Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in "Iron Man": A superhero for America's political future.  Could John McCain, seen here in a 1973 picture with his first wife Carol (whom he divorced for beer heiress Cindy Hensley) back on U.S. soil after being in captivity in North Vietnam, ever be capable of living up to Stark's higher moral and political ground?  (Photos: Paramount Pictures; Associated Press respectively)

Summer's Superheroes And Mega Zeroes: Leaders You May (Or May Not) Believe In
Everything about the McCain presidential campaign suggests that it not only has the utmost contempt for its opponent, but also for himself.  Perhaps the summer's big screen film heroes and villains can teach the Arizona senator something

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

August 27, 2008
Can the movie superheroes of this successful box-office summer teach a presidential candidate like John McCain anything? 
Tony Stark was a corporate giant who did something revolutionary (and unbelievable): fought those within the corporation he owned while becoming something of an unlikely superhero.  "Iron Man" flew on more than a wing and a prayer, punctuating everyday American sensibilities with the idea that nuclear weaponry would have no place at Stark Industries -- a fictional corporation to be sure, but thanks to Robert Downey, Jr.'s acting, Mr. Stark was a leader you could believe in.  He self-actualized and resisted the stereotypical "fat-cat" CEO label and did the heavy-lifting himself in trying to stop wars, just as John Cusack's character was trying to make one in the fictional Turaqistan, all in the name of defending Tamerlane as its corporate hit-man in the short-lived film satire "War, Inc."

"Wall-E" fought the good fight as well, trying to clean up the environment in a post-global warming climate and tried to influence earthlings to treat the planet with respect and care in order that it be inhabitable once more.  Buy 'N' Large Corporation had its grip on planet Earth and expanded its multinational corporation to intergalactic heights into outer space, but "Wall-E' proved to be the lovelorn machine who fell to Earth after finding a heart and a fondness for his "Hello Dolly" sweetheart. 

Even Harvey Dent managed to fight crime in "The Dark Knight", and he blurred the lines between vigilante and valiant crime-fighting crusader.  Perhaps by implication in Christopher Nolan's record-box-office hit film in progress, Batman himself had to admire District Attorney Dent, who made Batman think twice about his own place in Gotham City. 

But the ultimate pugilist brave heart hero, John McCain, a prisoner of war for more than five years in North Vietnam from 1967 into the early 1970's during wartime, has in the space of a few short summer weeks in 2008 gone from hero to zero faster than the flip-flop of a pancake and speedier than the ascension of Jim Carrey's nobody character in "The Mask". 

Senator McCain needn't wear a 2000 "maverick" mask however, for these days he's auditioning for the November 2008 comedy hour (or years) as The New And Improved Joker.  Heath Ledger's big screen portrayal gripped and shocked audiences, but it's equally shocking (or perhaps not) that Mr. McCain's behavior on the presidential campaign trail reveals not only consistent (and inconsistent) lying, but has, in that good ole Saturday Night Live Stuart Smalley-Al Franken-would-be Minnesota U.S. senator-tradition, been deceitful -- telling lies and telling lies about lies, becoming a lying liar in the process.

The Joker's Card: Heath Ledger at his most menacing and macabre in "The Dark Knight".  John McCain, an admitted gambler, has played a card that has "prisoner of war" written all over it.  (Photo: Warner Brothers)

The big-screen Joker of Gotham showed utter disdain for his henchmen but Senator McCain's henchman-in-chief Karl Rove (affectionately known as "turd blossom" to Agent G.W.B. 43, the current U.S. commander-in-chief who clearly didn't graduate from the "Get Smart" school), showed similar disdain for Mr. McCain in 2000 when Mr. Rove was the chief architect of the John McCain-has-a-black-baby ads that played on white Southerners' racist fears in South Carolina during McCain's initial bid for the White House against fellow Republican rival George W. Bush, to whom Mr. McCain is still very closely tied.  Mr. McCain didn't seem to like those ads too much, calling them "reprehensible".

Flash forward eight years and a few months to 2008, when Mr. McCain and his would-be First Lady wife and beer heiress Cindy (whom he had the genteel manners and presence of mind to call the c-word that rhymes with runt in public before reporters in 1992) -- pledged that there'd be no negative campaign ads coming from them, that's for sure. 

