COLUMBUS _ ``He's like Bush with a bad temper,'' said Uncle Chet, while cranking the Foley Food Mill at the kitchen table.
``Be nice,'' said Alice, who stood next to him, dicing tomatoes on a large glass cutting board.
``Why be nice? The man's a menace,'' he said. ``He's an egomaniac, the pampered grandson of a famous admiral, catered to his entire life. He was a poor student, a bad pilot, a cheating husband, and he's lucky he wasn't kicked out of the Senate for helping his buddy, Charles Keating, bilk the public.''
``And he has bad breath,'' I said, bringing in another basket of tomatoes.
``That, I wouldn't know, but he is foul-mouthed and prone to rages, the last man you want with his finger on the button,'' said Uncle Chet. ``He doesn't want to talk to his adversaries; he wants to kill them, for inside that tortured mind he's still locked in a cell in Hanoi, where an implacable hatred was his way of coping.''
``You can't take that away from him,'' said Hon from the stove, where she was stirring the slowly thickening tomato sauce.
``I'm not. He was captured and tortured, one of many prisoners in that misbegotten war. But do we have to fight that war the rest of our lives, in the jungle, in the desert, even on our own streets? And how does the fact that McCain was tortured in any way qualify him to be president of the United States?''
The food mill was grinding, the tomato sauce was bubbling, the kids were playing soccer-golf outside.
``Other than the temper, he's a lot like Bush,'' said Uncle Chet, pouring red juice into a large bowl, then scraping out the seeds. ``Bush is a third-generation patrician, son of a president, grandson of a senator. So is John Sidney McCain III, son and grandson of admirals. They grew up spoiled, in the shadows of powerful fathers. They floundered in college, partying, not studying, counting on help from high places whenever it was needed.
``They signed up with the military, became fliers and neither one was very good. With McCain's parentage, the Navy was preordained, but he was too much of a hot dog to climb the ranks,'' he said. ``While Bush was driving Arbusto into the ground, McCain was marking time in a uniform. Then, when all else failed, they resorted to politics.
``They surrounded themselves with rich men and lobbyists, and McCain was befriended by Charles Keating, chairman of the Lincoln Savings & Loan Association. Keating gave money to McCain's campaigns, flew the McCains to the Bahamas several times on his private jet, and in return, all he asked was that the maverick from Arizona, and four of his colleagues, keep the bank examiners at bay.''
``And the maverick did his bidding,'' I said.
``The maverick did, until the bank went belly up and the taxpayers had to bail it out, to the tune of some $2 billion,'' he said. ``Thousands of middle-class families lost their life savings in junk bonds and Keating went to prison.''
``The savings and loan crisis,'' said Alice.
``McCain was in the middle of the savings and loan crisis,'' said Uncle Chet, ``and until last week, the bailout that ended it was the largest in American history.''
``So McCain's been through bank bailouts before,'' said Hon.
``That's why he suspended his campaign,'' I said. ``He has a lot of experience creating and resolving these banking problems.''
``But it isn't going to work this time,'' said Uncle Chet. ``The bailout is doomed because it's too little, too late and doesn't fix our real financial problems.''
``No one understands finance,'' said Alice.
``Think of it like the rules of the road,'' said Uncle Chet. ``Cheerleaders for big business like Bush and McCain have abolished the speed limits, gotten rid of the yellow lines and hamstrung the cops. Now, they're pretending to be shocked at the carnage on the highways. And what's their solution: Every man, woman and child in the country should give them another $2,333 and hope that fixes the problem.''
``You don't think it's going to work?'' asked Alice.
``No way,'' he said. ``It's just throwing good money after bad.''
Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week.