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April 3, 2008

Prompting A Look At The Early McNasty


(click for full size)

I’m glad WAPO ran this shot yesterday, for a number of reasons.

On the most basic level, it exposes the trappings of a typical campaign event, in this case, McCain’s return to his high school alma mater. I can’t recall, over the past four years, when I saw such a revealing shot of a teleprompter.

Where this shot goes a little deeper, however, is in its non-idealized allusion to the man remembered at Episcopal High School as “The Punk.”  Highlighting the teleprompter draws attention to how impersonal and highly-scripted McCain’s self-described biographical tour has turned out to be.  In someone with a healthier attitude and behavioral history, one would expect a more informal, personal and emotional connection to one’s past.  Instead, we witness events such as this one in Virginia, and one previously, at Annapolis, in which the talks are canned, the events are rote, and the candidate, beyond uncomplicated hat tips to his admiral father and grandfather  — goes mostly for cheap laughs at his own expense.

To get a sense of the rote-quality, and how dependent McCain was on the script at his old stomping ground, check out the ABC News video, most likely taken from one of those cameras we see in the back.  The particular snippet captured on the teleprompter is interesting too.  Maybe the selection was completely random. Or maybe, reflecting the way in which the press tends to run interference for him, this particular fragment is designed to make Mac seem more like he was the happy, well-adjusted child.  It reads:

“I’m happy to be back at Episcopal, my alma mater, which I have many happy memories of, and a”

As a fragment, though, it also hints at the “real dope” which followed.  In this case, the rest of the sentence went:

“…few that I’m sure former teachers, school administrators and I would rather forget.”

McCain the ‘Punk’ Goes Back to School (ABC News with video)

McCain on trip down memory lane (BBC)

Learning About John McCain (CBS video)

Day In Photos – April 2, 2008 (WAPO)

(image: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post,  April 1, 2008. Episcopal High School.  Alexandria, Va. via WAPO)

  • joe

    Also struck by the front-row prominence of his campaign colours – yellow ties on blue shirts. Non-standard wardrobe, eg pattern shirts, jumpers, colours other than red/blue/yellow, are in the rear.

  • Thirdeye Pushpin

    the body language of the students does not read that this moment will be a happy memory…it is also a decidedly white male audience. It is also a moment of clapping, and yet the facial expressions are hardly inspired/inspiring.

  • black dog barking

    In February of 2000 Rolling Stone magazine sent David Foster Wallace to South Carolina to follow the then surging McCain campaign for a week. DFW helpfully provides the reader with a small lexicon of campaign trail jargon, including:

    22.5 = The press corps’ shorthand for McCain’s opening remarks at {{Town Hall Meetings}}, which remarks are always the same and always take exactly 22½ minutes.

    “So happy to be back at Episcopal”, eh? Thought JSM III was a Baptist. Mr Google tells me JSM is a Baptist that has consistently identified himself in the media as Episcopalian but goes to a Baptist church although he’s never actually been, uh, baptized.
    During DFW’s short stint on the campaign trail in 2000 the support buses that followed the Straight Talk Express through South Carolina and carried the media overflow (including the reporter from Rolling Stone) were called Bs 1 and Bs 2 by its denizens, not usually abbreviated.

  • weisseharre


  • gasho

    The republican field was so weak this year, and McCain stumbled to the top of the stinking heap..
    He’s a lousy candidate and doesn’t stand a chance. That is until you consider all the dirty tricks, fear tactics, propaganda, timed media-emergencies, swift-boaters, voter suppression, voting machine tampering, smear campaigns and media buyouts we can expect from a republican running for office.
    When I look at this picture, I see: Hollow. The students aren’t supporters, they’re props. His words aren’t from his heart, they are scripted and empty. WaPo running a picture OF the tele-prompter really nails that point. One could almost say that they are violating the unwritten rules of political coverage to FEATURE a tele-prompter like this. They must see the same hollow figure that I do.

  • Puka

    McCain looks tiny – all those high school boys just tower over him.

  • Sage

    The few girls/women are all in the back. And this looks so staged that it says a lot to me.

  • Megan

    I also immediately noticed that the girls are in the back. Boys standing in a row to look like a military formation. The only visible woman is kneeling in front of McCain. Even if this is all coincidence, I have gotten used to women holding about half the field. I like it that way.

  • Puka

    I see hardly any girls of student age. Is this high school a boys-only enclave?

  • Cactus

    Is that a sex-segregated school or is that the men’s glee club? Or maybe Log Cabin republicans, judging from all the pink ties and shirts. I know, pink is the new beige, but these ARE republicans, right?
    And as for his self-deprecating jokes, don’t they fall in line with Reagan’s ‘folksy’ humorous little stories……both right off the Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
    Also, I heard that McCain has trouble reading from state-of-the-art prompters so they had to regress them a couple of steps. Just another day in the life of a cranky old man.
    Note to gasho: You forgot to mention binLaden’s video appearances on cue.

  • singer

    It’s not just the women behind him but the non-whites as well. Bizarre image.

  • wisewebwoman

    Like Rudi, this is a tiny little man in search of a balcony.

  • Sage

    I just realized: we are looking over the heads of blacks and girls in the foreground with boys on the other side. The great divide?

  • maria

    Yeah, and what a bunch of nerds. They look like typical republican sheeples. Geesh

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