If you consider Vanity Fair’s elaborate two-page photo layout of John McCain in light of the picture Todd S. Purdum paints of the candidate in this extended profile, you have to wonder what happened to McCain that allows him to run for President and still live with himself.
In the beginning of the piece, example follows example of how McCain hates spinning, pandering and compromising what he really thinks. In the 2000 campaign, we find out that the Senator was so disturbed about engaging in such acts, he would telegraph when he didn’t believe in what he was saying by first laboriously unfolding a piece of paper, than reading off the bogus statement from memory, in a disaffected tone. As McCain tells Purdum:
“I wanted them to think me still an honest man, who simply had to cut a corner a little here and there so that I could go on to be an honest president.”
But then, we’re told the 2008 McCain is a better candidate because he’s so much better at suppressing his intolerance for his own hypocrisy. As McCain reflects back on his 2000 behavior, he says:
“Acknowledging my dishonesty with a wink didn’t make it less a lie. It compounded the offense by revealing how willful it had been. You either have the guts to tell the truth or you don’t. You don’t get any dispensation for lying in a way that suggests your dishonesty.”
So, is McCain (as reflected in the title of the article) still the prisoner of his conscience for selling out in a thousand different ways? Or has he gotten over it?
One thing that is notable about this layout, shot on McCain’s Arizona property, it is how absolutely and elaborately posed it is. The expression might be a little cynical, but I don’t see a man looking all that conflicted. Instead, it’s a wonderful portrait of the new McCain — a man so hungry for I’m not sure what exactly (power? legitimacy? validation?), the political fashion world can have their way with him.
Going back to the second quote above, maybe McCain’s breakthrough is having found the guts not to tell the truth. Otherwise, if his personal integrity meant that much to him, the man might have his back to us, actually fishing.
(image: Jonas Karlsson. Vanity Fair. January 2007)