18 September 2008

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE SPENT A WEEK ON BULLSHIT ONE



We're very late mentioning Wallace here, but someone did pass along this amazing account he produced for Rolling Stone back in 2000, when he followed the John McCain campaign through South Carolina during the presidential primaries, on the flagship bus affectionately called Bullshit One

Wallace covers McCain's internment in Hanoi, his campaign team's response to a negative campaign ad from George W. Bush (referred to simply as "The Shrub"), and the analysis of the news techies that have seen it all before: 
This logic turns out to be indeed solid, even brilliant, and the NBC, CBS and CNN techs flesh it out while the ABC cameraman puts several emergency sandwiches in his lens bag for tonight's flight south on a campaign plane whose provisioning is notoriously inconsistent. The Shrub's attack leaves McCain with two options. 

If he does not retaliate, some SC voters will credit McCain for taking the high road. But it could also come off as wimpy, might compromise McCain's image as a tough, take-no-shit guy with the balls to take on the Washington kleptocracy. So McCain pretty much has to strike back, the techs agree. But this is extremely dangerous, for by retaliating — which of course (despite all Murphy's artful dodging) means going Negative himself — McCain runs the risk of looking like just another ambitious, win-at-any-cost politician. 

Worse, the CBS cameraman points out, if Bush then turns around and retaliates against the retaliation, and McCain has to re-retaliate against Bush's retaliation, and so on, then the whole GOP race could quickly degenerate into the sort of boring, depressing, cynical charge- and counter-charge contest that turns voters off and keeps them away from the polls.
If we were going to call anything "must read," this would be it. I can't believe this guy's gone. 


Wikipedia: Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2000


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