One of the rhetorical highlights of last nights VP debate was when Joe Biden had finally heard enough of Sarah Palin touting her and John McCain‘s maverickism. This was the riff he came up with:

Look, the maverick — let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He’s been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives.

He voted four out of five times for George Bush’s budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he’s got there.

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against — he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Can we send — can we get Mom’s MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can’t — we can’t make it. How are we going to heat the — heat the house this winter?

He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.

So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.

Now, whatever you believe about McCain’s authenticity as a maverick, or Palin’s maverick bona fides, one thing is clear: the Republican ticket isn’t helping itself by calling itself mavericks.

There is a universe of terms, of compliments, that you can use in reference to yourself. You can say that you are committed, passionate, a believer in the American people, and other relatively humble affirmations. But saying, “Hey, I’m a maverick,” doesn’t qualify as allowable self-commentary and reflection. It falls into the same category with the following self-assessments: “I’m cool”; “I’m a whippersnapper”; “I’m a standup guy/gal”; “I’m a helluva guy/gal”; “They broke the mold when they made me”; “I’m a breed apart”; “I’m a wonderful man/woman and a great patriot.”

Just like “I’m a maverick,” those are all boasts that you leave to your friends and supporters. They don’t sound so good when they come out of your own mouth. You’da thought that the McCain-Palin debate advisers would have made this point in their marathon prep sessions. Apparently, however, they went the other way on self-professed maverick status: Palin used the term six times. Biden actually used it more—nine times—in debunking it all.

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