JoAnn Wypijewski is without compare in contemporary American journalism, and her unapologetic take on the political (sex) appeal of Sarah Palin is worth reading, not least for its searing description of McCain as beast in a way that I haven't quite seen captured to date:
At 42 McNasty, as he was called in high school, took up with 24-year-old Cindy, a former junior rodeo queen, and, having boosted his image and his net worth via a marriage vow, soon reverted to the pattern of insults and macho egotism that has typified most of his life. He denigrated her education at USC as a tour through "the University of Spoiled Children." For all but one of several miscarriages, he left her on her own. When she was popping ten to fifteen pills a day to mask her pain and "do everything he wanted," he never noticed. In 1992, in a rage over her gentle teasing about his thinning hair, he exploded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt," a one-two punch hurled in front of three journalists and two aides but unreported until recently, by Cliff Schecter in The Real McCain. On the campaign trail in June he joked about "beating my wife" and took umbrage when others failed to grasp the simple good fun in the remark. In early August he said he'd encouraged Cindy to enter the Miss Buffalo Chip beauty pageant at the high-revving, flesh-swinging biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. It might have been a fine quip except that up on the stage with her daughter Meghan, staring out toward the throng where a sign urged Show Ur Tits 4 McCain, Cindy had the thin, fixed smile of endurance, not joy.This description of McCain is not gratuitous -- because the question of his virility or lack thereof seems to Wypijewski central to understanding the selection of Palin. After all, presidential politics is still about who "does it better":
In Sarah Palin the right has its perfect emblem: moral avatar and commodity, uniting the put-upon woman who gushes, "She's just like me!" and the chest thumper who brays, "I'd do her, and her daughter" with those who have long exploited the fear and sorry machismo of both, with the help of another durable reactionary weapon. Now that it's official, as McCain's campaign manager said, that "this election is not about issues; this election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates," McCain's only live tag appears to be, Republicans Do It Better. Translation: small-town, gun-toting, rough-and-ready, all-American Sarah and Todd versus Barack and Michelle. White Power. (Or, close enough, White-ish.) Palin Power.
The triumph of symbolism in our politics is truly complete.