Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sam Smith, Progressive Review - Of all the lies that John McCain tells, one that disturbs me personally is that he calls himself a maverick. I've been an undisputed maverick most of my life, I've worked on a cattle farm, I know what mavericks are and I know McCain ain't one.

The correct technical term for McCain is a mugwump, a 19th century phrase for a politician who sits on a fence with his mug on one side and his wump on the other.

Mavericks have been best described as cattle that drink upstream from the herd. No one's pissin' in their water.

According to Amy Dorsett in the San Antonio News Express, I'm not the only one who doesn't like McCain's use of the word, which owes its roots to Samuel Augustus Maverick, "a 19th-century San Antonio mayor, signer of the 1836 Texas Declaration of Independence and aggressive land baron."

Writes Dorsett: "Maverick also owned a herd of cattle that he allowed to roam and chose not to brand. And so, the term maverick - in its purest form, it means an unbranded calf - was born.

"Maverick's descendants continued his legacy of public service and bucking conventional wisdom. His grandson, Maury Maverick, was a U.S. congressman who returned to San Antonio to serve one term as a mayor . . . His political career ended when he allowed members of the Communist Party, including Emma Tenayuca, a labor leader who advocated for pecan shellers, to meet at Municipal Auditorium. A lynch mob gathered outside the meeting and hanged Maverick in effigy.

"Claude Stanush was a young reporter for the San Antonio Light covering City Hall and . . . remembers Maury Maverick fondly. 'He was the best mayor we ever had,' Stanush said. 'He was a devoted lover of San Antonio, and when he lost the election it broke his heart.'. . .

Stanush thinks McCain is "posing as a maverick.". . . Julia Maverick, the widow of Maury Maverick Jr., an outspoken legislator and longtime San Antonio Express-News columnist, also questions McCain's use of the word. "'Has anyone asked McCain why he thinks he's a maverick. . . Reaching across the aisle to the Democrats once in a while doesn't make you a maverick.'

Terrellita Maverick, sister of Maury Maverick Jr. and mother of Fontaine Maverick, said that in her mind, being a maverick means being unfettered and not having to answer to any group or party.

"'We all cringed the first time he used it, and we have cringed every time since,' she said. "He's not a maverick in uppercase or lowercase. He's got a brand on him, and it's a red 'R' for Republican. We are just furious that he took our family name and that he used it to connote he's independent or a freethinker. My blood pressure has gotten so high, I've got to calm down - I've got to be around to vote, because I'm mad as hell.'"

I never met Maury Maverick Jr. but as a young reporter I certainly heard about him and worked for a couple of guys who knew him. I also read about him in Ronnie Dugger's Texas Observer, one of the few maverick journals around and an inspiration for my later efforts. In the 1950s, mavericks were hard to come by and Texas was one of the best places to find them. Even some of the names sounded maverick - like congressional aide Creekmore Fath.

My own objection to McCain's abuse of the term is based in part on all the effort that I have put into being called a maverick rather than a gadfly, a word that seems to be preferred by mainstream journalists when putting down free thinkers.

A gadfly is a small insect that buzzes ineffectually around cattle. Gadflies are only barely further along the evolutionary chain of things than maggots and slugs. They are frequently found resting placidly on a pile of excrement. As readers well know, I never am at rest sitting on a pile of shit.

McCain's bovine pretensions, however, seem like they will be only a temporary annoyance as in a few weeks it looks like America will be sending this fake maverick to the feed lot.