USA | Ännu har John McCain inte lagt av. Trots sin svidande förlust mot Barack Obama i presidentvalet har senatorn från Arizona fullt upp.
McCain, 77 år och senatens nionde äldste medlem, ägnar numera mesta av sin arbetstid åt att kritisera presidenten för hans hantering av utrikespolitiken samt att försöka hindra att det egna partiet helt tas över av Tea Party-rörelsen.
Dessutom har McCain meddelat att han funderar på att ställa upp till återval 2016. (”I am very much considering it.”)
McCain är onekligen en av USA:s intressantaste politiker.
Han är dessutom en av få politiker som fortfarande vågar vara spontan och säga vad han tänker. (“They are lovely, gentle people [the Fijians] even though they used to eat each other.”)
Mark Leibovich, ”national correspondent” för The New York Times Magazine, har följt senatorn en tid för tidskriftens räkning:
John McCain is a cliché.
It is not his fault, or not entirely. Many of us become walking self-caricatures at a certain point, and politicians can be particularly vulnerable, especially those who have maneuvered their very public lives as conspicuously as McCain. They tell and retell the same stories; things get musty. They engage in a lot of self-mythologizing, and no one in Washington has been the subject and the perpetrator of more mythmaking than McCain: the maverick, the former maverick, the curmudgeon, the bridge builder, the war hero bent on transcending the call of self-interest to serve a cause greater than himself, the sore loser, old bull, last lion, loose cannon, happy warrior, elder statesman, lion in winter . . . you lose track of which McCain cliché is operational at a given moment. He does, too. “I think I was the brave maverick when I was taking on Bush,” McCain told me, “and then I was the bitter old man when I was criticizing Obamacare.”
Critics will take their shots, he says, it comes with being “in the arena.” That cliché isn’t McCain’s exclusively — it’s the self-consoling Teddy Roosevelt line that politicians are always trotting out. “It’s not the critic who counts” but “the man who really was in the arena.”
McCain has another favorite Teddy Roosevelt phrase, “the crowded hour,” which I have heard him invoke several times over the years. It comes from a poem by the English writer Thomas Mordaunt, and T. R. used it to famously describe his charge on San Juan Hill. In McCain’s philosophy, “the crowded hour” refers to a moment of character testing. “The ‘crowded hour’ is as appropriate for me right now as any in a long time,” McCain told me as we walked through the Capitol. In some respects, this is just a function of public figures’ tendency to overdramatize the current moment and their role in it. But five years after losing to Barack Obama, after enduring the recriminations between his splintered campaign staff and rogue running mate, Sarah Palin, and after returning to the Senate and falling into a prolonged funk, McCain finds himself in the midst of another crowded hour, maybe his last as an elected leader.
Along with his Senate Tonto, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, McCain has been the most ardent critic of the White House’s foreign policy in pretty much every hot spot in the world.
McCain also finds himself in the thick of the latest “fight for the soul of the G.O.P.” against the Tea Party right, a cohort that arguably would not have the influence it has if McCain had not chosen Palin as his running mate. They are represented in the Senate by McCain’s junior colleagues Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — or “wacko birds” as McCain has referred to their far-right ilk.
McCain is sick of talking about Cruz. “We have a cordial relationship,” he insists, which in the Google translation of political code is something between abject disgust and minimal tolerance. Cruz is an upstart, whose goal seems to be to position himself to run for president in 2016. He appears indifferent to the traditional markers of Senate experience and prestige — passing bills, leading committees, dutifully winning the respect of colleagues. “You know, it’s a funny thing about Cruz,” McCain says, and then stops himself. “No, actually, it’s not funny. It aggravates me more than anything else” — the way Cruz called his fellow Republicans a bunch of wimps and talks about “how we’ve been around too long.” Cruz is the Senate’s modern-day maverick, it would seem, while McCain has become one of the institution’s fiercest traditionalists.
To pass the time on the drive back, I engage McCain in a game of hypothetical-question roulette: If he were a young man living in Arizona today, not a politician, would he register to vote as an Independent? “I would think about it,” he says, but then catches himself and reasserts his faith in “the party of Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.” Would he consider supporting an Independent presidential candidate if Ted Cruz were the Republican nominee? “No, because I have to respect the process.” Would he support his friend Hillary Clinton in a head to head against Cruz? “I will support the Republican ticket,” he says, then adds: “With all due respect, that is a foolish question, my friend.”
Läs mer: “Behind the Cover Story: Mark Leibovich on Checking In With John McCain” av Rachel Nolan på bloggen The 6th Floor.
Tidskriftsomslag. The New York Times Magazine den 22 december 2013.