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Postcard From Mccainland

Phoenix, Arizona

As most of the country’s eyes are on North Carolina and Indiana, I spent last week in Arizona trying to figure out if there is anything I could learn about John McCain from his 26-year constituents. Making the rounds of various political figures and activists around the state, I got in touch with talk show host Charles Goyette, who invited me onto to his popular morning radio show on KFNX. He opened up the phone lines “to find out what’s the Arizona story about John McCain… Let’s take the focus away from the adoring Washington press corps and give it to the people of Arizona.” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s histories have been parsed down to the minute; is there anything we should know about McCain other than his time in Vietnam?

Callers brought up a lot of good stuff about McCain’s shady past, include his role in the Keating Five and other lobbyist scandals, which one caller insisted “will be coming out of woodwork,” though he couldn’t think of any for me; his wife’s ties to Arizona mafia boss Kemper Marley (and how McCain’s campaign is being partially funded by this dirty money); his liberal views on immigration, which, according to another caller, showed the “really big disconnect with his Arizona constituency” (and garnered him much animosity among Arizonans for “implying that we’re racist and we didn’t know what we’re talking about”); and his connection to evangelical mega-pastor John Hagee, who another caller described as “bizarre and unchristian” (though no one seemed bothered by McCain’s ennui when it comes to questions of his own faith). 

But most callers were fired up by their own mundane interactions with the senator, particularly unanswered requests to his district office. (“McCain is like a black hole—I didn’t even get an acknowledgment that I sent a letter,” says Thaddeus from Tempe). But when I asked for Arizona stories that might specifically tell us something about him as a potential president, all I got were generic lines about “the rape at the pump” and his positions on Iraq.

After an hour of such fruitless lines of inquiry, all Goyette could offer was a shrug and the thought that “maybe John McCain’s whole story is national. Maybe he blew into town, didn’t know much, wasn’t really interested in Arizona issues…pampering and pandering to his Washington constituency, and now we know what his real constituency actually is.”

--Zvika Krieger