a loudmouthed thug who inspires hysterical adulation among people who confuse boorishness with "straight talk." At worst, he's dangerous. February 27th's New York Times tells us that McCain's childhood hero was Napoleon Bonaparte. McCain shares many qualities with his childhood idol: he is arrogant, impetuous, power-hungry, short-tempered and short (5'7"). It was bad enough having an overgrown, incontinent child like Clinton in command of the most powerful army in the world. The last thing this country needs is a president with an authoritarian personality and a Bonaparte complex. —Gene Healy
[Reflections, Liberty Magazine, May 2000]