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McCain's Remembrances of Things Future

October 10, 2008

On Thursday, John McCain once again resorted to his unique brand of political fraud. Claiming credit for potential future events as if they already happened in the past, he announced that running mate Sarah Palin was responsible for a $40 billion natural gas pipeline in Alaska that has yet to be built. For McCain, that grammatical sleight of hand isn't merely a transparent deception; it's become an essential campaign strategy.
During a joint appearance with Sarah Palin on Fox News, John McCain bragged to host Sean Hannity about his running mate's mythical bona fides on energy issues:

"Well, first of all she's probably one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues. She was responsible for - to make a long story short - a pipeline, the $40 billion pipeline bringing natural gas from Alaska down to the lower 48."

McCain's future perfect politics extend to national security matters as well. In late May, McCain's double-bogey on Iraq provided a case in point. He both misstated American troop levels in Iraq while labeling the city of Mosul "quiet" on the very day it was rocked by suicide bombings:

"I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it's long and it's hard and it's tough and there will be setbacks."

Confronted with the inescapable truth that U.S. forces in Iraq had not yet returned to pre-surge levels, the McCain campaign turned to the future perfect tense for its rescue. McCain, they argued, was right then because he may yet be correct in the future, as this exchange between McCain foreign policy guru Randy Scheunemann and the AP's Liz Sidoti laughably shows:

SIDOTI: He said, "We have drawn down to pre-surge levels." And what you're saying is, we will have drawn down to pre-surge levels by June - or, I'm sorry, by July. He was speaking in the present tense: "We have drawn down to pre-surge levels."
SCHEUNEMANN: And if we want to talk about verb tenses, we can talk about verb tenses. Everybody knows - it's been publicly announced since before April - Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker testified about it extensively. It is very well-known where we are in the surge force levels and that we are drawing down to pre-surge levels. That has not been fully completed yet, but will be completed within no more than 60 days.

But what the McCain camp protested this spring as "nitpicking" over verb tenses was in fact the foundation for John McCain's stunning May 15th speech describing his vision of a potential future America after his first term. In that address, shifting verb tenses wasn't a problem for John McCain; it became the premise for his entire candidacy:

"So, what I want to do today is take a little time to describe what I would hope to have achieved at the end of my first term as President...The following are conditions I intend to achieve."

In his ensuing grammatical magical mystery tour, McCain offered remembrances of things future as the reason Americans should elect him now. With Iraq peaceful, Bin Laden dead, a booming economy and health care for all, his presidency, McCain insisted, would conjure a perfect future across all issues foreign and domestic by 2013. (For a detailed analysis of that flight of fancy, see "McCain's Future Perfect Presidency.")
Sadly, as both the economy and the situation in Afghanistan spiral downward, McCain's vision in May now looks like a bad acid trip. The continuing McCain-Palin claim that troop levels in Iraq have returned to pre-surge levels still has yet to come to pass. As for Sarah Palin's energy expertise, her ignorance on basic facts ranging from American oil export policy and the nonexistent natural pipeline to how much energy her own state produces belie John McCain's boasting.
And yet, these and other challenges could magically be overcome during his future perfect presidency. So, John McCain continues to insist, Americans should vote for him now.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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