But when you have the man that Texas political journalist/author James Moore has chronicled as "Bush's Brain" as your Lord of Manure-Slinging and cowardly attacks, then you know that something wicked this way comes. 

And it smells of turd blossom.  That fragrance.  That aroma!

One needs no "Naked Gun" to detect that the smell of fear is back this campaign season.  In the last couple of weeks Senator McCain has said that Senator Barack Obama wanted to lose a war in order to win an election.  Not even the campaign strategists behind their candidates in "Swing Vote" stooped so low -- and that was a movie.   

De-emphasis of hero: Batman played down his heroism and took an introspective look at his place on Gotham City's stage.  John McCain has yet to do the same when it comes to where he fits on America's stage and telling the world what he'd do on it.  (Photo: Warner Brothers)

As stated earlier, the contradictions of Senator McCain are most telling.  And the so-called "race card", one of the most trivial and insulting terms used in the contemporary American lexicon amidst a very real historical backdrop and legacy of the most virulent racism, is the kind of trump card that Republicans have played oh so adeptly over the years, even if they aren't the political party that supported slavery.  Despite the painful lessons that McCain supposedly learned eight years hence, despite the pledge to stay positive about his own campaign and gentlemanly while critical towards his opponent, the Arizona senator has imitated Fleetwood Mac and gone his own way.  Yes, it's official: the Straight Talk Express has become the Pineapple Express -- especially when a McCain campaign operative a few days ago said that John McCain doesn't necessarily speak for the John McCain campaign. 

Apparently racism does -- and loudly.

For M.C. Rove -- as he called himself as he literally rapped and danced during the White House Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in 2007 -- has found a full-time rapper he can pick on: Obama supporter Ludacris, who as alter ego Chris Bridges just happens to ply his trade as an aspiring big screen actor.  Mr. Bridges, who played a philosophical carjacker in the film "Crash", recently released a rap song in support of Obama.  The song, in which he tosses out very unkind and misogynistic epithets at former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (b---h) has lyrics that include "black people should vote Obama and paint the White House black".  The McCain folks and the Republican National Party decried the lyrics as racially incendiary and had the temerity to link them to Senator Obama, whose campaign came out strongly against Ludacris' song.

The same indignation however, was not shown by M.C. Rove and his fellow Republican minions at the Texas Republican Party Convention in June 2008 had a vendor stand selling buttons that said, "If Obama is President . . . will we still call it The White House?"  Somehow that wasn't incendiary enough.  Nor were Senator Obama's own words on June 20, when he self-referred to a crowd: "did I tell you that he's black?", as the McCain campaign was either silent or turned a deaf ear or got amnesia -- and then again earlier this month when Senator Obama repeated them without adding the word "black", before the Pineapple Express's flip-flopping and deciding to go on the attack by week's end.  For the record, earlier this year the Texas GOP also sold buttons with highly offensive statements about Senator Clinton, including the "b"-word.  Again, the Republicans were not moved to condemn such sentiments.

Wall-E: The lovable robot did all he could to clean up the environment in America and in outer space.  The $64,000 question: What would John McCain do?  (Photo: Disney)

Some Democrats as well as more than a few Republicans believe that celebrities have no place on the political stage.  During and after the prelude in 2003 to unauthorized war with Iraq, the kind that Dr. Strangelove would have not admired, celebrities spoke out, Hollywood-based and otherwise.  The Texas-based Dixie Chicks were slammed by the Republicans when they said during a concert in London in 2003 that they were ashamed to be from the same state as President Bush.  Their CDs were destroyed in public rallies and they received death threats.  Despite the Republican disdain for celebrities speaking out about political matters, Mr. McCain decided to insert Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (the latter whom he has something in common with) into his political matter: an attack ad about Senator Obama's trip to Berlin.  Most people, including even the mainstream media that loves McCain so, saw the ad for what it was: ridiculous, childish, but some missed the racial overtones -- the appeal to fear, that somehow Senator Obama was having a subliminal menage-a-trois with the two blonde celebs.  (As an aside, one telephone caller to a national talk radio show in June who identified himself as a white man actually admitted live on the air that he wouldn't vote for Mr. Obama because he was afraid that if he did that his own wife would want to start dating black men.  I kid you not.  The caller actually said this.)

