John McCain, Top Gun

A lot of people refer to John McCain as a “fighter pilot.” That’s not entirely accurate; he flew attack aircraft, which is the slightly sexier term for what used to be called “light bombers.” These aircraft aren’t designed to shoot down other aircraft, but to blow things up on the ground (and, occasionally, at sea). It’s nowhere near as glamorous as being a fighter jock, but they have their own saying: “fighter pilots make movies; attack pilots make history.”

Well, for all the time John McCain didn’t spend learning how to fight other pilots, he’s showing that he is damned good at what has been described as “getting inside your opponent’s OODA loop.” That awkward acronym is explained with his typical brilliance by Bill Whittle, here and here.In brief, it describes just how someone in a fight can seem to be reading their enemy’s mind, reacting to their actions before they even take them.

Well, it seems that John McCain has brought a touch of that to this race, along with the technique of a political aikido master: with moves like choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, he’s practically ruined every single attack they can muster against him — as they can all be turned right back on Obama and Biden even more devastatingly.

What, you say McCain has voted with President Bush 90% or 95% of the time? Why, Obama has voted with the Democratic leadership in the Senate 97% of the time — and Congress’ approval rating is about 20 points lower than that of Bush.

You say that Palin is too inexperienced to be vice president? She’s got more executive experience than the other three candidates combined, and has probably spent more time in her office than Obama has — and he’s been in the Senate twice as long as she’s been governor.

Hey, did you hear Palin’s belonged to some nutty churches? Well, Obama spent 20 years attending a church led by a race-baiting demagogue, and Joe Biden is a Catholic who believes that life begins at conception, but opposes any and all restrictions on abortion.

I heard Palin actually supported the “Bridge To Nowhere” before she later opposed it, and helped kill it, and actually sought out federal earmarks when she was mayor of Wasilla. Well, Obama’s racked up about three quarters of a billion dollars in earmarks in his short career, and both he and Biden both voted for the Bridge. In fact, the Bridge came up for a second vote, when it was proposed that it — and a lot of other earmarks — be scrapped in favor of Hurricane Katrina relief, and they voted for that danged bridge AGAIN.

Then there’s the hint of a scandal involving her ex brother-in-law, the state trooper. Did Palin try to get him fired? Maybe, maybe not. But if you want to talk about politicians using their power for the benefit of family, Barack Obama steered a million-dollar earmark to the hospital where his wife works — which, coincidentally, had given her a 120% raise right after he was elected. And Joe Biden steered about three and a half million dollars to the clients of his lobbyist son.

Now I think I know why folks are so busy just making up stuff about Sarah Palin. The truth has failed them miserably; fiction is all they have left.

And even those lies don’t survive very long, in the age of the internet. In the old days, as Winston Churchill said, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Nowadays, the lie gets the head start, but the truth can move just as fast.

And when it catches up to the lie, it leaves a trail of disillusioned — but less gullible — people in its wake.

Jonathan Freedland: The World's Verdict will be Harsh if the US Rejects the Man It Yearns For
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