Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Pattern of John "I screwed up" McCain

On the day when the most eligible-and-qualified-to-be-president statesman of our time announced his official endorsement of Barack Obama on "Meet The Press", a new take on the reasons why Obama is better suited to be president over McCain congealed and solidified in my mind. They are based in McCain's past history and pattern of poor judgments, choices, missteps, decisions and circumstances which add up to serious doubts regarding his aptitude for being a responsible and steady president who will lead us in these dangerous and uncertain times. Colin Powell made the points of questioning McCain's judgment and the necessity of a "transformational figure" for our nation and the world. McCain does not score well on both points.

Let's start with McCain's class rank at the Naval Academy--sixth from the bottom. From what I've read, most of that was intentional by being one of the Bad Bunch--screw-ups. Next, I've heard that as a pilot he crashed his plane five times. The last one of which led to his imprisonment by the North Vietnamese. OK, I'm not saying that the crash was entirely his fault, but I am alluding to a pattern in his life, albeit this one may be a stretch.

Soon after he came home from captivity in the Hanoi Hilton, he divorced his wife who waited for him while he was a POW. His ex-wife was quoted as saying that McCain did not want to grow up and be mature. His own memoir unequivocally places the blame on himself for why his first marriage failed--yet another screw-up.

Only a few years into his senate career, McCain was involved in the Saving and Loan scandal as one of the Keating Five. Senate Ethics Committee specifically mentioned that he "exercised poor judgment." He apologized for his conduct saying essentially that "I screwed up; please forgive me." To his credit, his senate career since the scandal earned him his now-questionable "maverick" moniker.

It is well-known that his 2000 presidential campaign lost steam due to unethical tactics by the Dubya supporters in South Carolina primaries, but before folding his campaign he accused the extreme left and right wingers as the "agents of intolerance," naming Farrakhan, Sharpton, Robertson and Falwell. A screw-up and a political miscalculation for which he would eat his words, after he agreed to speak at Falwell's Liberty University. He realized that he has to kowtow to the extreme conservative base in his party if he is to become the leader of GOP, and it took a while for that base to warm up to him and some still do not like him at all.

McCain announced his 2008 run on the Letterman show in February 2007. He neglectfully embarked on a bloated, money-leaking campaign that relegated him to a non-factor even before the 2008 primary season began. Once again McCain took full responsibility for not overseeing his campaign more closely--a screw-up. But he ended up winning New Hampshire and the maverick was back, even earning the tag "Comeback Kid."

Through belt-tightening campaign strategies, town hall meetings and a certain amount of luck, McCain became the GOP nominee, but then picked an unknown Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. Both liberals and conservatives have stated how unqualified Palin is to be VP, let alone president. He has yet to apologize and take full responsibility for the pick, but I would guess that that will come in a matter of time.

Then comes Powell's point that McCain's economic policy approach was unstable and erratic. "The fundamentals of the economy is strong" to "We're facing an economic crisis" to "Fire the SEC chairman" to "Let's halt our campaigns and postpone the debate to workout the rescue plan" to "The government shouldn't just bailout Wall Street" to "The government needs to buy up all the bad mortgages." During the financial crisis, he cancelled the Letterman appearance and just recently came back on the show and said, "I screwed up." Calling this a screw-up doesn't fully describe his roller coaster approach and thought process to his policies and intentions.

I realize that what I've laid out is a mixture of McCain's personal, public and professional lives, but they all count especially to conservatives who love to harp on character. His pattern reminds me of a Steve Martin routine many years ago when he said that there are two words that can get you out of any trouble, like poor performance on the job or an IRS audit: "I forgot. Just say, I forgot." And if that doesn't work, then he would tie it into his patented line, "Well, excuuuuse ME!" In McCain's case it's three words: I screwed up. "I'm the one at fault. I hope you can forgive me, again and again." How many screw-ups will it take before the country turns him away?

If the electorate will not accept his apology this time, then perhaps his infamous temper will fire back, "Excuse ME!" (ironically, he did jokingly say "excuse me" at a Wisconsin rally when an angry supporter wouldn't sit down and told him sternly, "Please let me finish." You can find it on YouTube) No, I suspect he will again say, "I screwed up." Is this the quality we want in our president? Can we afford to accept this pattern of behavior in our president at this time? No way, no how, no McCain. Didn't mean to end with a Hillary line, but I like that one. Oops, I don't mean "that one." I screwed up.

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