I suppose it’s as sensible as any strategy he’s deployed up to this point. Senator John McCain told reporters in Ohio this week that “I’m the underdog. I’m behind. I’ve got to catch up and get ahead. And I expect to do that about 48 hours before the general election.”
The only wrinkle might be that, as he confidently predicted to an audience in Nashville on June 2, “I guarantee you, that if we do everything right, and we can, and we will, that I will win in January and I will be the next President of the United States.”
I could find a flaw in the strategy, but I’m not a professional strategist, so I’m not one to nitpick. If that’s the path that he finds the most sensible, then the more power to him. There might be something to it, inasmuch as he’ll have a clear field, as Obama will be busy preparing for his January 21st inauguration.
The shame in all of this is that John McCain used to be a highly-intelligent man with an appreciable degree of integrity. He’s lost his nut somewhere along the way, whether because of age, or naked ambition, or a combination of the two.
Find a podcast of McCain on Don Imus in the 1990s and no one was sharper, funnier, and with a bigger fuck-you arrow in his quiver than anyone this side of Dick Cheney, that he was never afraid to deploy at a second’s notice.
Whether it was calculation, resignation, or capitulation, he chose an odd tack at the oddest time, after George Bush, Karl Rove, and their surrogates at Bob Jones University in South Carolina took a chainsaw to McCain’s reputation. No one survives five years in North Vietnamese captivity without learning a thing or two about fighting and fuck-all the costs, but that wasn’t the manual John McCain referenced in response to the Bush attacks in S.C. He was sullen for a time, and then decided to slurp up a steaming Bush-laid turd, chunk by chunk, for the next eight years.
I did drugs occasionally in my much younger years, but I was able to put them down, because it’s exhausting and it sucks looking at yourself in the mirror after that kind of debauchery. I’ve never wanted the Presidency, so I can’t speak to the allure of that fat White House line that makes you check your integrity at the door before you take leave of your senses and ask for the mirror and the rolled-up dollar bill. It should be apparent to anyone who’s seen that cringe-inducing photo of John McCain embracing George Bush and nuzzling his armpit that the senior senator from Arizona couldn’t just say no to hugs.
What started as naked ambition has deteriorated into apparent age-related befuddlement. Change and evolution can be good, and to quote the old Total commercial, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” However, John McCain hasn’t met a Republican talking point that he won’t slavishly embrace, no matter what he said about it yesterday. He was against offshore oil drilling before he was for it. He was against ethanol before he was for ethanol. He was against the Bush tax cuts for the rich before he was for them. He was against religious extremists before he was for them being for him. Worst of all, as someone who spent the better part of five years being tortured as a war captive, he was against torture before he was for it.
It’s sad but understandable when granddad at dinner gripes about seeing Negroes eating at his lunch counter down at Ted’s Diner, even though he’d clearly evolved out of his Jim Crow Weltanschauung decades ago. It’s a far different thing when granddad is running for the highest office in the Free World and it seems to have escaped him that he once stood for honorable things.
John McCain is still sentient enough to find a middle way, apparently. He just doesn’t show up to the Senate to vote for anything. He hasn’t appeared for a vote since April 8th.
He recently appeared at a town hall meeting in Warren, Ohio, where, sizing up his audience, he took the opportunity to note, “I’m happy to tell you that we…agreed on an increase in educational benefits for our veterans.” What I left out with the ellipsis was the word “probably.” I don’t know if he used that to mean that they may or may not have agreed, because he was still on the fence, or that he simply doesn’t remember. In any event, and what’s more important, is that he wasn’t there for the vote on Senator Jim Webb’s GI Bill for 21st Century on May 22, 2008. Grumpy Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn also skipped the vote, as did Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who had just been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Tom Coburn is just an idiot. John McCain–the friend of the veteran, who secured his party’s nomination in March while Senators Obama and Clinton would be fighting it out for the Democratic nod until June–was busy running against no one and couldn’t be bothered.
But he’s not on record, so he can say tomorrow or next Tuesday or next Friday that he was for the bill, but just couldn’t make it.
John McCain probably won’t make his predicted comeback 48 hours before the general election. But hopefully, simply from a sympathetic human standpoint and because I used to like him more than I’ve liked most Republicans since Oregon’s Governor Tom McCall, he’ll come back to his senses. If that doesn’t happen November 2, 2008, it might happen in January 2009, on McCain’s inked-in general election date.