Wednesday, April 4, 2007

McCain photo-op goes really, really bad

Express Staff Writer

Hubris and hyperbole—highfalutin' words for political exaggeration and stretching the truth—are indispensable tools of a presidential candidate's smoke-and-mirrors campaign. Some voters still are taken in by fiction dressed up as fact.

But pity the candidate foolish enough to resort to outlandish claims barren of facts, when contradictory reality is so clear to everyone around him.

Which brings up the faltering presidential hopes of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who stumbled badly again this week when his obsession to justify support for President Bush's troop surge crossed over into the realm of fantasy.

While on a visit to Baghdad to pump up his sinking poll numbers back home, McCain decided to prove that "progress" in safer Iraqi streets is real, but ignored by shameful scoundrels in the American media.

So, off he and his party went on foot to the Shorja market to mingle with merchants for a photo-op to prove how safe shopping is, and then, after cameras got their fill of the gambit, McCain told incredulous reporters that their stroll was proof of the safer streets.

Oh, my. Not smart.

What McCain didn't mention—but reporters who tagged along clearly saw—was that he and others in his party (including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, other Republican acolytes of Bush's and McCain's "progress" myth) were belted in protective body armor, surrounded by perhaps 100 heavily armed and helmeted troops and surveilled by armed Army security helicopters orbiting overhead.

That is not how the average Iraqi goes shopping, observers of this show-and-tell were quick to point out.

Cynics they are, reporters then returned to the market to interview merchants about McCain's claims of safer streets.

To a man, the merchants gagged in disbelief. They said they told McCain through interpreters that conditions were still awful. In fact, 61 people were killed Feb. 12 by a car bomb, one of a half dozen attacks since last summer at the very market.

This lavish abuse of the truth should dispel any notions that McCain is the "Straight Talk" candidate. The "maverick" of the 2000 presidential campaign is now a run-of-the-mill disciple of the disinformation doctrines instituted in the Vietnam war by President Johnson and in the Iraq war by George W. Bush—claim "progress" where none is evident and blame the media for not wearing rose-colored glasses.

Pandering for support with flip-flops, now creating mirages of nonexistent progress, John McCain is squandering character and integrity that could have carried him a lot farther in public life.

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