This kind of bizarre and irrational racial fear is precisely what Mr. Rove with the Spears-Hilton-Obama "celebrity" ad is attempting to tap into among some white voters.  (To an extent in some parts of the country according to recent polls, it may have worked.)  And if you are yet to be convinced by the final two or three sentences of the previous paragraph, consider that M.C. Rove, aka Master of Contempt Rove (who's currently being held in contempt by Congress for his refusing to answer the subpoena to testify in yet another Bush criminal and corrupt matter), said about Senator Obama in June, that "he's the guy with a beautiful date on his arm at a country club . . . making snide remarks at the people who pass by."  (In a country club, who would the date more likely to resemble?  Michelle Obama?  Or Cindy McCain?)  Maybe this is the fear mongering that McCain is counting on, as well as reminding everyone (almost self-exploitatively) that he was a prisoner of war -- even though from there's clear evidence that McCain actually received most of his injuries due to his crash landing in Vietnam, and not his torture while in Hanoi over a five-and-a-half year period.

Green with envy: The Incredible Hulk may have given Senator McCain a failed lesson in anger management, given the Arizona senator's famous temper.  (Photo: Universal)

Just as offensive -- even more so -- however, was Senator McCain's offering up his own wife as perhaps the "first woman to serve as First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip" before a crowd of 50,000 at the Sturgis motorcycle weekend in South Dakota earlier this month.  Miss Buffalo Chip, by the way, is a competition where the women do some not-so-First-Ladylike-things with bananas and strut around not just scantily-clad before the public but skankily clad as well.  Given Mr. McCain's record of how he treated his first wife, the fact that he appeared in the film "Wedding Crashers" in 2005 wasn't necessarily a coincidence.

The truest thing that can be said is that the heroes and zeroes wrapped up in the race of race (and sex) are not focusing enough on the real concerns of Americans.

What John McCain needs to do is engage the country in a serious discussion of the issues.  The facts are that gas prices are through the roof, foreclosures are happening in abundance and quicker and than the warp speed and ignition of Clone Wars light sabers.  Half a million jobs have been lost this year so far in the U.S. (as of this story's date), and close to 50 million people in the U.S. are without healthcare.  The so-called middle class is without a roof over its head in a number of instances, banks are going belly-up, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have left severe destruction which has still not been cleaned up.

Will Mr. McCain invest as much positive energy into talking about these issues as he has negative energy in false, outrageous lies in sloppily constructed ads?
Mr. McCain, whose heroism amidst the killing fields of Vietnam has become the stuff of legend is fast trying to erode that image -- the same one that Republicans at their own 2004 National Convention in New York City tarnished in the case of Democratic candidate John Kerry, when convention attendees wore Purple Heart band-aids, openly mocking Senator Kerry's Vietnam service.  Mr. Kerry, who by then had been swift-boated into oblivion (by an author who is working hard but failing to do the same to Senator Obama) and further undercut by Ohio Republican chicanery at the voting booth just months later in November '04, had suffered some partially self-inflicted wounds even scarier than Glenn Close's character Alex Forrest's were in "Fatal Attraction".

Senator Obama could do the same if he's not careful, especially when making the mistake a few weeks ago of challenging Senator McCain to a duel on taxes (ala Zell Miller in 2004).  Perhaps Mr. Obama thought he was Zorro, or maybe he was relying on the fact that his distant cousin Dick Cheney (who shot his hunting partner Harry Whittington in the face in 2006) would be at the ready to defend him.  Perhaps he could become the live-action version of Kung Fu Panda, or far less violently, The Candidate, without the "now what?" kind of president that some Americans fear he will be if he wins in November.  Mr. McCain, who has his 72nd birthday at the end of this month -- Senator Obama's 47th birthday was earlier this month -- needs to morph into Indiana Jones, who was at the height of 1950's swashbuckling heroism in Mr. Spielberg's latest celluloid story -- and fast.  If not, Mr. McCain could always morph into Harrison Ford, who's 63 and has proven that he can restore order and tranquility even after a 19-year-absence from the hard-boiled action world.  But maybe Jones isn't quite Mr. McCain's style, since he, supposedly like Obama, spends too much time traveling outside the U.S.  If McCain wishes to revive a flagging, bumbling and uninspiring campaign he should have a campaign ad featuring him donning Mr. Ford's onscreen wardrobe and doing a karaoke edition of a reworked song entitled "Me And Mr. Jones".

