Belief You Can Change 

The triumph of faith-based politics

NEW YORK—I believe in John McCain. Which is why I don't believe him.

When John McCain said he wanted to stay in Iraq for 100 years, he didn't mean it. He just said it to get elected.

His claims that the war is going great? Voting time after time to send hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the war without asking for a timetable for withdrawal? All part of his masterful plan to fool right-wing hicks into voting for him.

Once he gets the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania, the real, antiwar McCain will reveal his true plan: evacuation from Iraq within 24 hours. An apology to the United Nations. Bush put on trial for war crimes. Mandatory gay marriage.

He's got a similar plan for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. True, he voted to allow the president to eavesdrop on Americans' phone calls and e-mails. He gave the phone companies immunity for the years that they spied on us illegally. As soon as he becomes president, however, McCain will line up all those lying, spying phone company CEOs against the White House wall and personally shoot them with his trusty sidearm, the Beretta PX4.

And he will laugh.

John McCain cares deeply about the same exact things I do. When he takes the Oath of Office on January 20, 2009, for example, a certain political cartoonist—not Chief Justice Roberts—will administer it. Government subsidies will allow Americans to travel to Tashkent and other capitals in Central Asia for just $50. And the electronica band Ladytron will play the Inaugural Ball.

"Wait a minute," I can hear you saying. "John McCain hasn't said any of this stuff." Know what? You're right! In fact, he's mostly said the exact opposite. Which is exactly why I know he'll do it.

Politicians, you see, are liars. Except when they mostly do, they never follow through on their campaign promises. The more they say they're for using federal tax dollars to fund faith-based church groups, for example, the more you know they're actually dogmatic, God-hating secular atheists. Which is, by the way, another reason I believe in John McCain. Because John McCain promises a new kind of politics, one in which Americans aren't separated red state from blue state, cat owner from dog walker. One in which soaring rhetoric isn't just something we read about in books, but watch on TV from time to time.

Some of John's fans (he feels so near and dear to me, I'm entitled to first-name familiarity) wonder if the old maverick they fell in love with is losing his moral center by lurching to the right. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Straight talk? Not until he wins. After that, look out. We'll be out of NAFTA faster than you can say maquiladora. Socialized health care? You bet. Tax hikes for the rich, free Netflix for the poor, billions to rebuild New Orleans, free kitten and puppy neutering, too.

Do I know this stuff? Or am I just making it up—indulging in a sort of faith-based politics?

Yes, and yes. I know what I make up in my own mind, and what I know is that John McCain is a patriot, a man whose unshakeable iron will remained unbroken even after his North Vietnamese captors tortured him into signing a confession for war crimes. I know that John McCain loves America, and that, therefore, anything he says or does that indicates otherwise—including, say, signing off on Bush's continued use of torture at Guantanamo—can be nothing more than a necessary attempt to appease the right long enough for him to win the presidency, after which he will no doubt reveal himself to be the liberal, idealistic demigod he has to be because I, and others like me, have willed him to be so. Regardless of what he says.

Some poutymouths say I'm deluded. That I've once again fooled myself into believing a politician was something other than what he appeared to be, or indeed said he was, all along.

A little while ago, Sen. Barack Obama campaigned as a moderate and a moderate and a moderate. Then he came out as a centrist. Such betrayal.

In 2000, there was George W. Bush. People said he was stubborn and merciless, that he made fun of condemned prisoners as he signed their death warrants as governor of Texas. But I thought he did that just to win the votes of the Republican base. Deep down beneath that mean, dumb exterior, I just knew there had to be the soul of a scholar and the wisdom of a sage. Oh, well.

And in 1980, when Reagan ran as a militaristic, scary old coot, I thought it was just a put-on he was using to get elected so he could make college tuition free for me and my friends.

But that's all in the past.

Forty years it has taken me to learn what kind of smile is hidden beneath the senator's snowy comb-over. It is all right, everything is all right, the struggle is finished. I have won the victory over myself.

I love John McCain.

Ted Rall is the author of the book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?

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