The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Somewhere, There Is an Island …

Posted on | January 22, 2012 | 34 Comments

Thirteen-year-old editorial assistant Jefferson McCain staffs
The National Affairs Desk, 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

Jimmie Bise Jr. was on the phone when I turned off the exit from I-77 North and hooked a left toward the McDonald’s. We were discussing the finer points of blogger ethics, and the importance of disclosing one’s biases in regard to such controversial topics as a contested Republican presidential primary campaign.

Of course, Jimmie was in a fine mood, ready to fire up a cigarette and recline on his pillow to enjoy the post-coital glow, smiling contentedly about having had his way with the breathless sweat-soaked hussy whose name prior to Saturday was “Inevitability,” but whom Newt Gingrich now calls My Sweet Bitch.

That metaphor might be a bit too vividly kinky for some readers, but my point is that Jimmie had openly declared his support for Newt Gingrich and was thus entitled to an honest day in the Gloat Zone.

So Jimmie and I were discussing this when I pulled into the parking lot of McDonald’s and I told him, “No one can ever doubt the objectivity of the Future U.S.  Ambassador to Vanuatu.”

Just then, I glanced up and beheld the frightening sight of a human scarecrow staggering toward my rented Toyota. She was wearing a cheap coat and gestured her solicitation of assistance, but I waved her away, annoyed by this aged burnt-out meth whore’s attempted intrusion. Jimmie and I were laughing about the failure of Romney’s well-funded campaign strategists to recognize my obvious aptitude for diplomacy as I switched off the car.

“Hang on a second, Jimmie,” I said, instructing my 13-year-old son Jefferson to grab my computer bag. Then I started to continue my phone conversation as I got out of the car, but suddenly the phone went dead — dead battery. I sent Jefferson inside to plug in the phone while he set up the laptop, the packing and unpacking of my computer having been his main task as my assistant on this eight-day Carolina campaign road-trip.

From the back seat of the Toyota I grabbed the Sunday edition of The (Columbia, S.C.) State with its banner front-page headline:


I fired up a Marlboro as I scanned the paper, leaning up against the car, and then I looked around to see what had become of the destitute female vagabond who had earlier approached me with her begging gestures. She was nowhere in sight, so I walked around to the front of the McDonald’s, in which direction she had wandered off after I’d waved her away. But she wasn’t there, either.

Had I seen a ghost, some sort of spectral phantom? This possibility bothered me, and the idea crossed my mind that this woman who seemed so haggard with age was probably younger than me. You’ve seen those before-and-after photos showing the ravages of methamphetamine addiction? She was definitely “after.”

Perhaps five or ten years earlier she had been genuinely attractive, but then she got onto the meth and started hooking up with any exploitative scum willing to help her feed her habit and . . .

Well, a hard life like that isn’t exactly “bad luck,” but rather the predictable consequence of bad choices, and it occurred to me that this pathetic woman – prematurely old and compelled to helpless beggary by her habit — might be a fitting symbol of Mitt Romney’s squandered momentum:

Just after the polls closed Saturday in South Carolina, Hogan Gidley was talking to reporters inside Mark Clark Hall at the Citadel, where Rick Santorum was holding his campaign’s Primary Night celebration. Mitt Romney “was going to be 3 and 0 until three days ago,” said Gidley, communications director for Santorum’s campaign, adding that the results of the past two days — including the belated news that Santorum, not Romney, was the winner of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses — had “blown a hole in [Romney’s] inevitability.”
Newt Gingrich’s victory Saturday took away what was always Romney’s strongest argument: That the former Massachusetts governor’s well-funded campaign machinery made him the odds-on favorite in the Republican field, capable of clinching the nomination early in the primary process, thus uniting the party for the battle to defeat President Obama. The perception of Romney’s inevitability — as the “It’s His Turn” candidate whom GOP voters have so often chosen as their presidential nominee — helped him pile up a huge fundraising advantage over his rivals. Inevitability also helped Romney garner endorsements from eminent pundits like Ann Coulter and popular politicians like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Despite his relatively moderate record, Romney was endorsed by the conservative editors of National Review, who last month mocked Gingrich with a cover story illustrated by a cartoon depicting the former Georgia congressman as a ludicrous space alien.
All of Romney’s advantages evidently counted for naught when Palmetto State voters went to the polls Saturday, where they delivered a shattering blow to any thought that the “inevitable” Romney might lock up the nomination early. . . .

