richardmcculloch2web.gifMav-er-ick (n): an independent thinker who refuses to conform to the accepted views on a subject.

Most children can appreciate a good, old-fashioned fairy tale, a whimsical story that takes their young minds to far away places where the rules of reality don’t exist.

When it comes to American grown folks about to vote for our next president, however, fairy tales and foolishness from our candidates are as welcome
as your unemployed cousin’s phone call asking you to be a cosigner on a loan.

Watching the vice-presidential debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin, I was astonished at just how many times Palin was able to utter the words “Alaska” and “maverick” in her allotted response time.

I’ve heard that Alaska is pretty nice in the spring and summer, so I managed to deal with the Palin shout outs to her Land of the Midnight Sun homies. But the myth of Maverick McCain was a tall tale and country legend that seemed more B-movie western than political reality.

My only source of relief was when Biden, in a verbal onslaught of pent-up frustration, finally erupted with a challenge to the characterization of McCain as a maverick.

With a list of McCain’s history of co-signing the Republican and Bush positions on healthcare, education, the Iraq war and the national budget, Biden made it clear that the senator from Arizona wasn’t quite the maverick that he or Palin would have us think, especially when it comes to “the things that matter to people’s lives.”

Look, it’s campaign time, and the frenzy of foolishness is at an all-time high. Though I don’t mind going public in my support of Sen. Barack Obama, I check his facts, too.

One of the Obama factoids that I was somewhat skeptical about was the claim that John McCain voted with President Bush over 90 percent of the time. I only doubted this fact because I had been inundated so thoroughly with the maverick myth that I did not believe that one would posture himself as the poster child for “bucking the system” when, in fact, he was a major supporter of the system.

Lo and behold, according to the Congressional Quarterly Voting Studies, in 2007 McCain voted in line with George W. 95 percent of the time, and with his party 90 percent of the time.

Interestingly enough, by November 2007, George W’s approval rating was wallowing at 32 percent. Does a “maverick” vote 95 percent of the time with a president who has only a 32 percent approval rating?  I guess so, if it’s a “refusal to conform to the accepted views” of the same American people he now wants to represent.

Now, Palin has accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” based on his tenuous acquaintance with former anti-Vietnam radical Bill Ayers.

Every fairy tale needs a villain, and Ayers, who admittedly participated in violent acts of anti-establishment terrorism in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, seems to have all the earmarks of that villain. The only problem in this hockey-mom-touted fable is that Obama was only about 8 years old when Ayers was active in his radical shenanigans.

The reality of the Obama-Ayers association is that Ayers, now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, hosted a meet and greet for Obama in 1995, and the two have worked together in Chicago-based organizations addressing poverty, education and juvenile justice.

That’s not quite the dinner with Bin Laden that Palin would have Americans believe. Then again, she did make it clear at the Republican National Convention that community organizers were not worthy of much more than mockery and ridicule. 

Palin’s maverick status has also been compromised by this attempt at character assassination. After all, 20 years ago, George W’s daddy and the 1988 Republican campaign machine attempted to do the same thing. The villain then was Willie Horton, and the Democratic candidate was Michael Dukakis. One would think that a maverick would at least attempt a new spin on dirty campaigning.

If the McCain-Palin ticket really wants to validate the myth of being mavericks, then the candidates need to come and shake hands and kiss babies on Sistrunk Boulevard or in Liberty City. When that happens, I may just start believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny again.

Pictured above: Richard McCulloch