McCain: Stable Enough for the Job?

No one wants to say it. It’s negative campaigning. It’s a personal attack. It’s dirty politics. On the other hand, it’s our future, our children, our nation, our heritage that’s a stake. We can’t keep ignoring it.

Start with the picture below. You can argue that it’s not a fair representation of the man. I think it’s the kind of image we have seen several times in recent months, and have neglected — or refused — to acknowledge.

Here is John McCain (middle) with bosom pals Joe Lieberman (left) and Lindsey Graham (right). The three senators are on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. Or to call it by another name, a headline-grabbing junket. It doesn’t matter to my argument which you choose to call it.

Lieberman, McCain, Graham

You tell me: What is going on here? What does that look on McCain’s face say to you? What does Lieberman’s gesture say? What can you make of Graham’s apparent dissociation?

I don’t know what is being said by any of the three men at this point. The picture was taken Tuesday in Amman, Jordan. During this trip — mission or junket — McCain has repeatedly has misspoken in comments about Iran and Iraq, about Sunni and Shia. At least twice, in front of reporters, Lieberman stepped in to correct him.

That may not be what is happening here. But the dynamic of the picture is arresting. The Republican candidate for President appears uncertain, hesitant, perhaps angry. The one-time Democratic candidate for vice-President appears to be calming him down, or explaining something to him. The loyal GOP spear-carrier looks as if he didn’t want to get involved.

Add to that his numerous reversals, most of which have been tucked into the 23rd paragraph, or dismissed as the necessary adjustments of an ambitious politician. But the man has been changing his tune, changing his tone, changing his mind, changing his associates, all at an alarming rate.

Another thing: the quick and nasty temper which everyone around him knows about, but which seldom gets noted in the press.

So the question is this. Is McCain full-time sharp mentally? Full-scale balanced emotionally? Do his reversals, his gaffes, his sudden explosions of anger, do they reveal underlying problems of a more severe and long-term nature?

Here’s a high-light mini-bio of the man I’m talking about. A life-long reputation as a hot-head. Five years of torture in a Viet Cong prison. Grotesque smearing to edge him out of the 2000 campaign. Eight years of kowtowing to the man who smeared him.

Aren’t we entitled to ask — no, change that — we are entitled to know what kind of man John McCain is as a consequence of everything that has gone into getting him this far.

He’s had a lot of trouble, much of it not his own fault. He’s served his nation honorably in wartime. He’s been a hard-working senator. Therefore… Therefore what? Therefore let’s make him President?

No.

Medals he has earned. Thanks he has earned. The White House, that he has not earned. In fact, all those things which have gone into his make-up, including those for which we credit him, are actually reasons to worry about his stability, his rationality, his ability to function under stress.

Is if fair to challenge a hero? Let me ask a different and prior question. Is it wise to put, at the controls of nuclear weapon, the hand of a man whose balance is unsure?

There is an old truism, for which there is an often-overlooked corollary.

The truism. The hardest steel has come through the hottest fire.

The corollary: So has the piece that’s been burnt to a crisp.

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3 thoughts on “McCain: Stable Enough for the Job?

  1. yeah, that photo shows leiberman correcting mccain’s misstatements concerning Al Qaeda coming thru iran. mccain actually made the false connection a couple times in this presser. I can’t seem to find the right video of it now, but i remember thinking how funny it was when i first saw it. the first time he did it you could see lieberman’s ears prick up, and he made a slight grimace. you could tell he was thinking ” do i correct him?…no fuck it…no one will notice.” of course graham, as you noted, just wasn’t gonna get involved. then mccain made the iran/aqi connection again toward the end, and that’s when leiberman, sensing an onslaught from the media, stepped in and said ” i think you mean shiite extremists, not al qaeda”

    mccain is a short-sighted imperialistic warhawk, so i thought…okay, he’s just fuzzy with the details…he knows there’s bad guys out there intent on harming the US. but then i thought — how do you make that mistake repeatedly over a couple days? that’s not a mistake…he’s just playing the old bush/cheney game. repeat the lie enough times and eventually the lazy press will adopt that line of reasoning and so will the public. he even used the same lines “..we know this”, and “it’s well established..”. after all, “al qaeda” is a much scarier term than the more vague “shiite extemist”
    sorry i don’t know how to link but, cnn’s kyra phillips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kps7kxnhjLU

    i think the argument you laid out against him is quite compelling though. Josh Marshall, from TPM has written a couple times about Mccain’s Myopia:

    “No one is saying that John McCain’s service as a Navy pilot shows or suggests that he lacks the grasp of strategy and national interest to be president. What I’m saying is that the available evidence, and there’s a lot of it, shows that McCain is unable to see beyond immediate tactical questions to any larger grasp of strategy. His myopia about the ‘surge’ is simply one example of that. I raise the issue of his Navy pilot service because McCain has based so much of his campaign on the premise that that service gives him a unique insight into foreign affairs. But the strategic sense he lacks is not one you’d get from that kind of service”

    ..also, one of his readers contributes:

    “To follow up on Josh’s earlier post on “McCain’s inability to see beyond the immediate issues of military tactics to any firm grasp of strategy” — that reminded me of something that a conservative, long-time McCain foe told me recently about the McCain – it’s too neat of an explanation, but it occurred to me then (and now, reading Josh’s post) that it has some usefulness.
    The guy — who has been watching and fighting against McCain for years — basically said that McCain has the personality of a Navy pilot, which is to say he is focused like a laser on tactics and maneuvering and has little grasp of overall strategy, nor does he want it; and that is coupled with a total enthrallment of his own rightness.

    The guy’s point was — the skills of instant two-step-ahead (but no more) thinking and total faith in one’s decision-making are what keep you alive in a cockpit, but it doesn’t serve you well in politics (or leadership). It leads to what Josh was noting – an inability to grasp strategy or nuance, and a general lack of self-awareness that comes from self-questioning.

    The closest parallel was Duke Cunningham, he said. Which I thought was kind of funny — McCain is clearly brighter and substantially less criminal that Duke. But they are/were both short-term thinkers absolutely convinced of their own rightness. Maybe it *is* a pilot thing.”
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/184590.php

    mccain is definately blinded by his righteousness, and that’s really dangerous. this is the same guy that said he’s not doing anything inappropriate with these lobbyists…just trust him. he vigorously defends the surge in iraq, but he doesn’t see the depletion of our troops, or the impossibility of sustaining that level. All the surge has done is made the iraqis more dependant on US troops. call me crazy, but wasn’t that the exact opposite of the plan?

  2. i looked at the photo before i read the essay – you don’t often use graphics so my eyes were caught by the visual -i hadn’t seen that photo before, and in fact wasn’t even aware of the story yet. but my first thought was it looked like lieberman was trying to steer his confused and disoriented friend back towards the nursing home. it was kind of startling, so say the least.

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