“A conspiracy so vast … “

Either “John McCain” is an entirely imaginary character or the actual McCain has been kidnapped and replaced by a double with the assignment of destroying whatever George W. Bush left intact of the Republican party and the conservative movement by illustrating their folly and their evil. The satire has grown increasingly broad, but today it completely jumped the shark: “McCain” announced that he hadn’t read the Paulson plan, which is all of 894 words long and has been at the center of national debate for three days.

Faithful readers of this space already know of the wicked plot to foist a Tina Fey Vice-Presidency (and very likely a Tina Fey Presidency) on the country in the person of Fey’s “Sarah Palin” character.

But that plot was a trifle compared to the deeper scheme of which it formed a tiny part, and which the RBC can now reveal to the world for the first time. The principals in the plot remain to be identified, though suspicion naturally focuses on George Soros, Markos Moulitsas, and Stephen Colbert.

John McCain does not exist. Either he was an imaginary character in the first place, the product of some Trollopean satirical imagination, or the real John McCain has been kidnapped and replaced by a double with the assignment of destroying what George Bush has left of the reputation of conservatism and of the Republican Party. (Whether Bush himself was a product of the same plot deserves serious study.)

As the campaign has progressed, “McCain” has sunk deeper and deeper into self-parody, as if trying systematically to prove the non-existence of every virtue ever claimed for the “McCain” of 2000: replacing a charming self-mockery with malignant narcissism, openness with secrecy, free-thinking with slavish devotion to right-wing orthodoxy, civility with depthless nastiness. In retrospect, there were clues: the shameless exploitation of “McCain’s” ex-POW status and the “Palin” nomination should have warned us that this wasn’t the real McCain.

But just now the Soros-Kos-Colbert plotters (or whatever cabal is handling this) finally jumped the shark. They had “McCain,” who just yesterday said that he was “suspending” his campaign in order to work full-time on a solution to the financial crisis, admit that he hadn’t read the Paulson plan. That’s right: since Monday, “McCain” hasn’t had time to read a document 849 words long, the very brevity of which is at the heart of the case against it.

Come on! I mean, how long are we supposed to disbelieve our suspenders? If the plotters had been clever, they would have had “McCain” say this off-camera in the presence of a single journalist, or better yet at a private meeting from which word could have been made to “leak.” That way we could have had another couple of days of controversy, with “McCain’s” handlers denying that he’d ever said anything so stupid.

But no. They insisted on putting it on camera, daring us to notice its utter implausibility:

ANCHOR: The crunch question. Would you vote for it as it’s presently constructed?

JSM: I have not had a chance to see it in writing so I have to examine that.

All right, fellas. You’ve had your little joke. What now?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com