The Straight Talkers

16 for '16 - The Contenders

A Look Back at the John McCain/George W. Bush Rivalry

Aired: 2016-09-14 00:00:00 1:32 Rating: TV-PG

Former George W. Bush staff reflect on campaign tactics used to defeat John McCain.


John McCain | Bio & TimelineJohn McCain | Bio & TimelinePremiere date: Sept. 13 | American voters say they prefer their politicians honest, but does being a straight-talker actually have negative consequences?  Historian Howard Zinn once said “the most revolutionary act one can engage in is to tell the truth.”  In the case of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, and war hero Sen. John McCain, being a straight talker came with political consequences.

John McCain, a war hero turned foot soldier in the “Reagan Revolution”, was considered a maverick within his own party for always speaking from the heart even when it wasn’t politically expedient. His first run in 2000 saw one of the more brutal, knockdown drag-out fights between his campaign and that of the ultimately victorious George W. Bush.

Eight years later, despite his storied record in the Senate and a headline-making choice for vice president, he found his run for the presidency upended by the presence of a certain history-making newcomer on the Democratic side.

Shirley Chisholm | Bio & TimelineShirley Chisholm | Bio & Timeline Shirley Chisholm, a black woman who dared to run for Congress just three years after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, could be described the same way. She was a bold straight-talker who didn’t want to wait her turn to follow an African-American man or a white woman running for president—she saw an opportunity and she took it for herself, smashing multiple glass ceilings in the press conference announcing her candidacy.

With her landmark 1972 run for president, Chisholm encountered opposition from across the political spectrum, including from black male political leaders and mostly white feminist leaders. But her bold candidacy would forever alter the nation’s view of what a presidential candidate should look and sound like.

For both John McCain and Shirley Chisholm, part of the reason they ran is that both of these folks were supremely un-bought and un-bossed. It could also very well be the reason they lost.

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