The Flame of Alaska?

The things you learn about candidates from reading their books. Despite the length of those columns I wrote after reading Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s chronicles of their early years, obviously there was much I didn’t have room to get into, including a lot of stuff that each candidate’s respective detractors like to point to.

Obama had his dope-smoking years, a period of rebellion in which I think he was self-consciously trying to emulate Malcolm X in his wild, self-destructive period — although being careful not to go too far, of course. (We both read the Autobiography in high school in Hawaii. I found it interesting; Obama saw it briefly as a guide to being a "black man in America," something he had to practice to learn.)

John McCain, having been a Naval Aviator, was less inhibited. He had Marie, the Flame of Florida. And others; that name just stood out. She apparently was an exotic dancer who performed for the fliers at Trader John’s, their favorite Pensacola after-hours locale. Ensign McCain dated her for awhile. She was "a remarkably attractive girl with a great sense of humor." He made the mistake once of taking her on an impulse to a party given by a married officer. (The single junior officers seldom socialized with the married couples. There was a good reason for this.) She was "a good sport" about it, but was clearly out of place among the Eastern Establishment-educated wives:

The young wives she was about to meet would be decorously attired and unfailingly genteel. Marie was dressed somewhat flamboyantly that evening, as was her custom.
… Marie sensed that the young wives, while certainly not rude to her, were less than entirely at ease in her presence. So she sat silent, not wishing to impose on anyone or intrude in the conversations going on around her. After a while, she must have become a little bored. So, quietly, she reached into her purse, withdrew a switchblade, popped open the blade, and, with a look of complete indifference, began to clean her fingernails.
… A short time later, recognizing that our presence had perhaps subdued the party, I thanked our hosts for their hospitality, bid goodbye to the others, and took my worldly, lovely Flame of Florida to dinner.

I like that line, "as was her custom…"

Kathleen Parker believes the crusty old sailor who once romanced the Flame of Florida had a similar motivation for choosing Sarah Palin — another remarkably attractive girl with a great sense of humor — to go with him to the party those Republican stiffs held up in St. Paul. Only this time, the date was the hit of the party. They particularly liked the part where she took out her switchblade and sliced and diced the Community Organizer with it.

But perhaps we’re reading too much into this.

15 thoughts on “The Flame of Alaska?

  1. Doug Ross

    Meanwhile in serious news, that key cog in the Liberal Media Machine, The Economist, has endorsed Obama.
    What a bunch of socialists!

  2. Doug Ross

    And apparently The Economist had the capacity to review the McCain campaign against his prior record and was left unimpressed. Under the subheading of:
    “If only the real John McCain had been running”
    That, however, was Senator McCain; the Candidate McCain of the past six months has too often seemed the victim of political sorcery, his good features magically inverted, his bad ones exaggerated. The fiscal conservative who once tackled Mr Bush over his unaffordable tax cuts now proposes not just to keep the cuts, but to deepen them. The man who denounced the religious right as “agents of intolerance” now embraces theocratic culture warriors. The campaigner against ethanol subsidies (who had a better record on global warming than most Democrats) came out in favour of a petrol-tax holiday. It has not all disappeared: his support for free trade has never wavered. Yet rather than heading towards the centre after he won the nomination, Mr McCain moved to the right.

  3. Brad Warthen

    Those bloody Whigs. How… trendy of them. Carnaby Street Redux.

    Yeah, I’ve run across that argument before, on this side of the pond: "THIS McCain isn’t the SAME McCain that we knew," yadda-yadda.

    It’s the Invasion of the Body Snatchers argument. I find it unconvincing.

  4. Phillip

    Ouch, Brad, that one’s gotta sting. I know how you like the Economist…me too. Clearly a Socialist paper, though, Lee, pm, etc.?
    Brad, people do change a bit, even in their 60’s and 70’s. Since McCain has traditionally been a man of his word, most people feel what they are seeing and hearing is what he indeed is, in 2008. It doesn’t take a “body snatchers” theory to explain. As I mentioned elsewhere, sometimes age brings with it greater resentments, hardened attitudes. It doesn’t always mellow people. It does not negate the best of John McCain’s career and life to believe that he simply was not given the opportunity to be President at the right time in his life, which might have been 8 years ago, and that his most promising days for leading the country have, sadly, come and gone. This is what people are sensing, I feel.
    That along with the fact that it’s just too great a risk to the republic to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the leadership of the free world.
    There’s no single foreign policy or military-strategy view held by either candidate that holds the potential for greater harm to the United States than the risk posed by a Vice-President Palin. I don’t think that’s partisan hysteria…I think that’s become accepted wisdom by the electorate.

