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February 03, 2008

McCain: Principled or Prick?

The strawberries ... it was the strawberries!Going into Super Tuesday with McCain in a slight lead to tie up the Republican nomination, comes a fairly even-handed interview of McCain by Evan Thomas of Newsweek. This is less about McCain's policy than about McCain the man. And for all the positives in his background from the legacy of being part of a military family, to how he handled being a POW brutalized by the North Vietnamese, to his bulldoggedness in the Senate, the negatives concerning how he treats people who disagree with him is more than a little troubling.

McCain, who clearly cannot stand Romney (and vice versa), bridles at anyone or anything that impugns his honor, most sacred of military virtues. In rare weak moments, he can seem prickly, impetuous, vindictive—the sort of military martinet whose finger is supposed to be kept far from the button. Yet he is endowed with self-knowledge and self-effacing dignity. "I'm a man of many failings," McCain says with a genuine, if practiced, ruefulness. "I make no bones about it. That's why I'm such a believer in redemption. I've done many, many things wrong in my life. The key is to try to improve." There are a number of U.S. senators who can attest to McCain's repentance with handwritten apologies for his intemperance.

A sharp temper in and of itself is not, in my humble opinion, disqualifying for the POTUS. Contrary to "accepted wisdom", anger, like war, can be a legitimate response to egregious wrongs. However, when that temper is coupled with a tendency to disrespect people who do things differently or hold different views, then it becomes worrisome:
In the military, there are two kinds of leaders, McCain mused in his interview with NEWSWEEK—the "organizer of victory" type, like Gen. George Marshall and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the more "inspirational" type, like his father and grandfather, who may not be terribly organized but are gifted at leading men into battle. Likewise, said McCain, there are different types of senators. "One is the person who is involved in the detail and the appropriation for the road or the bypass," he said—the type of lawmaker who gets involved in the "minutiae" that helps "people get re-elected." McCain said, unenthusiastically: "I respect that kind of senator." Then there is the "policymaking" senator, clearly McCain's model.

Even more troubling is acting on that disrespect:
The lore of "Senator Hothead," as McCain has been dubbed over the years, is considerable. McCain is widely reported to have yelled profanities at senators and even shoved one or two (including the late Strom Thurmond, a feisty nonagenarian at the time of the alleged incident). After McCain used an obscenity to describe Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to his face in 1992, Grassley did not speak to McCain for more than a year. ("That's all water over the dam," Grassley says.) McCain has reportedly learned to control his temper; still, there are moments when he cannot or does not. Last spring, at a closed-door meeting of senators and staff, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tried to amend the immigration bill to make ineligible convicted felons, known terrorists and gang members. Agitated that any attempt to amend the bill would jeopardize its slim chance of passage (ultimately, the bill failed), McCain snapped, "This is chickens–––." Cornyn shot back that McCain shouldn't come parachuting in off the presidential-campaign trail at the last minute and start making demands. "F––– you," said McCain, in front of about 30 witnesses. [...]

"John has an enemies list longer than Nixon's," says a former Pentagon official who did not want to get on it. "And, unlike Nixon, McCain really does try to get you." After the Boeing scandal, three Air Force officials who quit all found that one of McCain's top aides had quietly spread word around the defense community that anyone hiring them would risk the senator's displeasure. And he still has an impetuosity that is nervous-making to old foreign-policy hands. One of them, a former high official in several Republican administrations who occasionally advises McCain (and wishes to continue to) worries to NEWSWEEK about McCain's "quirky" judgment and his unwillingness to change his mind once it's made up. [emphasis added]

McCain's performance in the last debate underscores the negatives in this interview. The hardass persona has some attractiveness - many consider it part of that "straight talk express" campaign meme. But the unwillingness of some people to be named in the article, and the careful couching of criticism by named sources speak to McCain's reputation to seek-and-destroy those who oppose or disagree with him.

Any wonder that McCain and Hillary! get along together so famously?

While the general tone of the Newsweek interview is laudatory, make no mistake. If McCain pulls off the Republican nomination, every single negative in the article will be grist for the Democrat's PR wing, aka the Mainstream Media.

(h/t DRJ @ Patterico)

Technorati: McCain, Election 2008,

Posted by Darleen at February 3, 2008 10:13 AM


this all strikes me as an ad hominem attack on McCain. I still don't get it: this is the guy with the kind of hawkish foreign policy that you should admire. He has, after all, embraced the Bush Doctrine. Have you repudiated the Bush doctrine? And if so, why? Immigration the thing that's bugging you? Or do you fall in line with the Washington Republican elite who won't forgive McCain for daring to speak out against their Holy Supply-Side Economic worldview?

And so will you and Malkin just stay home on November 4th if McCain is on the ticket? Pity.

Posted by: Brad at February 4, 2008 10:35 AM

If McCain pulls off the Republican nomination, every single negative in the article will be grist for the Democrat's PR wing, aka the Mainstream Media.

I love how righties blame all their troubles on alleged-but-never-proven* media bias. Kind of like scientologists blaming everything on thetans.

*[do ignore studies like from the well known rightwing institution UCLA, eh Josh?]

Posted by: Josh at February 5, 2008 09:45 AM

Do cite one poorly-supported study relying on a nonsensical measure of bias, and authored by wingnut ideologues to support a tendentious and sweeping claim. The fact that you don't even realize that the authors are staunch conservatives and instead rely on some foggy notion that UCLA is left-leaning suggests you're just repeating a talking point that you dont understand.

Posted by: Josh at February 6, 2008 06:51 AM


UCLA is the hotbed of rightwing ideologues?

