Last week, McCain told Newsweek that “I never considered myself a maverick.” (Sorry kids, time to put down the shot glasses.)  Aside from employing the great political strategy of “lying,” McCain’s recent announcement brings into sharp relief an important issue in politics: nicknames.  Think of all the impressive American appellations: George “Dubya” Bush.  Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger. Lyndon “B” Johnson.  Would Adlai Stevenson have become president were it not for Eisenhower’s use of the catchy slogan “We Like Ike?”  Would Winfield Scott have been half the general he was were he not nicknamed “Old Fuss and Feathers”?  Would school children ever learn anything about Winfield Scott were he not nicknamed “Old Fuss and Feathers”?

Nicknames are more than just clever taglines.  They can seriously influence politics and change the course of American history.  In 1998, Bill Clinton was dogged by the damning name “Slick Willy,” increasing the difficulty of his arduous trek against public opinion and an impeachment-hungry Congress.  “Joe Sixpack” was one of the most contentious figures of the 2008 presidential campaign, a fact that his wife, Anne “Get-Your-Butt-Off-The-Couch-and-Clean-Up-Those-Stupid-Beer-Cans-Already” was none too happy about.  Perhaps the most memorable instance of the real impact of political monikers came during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, when “Silent Cal”’s failure to answer his wife’s inquiry as to whether or not her bottom looked rotund in a particular dress led directly to the stock market crash of 1929.  If only Old Fuss and Feathers had been there to help.

McCain’s departure from his maverickianism is more than simply a semantic shift.  Shedding his nickname of Maverick is not only inconvenient to the publishers of his 2002 autobiography, subtitled “The Education of an American Maverick.”  It also represents the real morphing of John McCain from honorable politician to bumbling hypocrite.  For those of you who can remember back to the long lost days of last millennium, John McCain was a respected senator who built his image on being rational and untouched by party politics.  He was for immigration reform long before it was fashionable, and he was to campaign finance reform what Old Fuss and Feathers was to overcoming the handicap of being called Old Fuss and Feathers.  McCain even one-upped Walter Mondale by picking not only a woman to be his running mate, but a woman who I won’t even make fun of, because it’s just too darn easy.  McCain used to be a true maverick that even members of the Democratic Party could admire.  But with the 2008 election, that man seemed to have fled in favor of the old coot who could be found wandering around the stage during presidential debates.  He traded brains for the party line, values for votes, and integrity for a smile that will terrify young children for decades.  He lost the right to call himself a maverick long ago, and it seems that he’s only just realized it.  Where is our old John McCain?  Where are the mavericks of yesteryear?

I’ll put Old Fuss and Feathers on the case.