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones: The traveling man that John McCain wishes he was?  Shia LaBeouf is pictured, in "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".  (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Still, becoming Indy may be the only chance Senator McCain has to turn around an abysmal showing thus far.  If Shia LaBoeuf can be a transformer and exhibit a mean Errol Flynn or Johnny Weissmuller on the big screen while getting into a not-so-Eagle Eyed road accident off it last month, maybe Senator McCain can learn to get his Pineapple Express to actually talk truthfully and honestly about both Obama and the serious issues Americans face -- before it's too late.  Senator McCain's infamous temper (his fellow Republican colleagues have attested to it) may not have got the Incredible Hulk green with envy, but that green backdrop as he spoke on June 3 -- the night Senator Obama wrapped up the presumptive Democratic presidential nomination -- probably did.  Certainly P.O.W. National Alliance of Families representative Delores Alfond back in the 1990's was victimized by Mr. McCain during a U.S. Senate hearing, doing his best imitation of Bruce Banner and his warning: "McGee, don't make me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."   (Read: McCain, don't get angry.  No one likes you when you're angry.)  In fact, he didn't even know which Louisiana city in America he was in, as he started his bizarre, widely-panned June 3, 2008 speech by saying, "My friends, good evening from the great city of New Orleans!"  (He was actually in Kenner.)

There's actually a superhero not emblazoned on multiplex marquees this summer that Mr. McCain thinks he most resembles, and that's Captain America.

"America First" can currently be seen emblazoned on podia where the Arizona senator speaks on the campaign trail.  The irony is that Senator McCain has not put America first at all, voting no less than 15 times to allow corporations to eliminate jobs in America and send them overseas.  You can go to this website and see for yourself, as well as look at all politicians ' voting records at and enter McCain's name and select the issues you want to see his record on.  In fact, Senator McCain was so concerned about America that he on no fewer than 20 occasions as a P.O.W. gave information to the Vietnamese for their own propaganda against the United States.  He seems to have no problem endlessly repeating at best, and exploiting at worst, his status as a P.O.W. whenever he can't or won't answer a question, whether one asked in jest or seriously.  He loved America so much that back on March 13, 2008 in an interview with Fox News McCain said that "I didn't really love America until I was deprived of her company."  (By the way, for all the bluster about Barack Obama being born in Hawaii, which is one of the 50 states of the United States of America for all you geography lovers, few in the country know that the would-be Captain America, John McCain, was born in the country of Panama, and not in one of America's 50 states.) 

Senator McCain loved America so much that he voted against American war veterans benefits and funding of Veterans Administration hospitals too many times, incurring the wrath of American veteran soldiers everywhere, including soldiers in Iraq who are donating six times as much money to Obama than to McCain.  McCain loved America so much that on his birthday in 2005, when thousands were drowning in Louisiana he and President Bush were in Arizona eating cake.  McCain didn't visit New Orleans or anywhere on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. for the first time since the tragedy until six months after Hurricane Katrina hit, sending thousands to their deaths.  (Obama arrived there on September 5, 2005, the same day Bush did.)  McCain loved America so much that his trusted advisor Phil Gramm called America "a nation of whiners".  Mr. McCain, who may own between seven and eleven houses in the U.S. at a time where house foreclosures among the middle class are rising significantly, believed that the economy's fundamentals were strong.

Captain America would blush at the McCain self-heroism gig -- so would Superman for that matter - McCain crashed his plane four times in flight school.  And at the Naval Academy in Annapolis he graduated 894th out of a total of 899 graduates.  And for all the anti-celebrity messages in his Britney-Spears ads, guess who has appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno more times than anyone? 

That's right, John McCain, with 13 appearances, including just this past Monday, where he used the P.O.W. trick once again.

Voters will need to turn out in mass this November if real change is to come to the U.S. and by extension, elsewhere.  The real heroes of the big screen summer may be the American public, who have turned out in droves to see blockbuster films, investing in fictional heroes they believe in and identify with because the ones they have been taught to trust have continuously let them down.  They can be even bigger heroes this November and might just be able to teach the heretofore unknown Mr. McCain a lesson about lies and lying liars.  Massive voter turnout despite mainstream media distortion and a candidate Pinocchio would be proud of? 

Now that's change you can believe in.

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2008.  All Rights Reserved.


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