That’s from my special Sunday column for The American Spectator, which I filed before we left Charleston this afternoon, and which I obviously hope you’ll read. Jefferson and I stopped here at the McDonald’s in Rock Hill, the last chance to score some cheap food and free WiFi before crossing into North Carolina, because I wanted to have a South Carolina dateline on my final post of this epic eight-day journey funded by your contributions to the Shoe Leather Fund.

Ah, yes. Like the shambling she-hobo who suddenly loomed into sight near the rented Toyota in the parking lot, and who then just as suddenly disappeared, I find my habits compel me to a mendicant existence only slightly more respectable than being a meth whore.

A freelance journalism junkie trying to match the travel budgets of major news organization by begging alms online? My resemblance to that shabby old hooker was enough to make my conscience ache as I thought to myself, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Well: The impliied fee-for-service contract involved in this madcap experiment with reader-supported political reporting isn’t quite so degrading as whatever sordid acts lead a meth-head to ruin, although the ironic coincidences sometimes overwhelm my ability to rationalize them away.

Shortly after I sat down at laptop here at McDonald’s, the cellphone rang. “Are you all right?” my wife asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine, why?”

Then she explained that she’d just gone online to check the bank balance and found an unexplained discrepancy between the ledger balance and the available balance. This was startling news, but I figured it was somehow related to the car-rental agency attaching a $200 deposit from the debit card with which I’d gotten the Toyota.

Yet it could not be denied that, for the moment, I was quite nearly as destitute as that burnt-out meth whore in the parking lot. At least I had the Toyota with three-quarters of a tank of gas. But Jefferson and I are still more than 400 miles from home, and we’ll need at least one more fill-up to make it to the hills of Western Maryland.

And then what? How the hell am I going to make it to Florida? I’ve got press credentials for Thursday’s CNN debate in Jacksonville, but unless there is some kind of miracle between now and then, there’s no way I’ll be able to buy a plane ticket. Only the most frantic rattling of the tip jar can make it happen.

Like a burnt-out meth whore, I can’t claim victimhood, because my own decisions and choices have put me in this desperate situation, which is what I meant by “ironic coincidences.”

You see, billionaire Foster Friess has endorsed Rick Santorum and contributed to a “super PAC” in support of Santorum’s presidential candidacy, and if the name “Foster Friess” doesn’t ring a bell for longtime readers of this blog, it certaeinly should. It was Friess who contributed $3 million to bankroll Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.

A mere one percent of $3 million would be $30,000.

But me? “Not Good Enough for BlogCon,” IYKWIMAITYD.

It would be wrong, however, to let such grim memories mar the conclusion of this South Carolina sojourn. Merely to have made it this far along the 2012 campaign trail is a wonderful accomplishment, one that provokes amazement from some of the professional peers I encounter. And just the fact that I keep showing up — at debates, at town-hall meetings, at campaign rallies — is something that evokes expressions of disbelief from some of those whose travel is of the all-expenses-paid variety. “Do you really do all this on PayPal contributions? Readers really pay your way?”

Absolutely, and what’s wrong with that? Am I not, in some sense, like the discount merchant you sometimes see on late-night TV ads?

“Come on down to Crazy Stacy’s Discount Journalism Warehouse Outlet! We cut costs to rock bottom and eliminate the middleman! Reporting so cheap, prices so low, everybody says I’m crazy — and they may be right!”

So I keep showing up out there, in the Media Filing Centers at debates and other campaign-trail locations, rubbing elbows with everybody from David Brooks to David Frum, and they shake their heads in disbelief when they learn that this wild and farflung enterprise is funded by contributions that come in denominations of $10, $20, $50, with the occasional $100 for good measure.

No other journalist on the campaign trail has ever done this, because nobody else is crazy enough to try it,. And so when these Fear and Loathing moments occur — when I’m flat broke and wondering how I’ll ever possibly make it to the next destination — I say a little prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to push it all the way to the edge as a Road Man for the Lords of Karma.

