Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Joe McCain (younger brother) reports

(A true conservative: A man with a sense of humor rather a sense of grievance or a sense of superiority)

Here is a titbit for you. I am sure you all heard the quip vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin made before the assembled multitudes at the Republican convention in Minnysooda last week. "You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" she asked. Then she did a nice take, paused, pointed to her mouth without changing expression: "Lipstick." Biggest laugh of the night. Maybe of the convention, though former senator Fred Thompson had them reaching for their inhalers the night before.

The titbit? That line was not in her speech. She stuck it in there when mentioning her start in politics as a hockey mom joining the parent-teacher association. It seems that she had told that joke a couple of times in Alaska when people called her a soccer mom. She wanted to point out the subtle differences between a sport where boys in shorts kick around a nice black-and-white ball versus guys wearing more armour than medieval swordslingers going at each other with hardwood sticks tipped with a hooked blade.

In fact she went off book so much, and so far, that the teleprompter operator went half mad trying to find out where he had messed up: national convention teleprompter operators who get lost are sometimes hanged from the rafters by irate speakers ... er ... readers. Finally, just before taking his cyanide capsule, he realised his text and her speech had the similarity of Saturn and a lawn chair, so I hear he just turned it off.

To Republicans, Palin, the little known Governor from big Alaska, was an inspired choice to run with John McCain. To many Democrats it was a pact with the Salem witches. If you look at my last name on the byline, you'll sorta get which way I lean. What led to the decision to put the convention in St Paul - and our hotel in Minneapolis, 16km away - I am not sure. Despite my last name I am but a foot soldier in the McCampaign, far removed from the lofty magi who make high rulings and whisper in my brother's ear. Which is fine with me, by the way, for I'd much rather be out on the heaths and moors talking about him than be around his campaign.

I remember once in his 2000 primary run against George W. Bush, a fellow operative named Justin Oppman and I were advancing a PoWs-for-McCain tour when we ran into the Straight Talk Express in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We got invited to get on the bus with John and go back to the hotel HQ. Well, it was like being on Jupiter, with its super-dense gravity and dozens of moons in tight orbits - aides all whispering into one ear or the other - "Senator, here is the latest TV ad", "John, you need to take a look at this new paragraph", "Senator, Governor Whatsisname is on the phone". Consultants, advisers, experts, counsellors all overlapping, and John able to sort through all the radio signals beamed at him. But I could not. It was mindless to us who had been driving from one small town to another in South Carolina, talking to a couple of reporters about the PoW tour and checking with scheduled sites to make sure they had survived the latest urban renewal. "Justin, let's get the hell out of here," I whispered to him. And we made our escape, hit a local pub, and took a nice nap in our van.

I had two jobs at this convention, one to speechify to various state caucuses at breakfasts, lunches, meetings, wherever they were gathered. And sometimes they would pick a restaurant 45 minutes down the Mississippi River. At each I would show them John's flight jacket when he was shot down and captured in 1967 and relate his extraordinary story. The other was to be a member of the McFamily. And that meant wearing a bunch of badges: to get you on to the family floor of the Hilton, on to the communications floor, into the finance office, into the hotel. We even had a Secret Service badge we had to put on once John and his wife, Cindy, arrived mid-convention, which is traditional.

One night I was working on a speech and went out of my room to the place where there were some soft drinks. Being in a bathrobe, I forgot my Secret Service pin. A tall guy in a dark suit and that coiled white earpiece stepped in front of me and politely asked who I was. Now, I look so much like John that they call me the Discount John McCain, but I understood the guy had a serious job to do, I explained I had forgotten to put it on. He accompanied me back to my room to fetch it, asking me politely to keep it on when leaving my room. I thanked him for doing his job. I don't think he smiled the whole time. And I look kind of funny in this white samurai bathrobe a former girlfriend gave me.

Going to the caucuses was fine - they always assigned me a McNanny, for I am always forgetting something or just getting lost - it was being a family member that was a bit stultifying, because we were all told to meet in a certain gathering place, then wait; get in certain vans, wait; get to the convention centre, wait; get inside the centre, wait; then be led to either seats on the floor of the convention or up into a special box for kinfolk and contributors. Because of this we were always there for the big speeches but missed some of the cooler prelims, such as the ones by Governor Mitt Romney, one of John's main opponents in the primaries, and Governor Mike Huckabee, another primary warrior, both of whom enthusiastically endorsed John.

Except for seeing the nomination to the nation's highest office of my brother, a true war hero who turned down an early release from a brutal Hanoi PoW camp, the highlight was meeting Palin. All I can tell you is that she is a smart, bright, alert, tough, and pretty lady. I'd say a babe, but I am not sure even a potential first bro gets to be so flippant with a sitting Governor and vice-presidential nominee. I can't wait for the first debate between Palin and Joe Biden. Because Palin was not only a beauty queen - she was second runner up in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant - but also a tough-playing point guard on her state high school basketball championship team in 1982. So tough she was nicknamed Sarah Barracuda. She doesn't much like the nickname, but we do. Careful, Joe. Oh, and she married an Alaskan steelworker who has won the National Snowmobile title four times. If they still had the Marlboro Man ads, he'd be a finalist.

OK, you gotta forgive me, that's enough storytelling tonight. I gotta go out and campaign for my big bro: 50 days left!


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH

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