Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The real Original Maverick

"Enough!" Barack Obama's cri de coeur at the Democratic convention three weeks back still rings in the ears, but today for a different reason. We have had enough of John McCain's distortions of the truth, his blatant falsehoods about his opponent's record and his integrity, even exoticizing his birthplace.

But of all the half-truths and outright lies by the candidate and his lieutenants and numerous handlers, it is time for Team McCain to finally end one of the foundational lies about his own campaign and the brand he has foisted on the American people for far too long.

Enough. It must be said: Contrary to the sloganeering in a new series of television ads, contrary to his own long and carefully constructed narrative ... John McCain is not the Original Maverick. That honor belongs to another man, another champion of the West with an iconoclastic, typically American streak, another man of another time.

Fifty-one years ago next week — on Sept. 22, 1957 — James Garner made the first of 52 appearances as inveterate Old West gambler and ladies' man Bret Maverick on the ABC series "Maverick," beginning a five-season courtship of the American public, which embraced Garner as a figure on the national stage while John McCain was still shining his shoes at Annapolis.

Garner would soon have company. The "Maverick" series was really a family story. Garner had the first several episodes to himself, but over time, his three brothers — Beau, Brent and Bart (played by Roger Moore, Robert Colbert and Jack Kelly, respectively) — would become part of the show, which continued the adventures of the brothers Maverick with various cast changes and shifts until 1962.

◊ ◊ ◊

They, Senator McCain, were the Original Mavericks, and no one else. You, sir, are — at best — fifth in the line of succession.

And maybe further back than that. A made-for-TV movie, "The New Maverick" was broadcast in 1981, with Garner and Kelly returning to their original roles, while their brash young cousin, Ben Maverick, was portrayed by Charles Frank, who went on to play astronaut Scott Carpenter in "The Right Stuff."

We won't even get into the Maverick call-sign for Tom Cruise's character in "Top Gun" or Mel Gibson's portrayal of Bret Maverick in the 1994 movie.

Bottom line, Sen. McCain: Your inability or unwillingness to square with the American people about the Iraq war and its enduring damage to the nation; about the economy and your plans to repair it; about your apparent eagerness to distort even your own record for the sake of political expediency — these are bad enough.

But to claim you are the Original Maverick when there is ample evidence to the contrary — this, Senator, is too much. At long last, sir, have you no sense of pop-culture history?
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Image credit: James Garner, the Original Maverick: Photo by Alan Light. Maverick movie poster: © 1994 Warner Bros.

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