David Foster Wallace on McCain in 2000

November 6, 2008 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

Here are some quotes from the late David Foster Wallace’s April 2000 Rolling Stone article on John McCain:

Since You’re Reading “Rolling Stone,” the chances are you’re an American between say 18 and 35, which demographically makes you a Young Voter. And no generation of Young Voters has ever cared less about politics and politicians than yours….when Senator John McCain …says… that his goal as president will be “to inspire young Americans to devote themselves to causes greater than their own self-interest,” it’s hard not to hear it as just one more piece of the carefully scripted bullshit that presidential candidates hand us as they go about the self-interested business of trying to become the most powerful, important and talked-about human being on earth….  But there’s something underneath politics in the way you have to hear McCain, something riveting and unSpinnable and true. It has to do with McCain’s military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison….It’s very easy to gloss over the POW thing, partly because we’ve all heard so much about it and partly because it’s so off-the-charts dramatic, like something in a movie instead of a man’s life. But it’s worth considering for a minute, because it’s what makes McCain’s “causes greater than self-interest” line easier to hear.  [T]he point is that with McCain it feels like we know, for a proven fact, that he’s capable of devotion to something other, more, than his own self-interest. So that when he says the line in speeches in early February you can feel like maybe it isn’t just more candidate bullshit, that with this guy it’s maybe the truth. Or maybe both the truth and bullshit: the guy does — did — want your vote, after all.

The rest of the lengthy article is about a week that Wallace (who committed suicide in September 2008) spent on a McCain press bus after McCain’s New Hampshire victory and before the swiftboating he got during the lead-up to the South Carolina primary. The article is written in a style more typical of the essayist and novelist that Wallace was, and is peppered with McCain-specific press jargon that you have to go to the end of the article in order to get translated, e.g. THM=town hall meeting, F&F=file and feed (stories), Pencil=print reporter, Shrub=G.W.Bush.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/18420304/…

The article is interesting to read the day after Obama’s victory because it paints such a different picture of the “youth vote” than the one witnessed this year, and it hints at some of the ways that the McCain of 2000 differed from the McCain of 2008. Not to mention it’s written by Wallace.

If the many worlds/parallel universe theory of quantum mechanics could be experienced in practical terms, the alternative universe I would like to visit would be one in which the swiftboating failed to prevent McCain from winning the South Carolina 2000 primary.

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