This has been one hell of a ride, and I have faith that loyal readers will respond to the familiar phrase of the Five Most Important Words in the English Language: Hit the freaking tip jar!

It’s a long way to Vanuatu, and my ambassadorship is about as “inevitable” as anything else in this strange and savage campaign.



34 Responses to “Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Somewhere, There Is an Island …”

  1. Two Articles on Gingrich’s South Carolina Victory
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

    […] Read both pieces for the ideas, and how they are expressed, comparing the ‘objective’ Klein with the ‘partisan’ McCain, and ask yourself how it’s possible that Rick Klein earns so much more money than Stacy. Then go hit the tip jar. […]

  2. Five Most Important Words In The English Language… « That Mr. G Guy's Blog
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

    […] Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Somewhere, There Is an Island …. […]

  3. richard mcenroe
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

    Just sent you a DM about getting you some sleep on the road.  Please advise.

  4. Bob Belvedere
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    Godspeed on the trip home – let Jefferson drive.

  5. Anonymous
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

    Good work.  Be safe.  

  6. Send A Gonzo To Florida Today! | Daily Pundit
    January 22nd, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

    […] Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Somewhere, There Is an Island … : The Other McCain No other journalist on the campaign trail has ever done this, because nobody else is crazy enough to try it,. And so when these Fear and Loathing moments occur — when I’m flat broke and wondering how I’ll ever possibly make it to the next destination – I say a little prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to push it all the way to the edge as a Road Man for the Lords of Karma. […]

  7. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 12:11 am

    Excellent coverage over the past few weeks, RSM.

  8. Michael Swartz
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 12:22 am

    The donate button didn’t work out quite right for me but I chipped in anyway. More than one way to skin a cat.

    And I’m glad you use the McDonalds wifi like I do in a pinch for my job.

    Ironically, you bring up the name Foster Friess and it indeed rang a bell. He has done guest blogging for another blogging acquaintance of mine, the Missouri-based blogger and author (Three Days in August) Bob McCarty.

    Instead of the need to rattle a tip jar, maybe he should peel a few thousand back from the SuperPAC and help out those who are advancing the conservative cause in the media, dont’cha think?

  9. L_C_R
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 1:27 am

    Damn. That was the best piece of writing I’ve seen from RS McCain. I wish I could contribute, but impending divorce, underemployment, hungry mouths etc constrain.

    Those of you who can – DO – save the intriguing, regularly annoying, brimmingly talented, mercilessly relevant RS McCain from leaving us to………go out and get a real job (or cook meth and hang at McDonald’s….).

    We like occupying his netherworld of hard-boiled conservative whimsy, if only for a few minutes a day. If you are one of these, and CAN, HIT THE FREAKIN’ TIP JAR, because RS McCain wishes he were only as endangered as the proverbial polar bear.

  10. Adjoran
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:01 am

    The exit polls show a significant number of voters rated “a candidate who shares my religious values” as “very important” to their decision, and Gingrich won those voters going away.

    They shunned Romney’s Mormonism and Santorum’s Catholicism, but gave Newt a pass on his Catholic faith because they know he doesn’t really mean it.

    By the way, Gingrich didn’t qualify for the Missouri ballot, either – but sure, heck, he’s qualified to be President, right?

  11. Mike Rogers
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:25 am

    Believe me, a few minutes a day is enough for most mortals. We love ya, Stacy, but you do drive the wives crazy when you visit.
    God speed, and you do have plenty of readers.

  12. Bg
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 4:28 am

    The evangelical leaders have so shamed themselves
    by their weak behavior by first choosing Perry then changing
    their minds for another suitor.  They have lost their moral authority.

    Last election the ‘values’ voters leadership caused, in their eyes, a very  non Christian to be elected.  This time they shunned no type of Christian faith, they chose the man they perceive to be most capable of leading this nation back to its roots and prosperity.

  13. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 6:46 am

    Is the Missouri contest sometime between Nevada and Michigan. Because if it is, the results are non-binding. What that means is, Santorum or Gingrich could win the state running away, and the state GOP could still award its delegates to Romney. Or, I guess technically speaking, vice versa.

