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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

Ole McCain at Ole Miss

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No one has mentioned one of the most startling measures of just how long it has been since the Milwaukee Brewers played in a postseason game: Those powder-blueclad 1982 Brewers played the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series the same year John McCain became a freshman Congressman from Arizona.

As the oldest man in U.S. history to run for a first term as president, McCain might be expected to get a little confused once in a while and accidentally pick up the TV remote when the phone rings.

But last week was spectacular even for McCain. He suddenly announced that he was suspending his campaign and then appeared to go right on campaigning.

He said he had to work on a plan to save the nation’s economy and then reportedly sat quietly through a White House meeting without expressing a single, intelligible thought about how to save the economy.

He tried to duck the first presidential debate and then showed up at the last minute. There he talked tough about facing down the president of Iran, whose name he couldn’t pronounce, but couldn’t even bring himself to look his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, in the eye.

The only thing that kept McCain from appearing to be the most clueless candidate on a national ticket was the performance of his running mate, Sarah Palin, in another of her rare, carefully chosen interviews, this time with Katie Couric of CBS.

Asked to defend her absurd claim that she has foreign policy experience because she can see Russia from Alaska, Palin explained it this way: “That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land—boundary that we have with—Canada … Well, it certainly does because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, they’re in the state that I’m the executive of.”

Asked if she had ever been involved in any negotiations with her Russian neighbors, Palin said: “We have trade missions back and forth. We—we do—it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where—where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border.

“It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to— our state.”

It wasn’t a “Saturday Night Live” skit. It was the real Republican candidate for vice president of the United States.

Disrespecting the Debate
As a piece of U.S. history himself, John McCain should have had more respect for the historic first debate that took place at the University of Mississippi than to threaten to trash it.

Not only was it the first debate featuring the oldest man ever to run for a first presidential term and the first African-American Democratic nominee for president, but it also was taking place in Oxford, Miss. Instead, Ole McCain went out of his way to diss Ole Miss.

Oxford is a beautiful, little, Southern college town where something very ugly happened in 1962. When courts ordered Ole Miss to accept the enrollment of James Meredith, the first African-American student in the university’s history, white students and townspeople rioted against federal marshals, resulting in two deaths, 160 injured marshals and 200 arrests. More than 20,000 federal troops, more than the population of Oxford itself, patrolled the campus for the rest of the year.

Today, the many Civil War memorials on campus are joined by a monument to Meredith’s historic enrollment and the integration of the university, dedicated in 2006. Black enrollment has increased to 14% at Ole Miss, compared to 7% at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which professes to be an urban university.

It was to highlight the university’s racial progress and to try to overcome the ugly images from its past that Ole Miss eagerly sought to host the historic first debate of this election year.

Obama certainly had no qualms about traveling to Oxford in 2008 to debate his opponent. Ironically, it was the old white guy who threatened to boycott the event.

It was a bizarre, historic week in both presidential politics and Milwaukee baseball. The Brewers, the team that last went to the World Series the year John McCain was a rookie Congressman, clinched a playoff spot in the next-to-last inning of the last game of the season.

Young Ryan Braun, who was last year’s National League rookie of the year and this year’s presumptive team MVP, sent the Brewers to the postseason by knocking in winning home runs in two out of the final four games.

It’s true: This is no country for old men.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.