WTF are YOU smoking?

Next thing you'll be telling me is that Dan Rather is a Rovian operative.

Deal in reality.

Posted by: Darleen at February 6, 2008 06:57 AM

No Darleen, UCLA isn't a hotbed of rightwing ideologues. But Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo are rightwing ideologues. See, UCLA didn't write the study. Groseclose and Milyo did. I also see you just ignored my point that the metric of "bias" in the study was ridiculous. Understanding the details takes a bit more work than spouting talking points, but it prevents you from looking silly.

Posted by: Josh at February 7, 2008 07:23 AM

Well, guess you can just delete this comment, too?

Posted by: W. Ian Blanton at February 7, 2008 06:00 PM


Did I delete one of your comments? I apologize.

I've been under a spam attack and taken to wholesale deleting of comments so I'm sorry if yours got caught in the mix.

I haven't updated my blogging software in sometime...way overdue... so a lot of spam policing I have to do by hand.


The only way you can consider the big players in the MSM NOT left leaning is to think that Left is normative and everything that disagrees is, by default, rightwing.

Posted by: Darleen at February 7, 2008 06:49 PM


Does Rupert Murdoch count as a "big player" in the MSM?

Your definitions are too convenient for an inflexible Right Wing mindset.

Posted by: Brad at February 7, 2008 07:08 PM

Ah, I was wonder WHAT the heck I had said that was over the line. :) I had noticed the spam assault on other pages, so I understand. :)

I basically had asked why McCain's temper differentiates him from G.W. "He's an a**hole" Bush and Dick "Go F* yourself Cheney? Other than that it seems like he apologizes when he crosses the line, whereas the crew in power now never seems to admit they screwed up.

I earnestly prefer someone with a nasty streak who admits when they cross the line, to someone who puts on a friendly aspect and never admits their mistakes *cough*Iraq*cough*.

In fact my only concern with McCain is his endorsement of the "Bush Doctrine" seemly from the first, which is something hinders almost all the candidates as it is.

As far as negativity haunting the candidates, that's going to work against all of them.

I also had a negative comment about Romney after having had him as a governor here. But 24 hours later, that's moot.:)

Posted by: W. Ian Blanton at February 7, 2008 07:16 PM


The difference in temperament between McCain and GW is profound. And I would say there is a good deal of difference between public and private realms.

McCain earned his "Senator Hothead" monikor with many public displays.

Why is Iraq a "mistake"? Better that Saddam have been left in? Show me any conflict that didn't have FUBAR and SNAFU ... (and if you know the origin of those acronyms then you shouldn't be surprised that any fight has 'em). And from the beginning the President specifically warned it was going to be a long, difficult fight. But no one wants to remember that...just as a lot of Republicans forgot that McCain was trying to be Kerry's VP in 2004.

BTW the "Bush doctrine" is little different than the "JFK doctrine"

Posted by: Darleen at February 7, 2008 08:07 PM

The only way you can consider the big players in the MSM NOT left leaning is to think that Left is normative and everything that disagrees is, by default, rightwing.

Just saying something doesn't make it true, even if you hold down the shift key. Argument based on vigorous assertion rather than evidence is a common problem with righty talking points.

Posted by: Josh at February 8, 2008 08:48 AM

Iraq was a huge mistake for a couple of simple reason.

Strategically; it was what I consider a "drunken right turn" in dealing with AQ and Terrorism. There was no more compelling reason to go after Saddam Hussein than there was any other Brutal Sadistic Dictator. Sure, plenty of reason, but the fact was that there was no reason to go after him "right now" (and by "now" I mean 2003, of course).

No WMD, *we* opened the door to AQ in Iraq by toppling Saddam (He and AQ hated each other, he was a secularist, they're religious fanatics), and we're now providing a free training ground for AQ.

Worse, it drained efforts from Afghanistan, weakened our image around the world, and has pretty negatively impacted our ability to project real force. (as in boots on the ground)

Now, understand, this is all, in my opinion, water under the bridge, I ascribe to what I guess you would call the "Powell Doctrine", or "The Pottery Barn Doctrine". You break it, you bought it.

I think that having moved into Iraq, we are bound as "The Good Guys" to fix what we can and leave them with something other than a shattered country.

No, this isn't about operational 'blips'. That's just fact of life when the services get involved :) In fact, our military has done a kick-ass job, a lot of it being NOT what they were trained for.

HOWever, I want the people _responsible_ for this screw up held accountable, and that starts right at the top.

So to bring this full circle; thus my trepidation for McCain. He was seemingly on board for this from the beginning, but as I said earlier, he has a lot of company, unfortunately.

(Just a note, by "Bush Doctrine" I'm speaking to the Wolfowitz/Rumsfield variant, just to be clear.)

Posted by: W. Ian Blanton at February 8, 2008 09:25 PM

well, Darleen has obviously learned nothing from the last 8 years so the following will not make her waver in her defense of the war:

The Associated Press reports: "A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the US military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis."

Posted by: brad at February 10, 2008 07:58 AM

Hi Darleen. I came to check on you. Hope all is well.



Ok. I'll check back laters.

Posted by: happyfeet at February 10, 2008 11:47 AM

Self righteousness is leading to the ruin of this country.

Posted by: Meb at February 20, 2008 04:38 AM

I vote for McCain... as being an unmitigated PRICK, thank you very much! HAIL HILLARY you rightwing baby eaters! PEACE, BIATCH

Posted by: My Vote at February 21, 2008 07:36 PM