The worst political cliches of the year

Maverick: John McCain’s only lasting accomplishment since the 2008 election has been single-handedly to destroy this great 19th century American word that honored Samuel Maverick’s refusal to brand his cattle. William Safire in his indispensable “Safire’s New Political Dictionary” defined a maverick as “one who is unorthodox in his political views and disdainful of party loyalty, who bears no man’s brand.”
During his 2000 presidential primary campaign, McCain appeared to be the personification of such a maverick as he challenged Republican orthodoxy on tax cuts, campaign reform and the divine right of George W. Bush to the GOP nomination. A Google search of book references shows much greater use of the word maverick when McCain was running for president than when “Maverick” starring James Garner was a hit 1950s TV Western. A NEXIS search unearthed 1,088 media references describing McCain as a maverick in 2000 alone.
The media mob (myself included) stuck with this sobriquet far too long as McCain morphed into an off-the-rack Republican senator. Even when McCain claimed in a Newsweek interview before this year’s Arizona GOP primary, “I never considered myself a maverick,” the magazine insisted on using as its subhead: “A maverick fights for his political life — and his soul.” McCain’s amnesiac denial of his unbranded political history (a 2008 McCain campaign ad proclaimed him — you can guess what’s coming — “the original maverick”) makes a mockery of the political legacy of Samuel Maverick.

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