Analyzing A Loser: John McCain On The Couch
This is a post that I write with especial care because I understand that we are all complex beings, as well as knowing that a lifetime of achievement and celebrity is no bar to weaknesses and venality. In fact, I dare you to name a single famous person who did not have foibles, if not a dark side.
Then there is John McCain, a man whom I once considered voting for until his own frailties, to put it most kindly, became too big and too numerous to ignore:
* A miserable record as Naval Academy midshipman and fighter pilot that does not negate his war hero status but cannot be ignored as an antecedent to being shot down over North Vietnam and imprisoned as a POW.
* A chronic inability to keep his word, most notoriously his serial confessions of remorsefulness after being caught out in the Keating Five Scandal and a steady slide back into the very behaviors that nearly destroyed his career.
* Incidents that call into question his mental stability and emotional maturity, including a notoriously short temper, impetuosity and proclivity for high-stakes gambling. He probably suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has to take medication to sleep.
Those threads in McCain’s temperament, under the microscope as the first pre-mortems on his disastrous presidential campaign are written, are leading some commentators to suggest another frailty with which I reluctantly agree:
John McCain is a coward.
If one can accept that there is validity to that assessment, and I do, then much of McCain’s erratic behavior over the past several months begins to make sense.
There is a sad credibility to persistent reports that McCain is personally repelled by a campaign accentuated by cycle after cycle of personal attacks of the very kind that targeted he and his adopted daughter in 2000, but seems to have been unable to do anything about.
Whenever McCain has met Obama face to face in recent weeks, he inevitably fails to call him out despite boastful assertions beforehand that he is “going to take the gloves off.” But the gloves stay on as McCain retreats behind a stage presence that hardly masks his contempt for the Democratic challenger.
This could be seen in his refusal to make eye contact during the first presidential debate and grudging shake of Obama’s outstretched hand in the Senate chamber on the occasion of the first bailout vote, while his painfully awkward and glowering incivility was again evident in the second debate earlier this week.
Asked later why he didn’t mention the Bill Ayers “connection” that has been the campaign’s hot button at the debate, McCain pathetically answered, because because “it didn’t come up in the flow of conversation.”
An experienced medical professional of my acquaintance, someone who has spent many years in emergency rooms and neurological ICUs, heard but did not watch the second debate.
This person has long admired McCain and was sympathetic and not scornful in offering this prognosis: McCain’s brain is addled, and possibly on the way to being wet, and that could be heard in the conceptual and speech patterns to which he repeatedly defaulted. Furthermore, McCain might well be disintegrating under the enormous pressure of the campaign.
My friend’s final thought: “It’s so terrifying when you consider that he could have been president.”