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.