by David "Dr. Word" Safier
A Google news search for "McCain + ranch" yielded about 20 "McCain is heading to his ranch this weekend" stories.
But McCain doesn't have a ranch, any more than George Bush does.
I looked up a number of definitions for "ranch." This one is typical: "A Ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of Ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool."
McCain doesn't graze cattle or sheep. He doesn't sell meat or wool. He has about 15 acres of land in Oak Creek near Sedona with a large vacation home (not a cabin) and about 6 smaller guest houses. As near as I can tell, the only animals he raises are stocked catfish in a fishing pond.
Oops. Did I say "he has about 15 acres"? Sorry, my bad. The land is owned by Cindy's family trust and some kind of real estate partnership in her name. Cindy has a prenuptial agreement with John to protect her assets, so I'm assuming John has no claim to the property.
This use of the term "ranch," and its repetition by the press reveals a lot about our current state of politics and the media's willingness to repeat whatever they're told. "Ranch" evokes images of cowboys and horses and cattle roundups and all that John Wayne stuff. It makes McCain and Bush seem like virile, independent men of the land. You may remember that Bush bought his Crawford compound as the 2000 presidential election campaign was gearing up to give him a down home image. Press photos all show the area off to its best rustic advantage. If the press chose a different angle, I believe they would show a school next door. (Not sure about this. I'm going on memory here.)
The press are complicit in this deception. Have you ever seen the story, "Does Bush have a ranch or a vacation home?" Nope, I haven't either. And you'll find very few photos of Cindy's vacation hideaway.
I scoured the internet for photos of Cindy's Oak Creek vacation property and found very few. Remember when McCain hosted the press corps to a barbeque there in March? He must have forbidden photos, because none of the stories have photos with them. And McCain's base, the press went along with it.
So this is kind of an exclusive. You're seeing Cindy McCain's romantic lovenest here first, unless you've been digging through the internet stacks like I have. McCain's daughter shot a cutesy video of the press barbeque. Watch it if you want some insight into the way the press fawns over their favorite candidate. I took a few screen shots to give you a sense of what the exterior of the McCain "cabin" looks like. And I found an old Home and Garden spread on the place. I think it's from 2000. That's where I got the lovely photo of carefully channeled creek, the manicured lawn and the house in the background.
Know where I got the McCain Ranch logo at the top? Hold onto your absurdist cowboy hats, boys and girls. You're about to learn that the only real McCain Ranch is alive and well on TV reruns of The Rifleman. On the show, Chuck Connors played Lucas McCain. Connors' website has McCain Ranch materials all over the place.
So all you pretend cowboys and cowgirls, meet me at the pretend McCain Ranch. You'll find it somewhere between Sedona and TV Land.
Note: Time's Joe Klein writes that, on many issues, he stands somewhere between McCain and Obama. But he's getting a little peeved at the McCain camp's you're-with-us-or-you're-against-us attitude. Here's how Klein puts it: "The fact is that McCain--or, at least, his top aides--seem to have adopted a simple attitude toward the press: Either you come to the barbecue or you're cast into the outer darkness." He forgot to mention, when you come to the barbecue, you leave your camera behind.