  14. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 6:50 am

    What were they supposed to do, say, “well folks Perry dropped out, so just stay home”? It damn well didn’t matter anyway, because they didn’t listen to them. In the long run people are going to vote for who they want to vote for, not for who they’re preacher tells them to vote for. Americans tend to be funny that way.

  15. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 6:52 am

    You’re making way too much out of the “shares my religious values” question. Why does that have to mean what specific church you go to? I’m sure though that you and the media will continue to spin it that way. Maybe you should ask Newt a question in the next debate.

  16. Bob Belvedere
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    Hear! Hear!

  17. Mike G.
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    Conservative Pastors don’t tell their flock who to vote for. Otherwise, they’d lose their 501C status. But Liberal Preachers on the other hand, can and do tell their parishioners  how and who to vote for.

  18. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    They can’t use church funds and resources to campaign for candidates from the pulpit, that’s right. But they like any other American have the right to endorse whoever or whatever they please.

  19. Mike G.
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 9:00 am

    As long as they’re not on church property…unless you’re a Democrat, of course. 

  20. Tennwriter
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    Exactimundo.  If the Dems didn’t have two standards they’d have no standards.

    Pagan, not to be rude, but considering you’re a pagan…

  21. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 9:52 am
  22. Zilla of the Resistance
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    Shaking it for you over here, Stacy:
    I even found something special in a fedora just for you!

  23. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:41 am


    What’s that supposed to mean? I spend more time defending the rights of Christian conservatives than I do Pagans. I’ve made enemies in the Pagan community because of that, actually.

  24. Anonymous
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    Don’t have any money to help, but have crash space and broadband in St. Pete, FL if that would help.

  25. Tennwriter
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    Its supposed to mean that you might not know what is going on in churches as much as someone who goes to a church (even if its irregular like me).

    I, likewise, don’t really know much about the pagan community (probably know more than most conservatives because I’m a Science Fiction guy, but still I’m no expert.)

  26. The Other McCain | An Ex-Cons View
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    […] I like the way he writes. I am alternately entertained and enraged. See his latest post here. […]

  27. Zilla of the Resistance
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    Of course your post is linked in mine, tried to add that to my comment, but DISQUS hates me. Be sure to see the video there at my place, I think you might like it.

  28. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

    Of the fairly large percentage that are politically active the majority of them are mostly center left to far left, with an emphasis on feminist and environmental issues, and with an unhealthy splattering of peacenik pacifists. And they are infested with the virus of political correctness that all of that entails. They also moan and whine about how oppressed they are, which is laughable in that most Americans probably don’t even know they exist.

    I was raised in a Christian environment, in a small Kentucky town, and went to a Baptist church, not on anything like a regular basis, but often enough. I’ve also attended Catholic (and even took instruction) as well as various branches of Holiness and for a brief time I went to an Episcopal Church in downtown Cincinnati.

    There are very few people who are born in Pagan households, though granted there are a small number over the last couple of decades who might be.

  29. Finrod Felagund
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    Check out the wacky internals of the Insider Advantage poll.  Among men, it’s Gingrich 39, Paul 23, Romney 21, Santorum 4; among women, it’s Gingrich 30, Romney 28, Santorum 17, Paul 5.

    Those are some pretty lop-sided gender distributions for Santorum and Paul there.

  30. Beware of Early Florida Polls : The Other McCain
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    […] necessary to signify that, after eight days in South Carolina, I’m now back home and – thank you, tip jar hitters! — planning to make it to Jacksonville, Florida, for Thursday’s debate. Trying to assess […]

  31. ThePaganTemple
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    I’m going to laugh my ass off if Newt wins Florida. And it could happen, even with the early voting, seeing as how at least some of that transpired during the last week of the SC primary and the Gingrich surge.

  32. Smhannah1
    January 23rd, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    Your amazing Stacy!

  33. ‘Remain Calm! All Is Well!’ : The Other McCain
    January 24th, 2012 @ 7:16 am

    […] — which happened again Monday in Florida — and the financial straits that threatened to leave my son and I stranded at a McDonald’s in Rock Hill, S.C., it was a struggle to maintain any slight semblance of sanity, much less write my special Sunday […]

  34. FMJRA 2.0: My Way : The Other McCain
    January 29th, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

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