The beginning of the decline of McCain
One thing I always think of when I think of David Foster Wallace is his coverage of the flaming out of McCain’s campaign against Bush in the 2000 primaries. You can hear a segment on the South Carolina primaries here, and read more here. I remember listening to that “This American Life” segment and thinking that the character assassination that the Bush campaign pulled in South Carolina was the sort of filth that would become legendary, and to a large degree it was. If you were paying attention, the 2000 primary should have scared the ever-living shit out of you, because it gave you a solid taste of what kind of amoral monsters were in charge in the Bush camp. Wallace reported on it with a good mix of humor and solemn awareness of how seriously fucked up it all was.
What I couldn’t have anticipated was that McCain would run a campaign against Barack Obama so deceitful, so filthy, so dishonest, and so contemptuous of the democratic process that it would make Bush’s dirty campaign against him look like child’s play. Bush’s people put out whisper campaigns and push polls loaded with racism and weird insinuations about McCain’s mental health. McCain puts that kind of crap in national TV ads. I should have guessed it. His entire career from 2000 on has been a slow motion display of fealty to the ugliest side of the conservative movement, because wingers showed him that they owned his party. Reneging on his negative comments about the far right and about the pro-torture policies of the Bush administration and physically and symbolically embracing the very man who spread ugly rumors about McCain’s daughter were just a run-up to his complete capitulation to the worst kind of campaign tactics.