  5. jfx

    I don’t think people like…
    …Colin Powell, Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee, William Weld, Francis Fukuyama, Christopher Buckley, Christoper Hitchens, Michael Smerconish, etc. etc. etc….
    …wish the McCain of the Flame of Florida were running.
    I think THOSE guys wish the McCain running this year was the same McCain who promised to run a respectful campaign…or the McCain who got smeared in 2000 by his party’s own right wing, right here in South Carolina, and knew how very unconscionable it was…or the John McCain who, once upon a time, stood up to people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (R.I.P.).
    What happened to that guy? I’m still waiting for a robocall that explains to me what the hell happened to THAT John McCain.
    Because the John McCain of the 2008 FEAR! + SMEAR! + NATIONALISM! campaign has made some really awful executive decisions and deserves an election-day thumping.

  6. Brad Warthen

    I guess I just can’t get y’all to talk about sex, can I? What a bunch of grinds.

    Phillip, as always, I appreciate your thoughtful observations.

    The Economist, of course, IS by its own claim a “liberal newspaper.” But by that they mean they are classic liberals — libertarians. They’re very much up Doug’s alley.

    I think it’s an excellent paper, and I always learn something from its “leaders.” But I very often disagree, because of the rather kneejerk libertarianism. Not that I always disagree with their market-oriented observations. After all, they are right across the Channel from a country that, even in my Big Gummint view, overmanages its economy. Not that I’ll sit still for anyone saying anything bad about my favorite Socialist, La Segolene.

    Obviously, The Economist didn’t decide this on the basis of Iraq. They’re with me, and McCain, and my man Joe on that one. This endorsement emphasizes the extent to which that issue has faded to the background, even in a country that has been our much-conflicted chief ally.

    It’s a good piece. It makes the arguments I would have made if we had decided — if I had decided — for Obama. As such, it’s much stronger than either the Tribune‘s trite paean to the alleged “underprivileged black man,” or Philly’s schizoid dual endorsement. It’s sober, and sensible. It reaches a different conclusion than I do, but makes a lot of the same points I do — just with different emphasis.

    In the end, I agree with the statement that “Mr Obama deserves the presidency.” Well, I mean, I agree that he’s suited; I think “deserves” is a bit much, too evocative of “The One” and all that. But as much as I like Obama, I prefer McCain.

  7. Harry Harris

    Silly as I often am, I use a different set of standards and urges when choosing a leader as opposed to, say a date to a party. I might want my friends to feel a tinge of jealousy at the kind of edgy lady I can pick up. I’m thinking a little more “country first” than that when my neighbors’ security and economic future are at stake.

  8. p.m.

    The Economist endorsed Obama?
    Well, so did a stripper I know. And she ain’t the Flame of Florida, or the Olympic Flame, either.
    Leave me out of all that. I don’t do The Economist, unless it shows up in a Google.
    And that’s the truth.
    But I will say this, to repeat myself from somewhere else: Obama doesn’t add up. The Wright stuff and the right stuff don’t fit together. The picture of Obama loses its vertical or horizontal hold when my rabbit ears are working.
    Something is rotten in Denmark. Or too naive to trust.

  9. Herb Brasher

    Well, we know that p.m. doesn’t read The Economist. But what does he read?
    You know what would be interesting? To find out what the regular contributors on this blog really do read–where do they get their input, what shapes them? What are their main sources of information?
    That would tell us a lot, I think. As mom used to say, “you are what you eat.”

  10. mck

    First a screed yesterday against one poor individual where you juxtapose prostitute and mother, then this one dealing near exclusively with strippers. Where I come from we try not to tie those two words together, and don’t much talk of those who take their clothes off for a living.
    You seem to make a habit of it.
    Must be that Navy ideology…it do bring out the raw in people

  11. bud

    Talk about hypocricy.
    This week, Hendrik Hertzberg writing for The New Yorker, quotes Palin talking about how awesome it is to be an Alaskan, just weeks before being chosen as McCain‘s running mate:
    “And Alaska — we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.”
    And to think, she accuses Obama of being a socialist.

  12. p.m.

    I read the writing on the wall, Herb.
    And The State online, but not on paper. The sports section became so pro-Gamecock and the coverage so focused on nothing but Columbia that I just couldn’t stand paying for it anymore. The State? No, the Columbia Record. They really should change the name.
    And please nobody bother to tell me that “The State” is meant to refer to the condition of things. That’s 100% BS, as reflected by the logo on The State’s masthead.
    I also read this blog and whatever I can find online that interests me.

  13. Steve Gordy

    In answer to Herb’s question: Daily, I read The State and The Wall Street Journal. Weekly, I read Business Week, The Economist, the Sunday New York Times. In addition, I routinely read Fortune, Forbes, Christianity Today, and The Atlantic monthly. On the other hand, this deprives me of much time to watch TV (we all must make sacrifices).

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