As newly minted Republican presidential nominee John McCain surged his way across America last week on his Cmon, Give a Guy a Break bus tour, vainly attempting to break through the wall of cable-saturation coverage surrounding the interminable Clinton/Obama slugfest, late-night somnambulists and small-town newspaper aficionados learned all sorts of new things about Americas feistiest senator. Like the fact that he was once a flight instructor at a Mississippi airfield named after his own grandfather (were guessing the office pranks were impressively mild). Or that his full name is, somewhat incongruously, John Sidney McCain III. Or how his hardscrabble childhood in Alexandria, Virginia sowed the seeds of his slow-blossoming greatness like a patient Joad sows a long row of cotton.
Hold on say what with who now? McCain spent part of his childhood in Virginia? Why hasnt anyone told us this before? We could have sworn, from our careful study of multiple episodes of Hardball, that Senator McCain has spent his life in exactly three places: Arizona, the Hanoi Hilton, and perched amidst a celestial brigade of warrior angels.
But no! There was actually a young whippersnapper named lil Johnny McCain who existed in a stretch of the 20th century when the phrase Mekong Delta was largely unknown to the American populace. And yes, dear reader, he spent a chunk of that time attending high school in our delightful little commonwealth.
And not just any high school, either. The dashing young soon-to-be flyboy spent his formative years at Alexandrias preparatory best, Episcopal High School, an honest-to-goodness boarding school from a time before Holden Caulfield made that seem like a bad thing. So it made a certain amount of sense that McCain would kick off the second day of his bad-ass bio tour at his old NoVa stomping ground, regaling Episcopals current crop of fresh-scrubbed scholars with vaguely squirm-inducing stories about the sepia-toned time in his life when he was still captive to the unruly passions of youth.
Unfortunately, Senator McCain forgot that EHS calls its first-year students rats for a reason. After finishing his inspirational musings which mixed warm remembrances of his alma mater with pro-school-voucher boilerplate (parents should be able to send their children to the school that best suits their needs, he insisted whether it is a public, private or parochial school, conveniently sidestepping the fact that his own voucher plan would cover barely one-twentieth of Episcopals $38,200-a-year price tag) McCain threw open the floor for questions.
Things went smoothly, for a while, but then a cheeky young thing named Katelyn Halldorson stood up to ask what, exactly, Senator Grandpa Simpson was doing at her school in the first place.
Judging by the amount of press representatives here, and also by the integration of your previous political endorsements in your earlier personal narrative, we can see that political motivation isn’t completely absent, she noted. Yet we were told that this isn’t a political event. So what exactly is your purpose in being here?
Oh, snap! Out of the mouth of babes, eh Senator? McCain, as is his wont, initially responded with a biting jibe. (I knew I should have cut this thing off, he moaned. This meeting is over.) But then, trying to save face, he launched into a long, rambling defense of his biography tour, and then offered a half-hearted mea culpa for employing Episcopals student body as campaign props: I hope that attendance here was not compulsory I apologize if you were unwillingly in attendance here.”
As it turns out, attendance was compulsory, and apparently a few of the dewy-eyed prepsters were none-too-pleased about it.
Well, it just goes to show ya, Senator (as Thomas Wolfe so trenchantly put it), you really cant go home again at least not without catching some flack for blatant political opportunism. But hey, we wouldnt worry about it too much were pretty sure that C-SPAN 8 cut away from the end of your speech to show that Barack Obama bowling clip for the 12-millionth time, anyway.