Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2008

A CANDIDATE WITH AN IMPULSE PROBLEM.... Watching the McCain campaign's latest lunacy unfold yesterday afternoon, I thought about a piece Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf wrote in Time back in July about the two candidates' gambling styles.

They relayed an anecdote about John McCain, in the heat of the primary fight last year, wanting to head to a casino floor while campaigning in Las Vegas. His staff stopped him. McCain, undeterred, wanted the casino to bring a craps table to his private hotel room, but his staff, again, refused to allow it.

A Republican who has watched McCain gamble told Time, "He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing. And he just sort of revels in it."

As has become clear, McCain seeks the presidency and gambles in largely the same way -- taking ridiculous risks without regard for consequence. Yesterday's bizarre announcement about "suspending" the campaign obviously didn't make any sense -- McCain isn't on the Banking Committee, doesn't have any constructive role to play, and has no reason to leave the campaign trail -- but irresponsible risk-takers don't much care about good judgment. They just want to go all in and let it ride.

We saw this dangerous impulse problem last month when McCain made the ridiculous decision to add Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket, and we clearly saw it again yesterday.

And as Slate's John Dickerson explained, we'll probably continue to see similar behavior from McCain for quite a while.

Whether McCain's crazy gambit is seen as desperate or brilliant, it doesn't matter. Either way, it's probably not the last. The beneficial effects of the Palin Hail Mary lasted only a few weeks, and another adrenaline injection was needed. If this one doesn't work, that's OK -- in due time they can try another razzle-dazzle play. And if it does work, that's great -- in due time they can still try another razzle-dazzle play. It all makes the prospect of a McCain White House very exciting. So exciting, he might want to schedule periodic suspensions of his presidency to get anything done.

With extraordinary challenges at home and abroad, McCain has apparently decided that the very last thing the nation needs is a steady, unflappable leader with a cool head and reliable temperament. What we really need is someone who acts, then thinks. Or, in McCain's case, acts, then blasts those who do think as some kind of elitists.

I suppose there are worse qualities in a president. I'm just not sure what those qualities might be.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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The McCain campaign’s latest “Hail Mary” play reminds me of one of the Harlem Globetrotters’ classic bits.

During the game when the opposing team was gaining offensive momentum, Globetrotter’s team captain Meadowlark Lemon would call “Time out!” After the referee blew his whistle to stop play and both teams headed toward their benches, Meadowlark would grab the ball and yell “Time back in!” before racing to his basket for an uncontested layup.

When the referee admonished Meadowlark, telling him he couldn’t do that, Meadowlark would haughtily declare, “I called ‘Time out’. I can call ‘Time back in’!”

The McCain campaign was sinking fast and the debate on Friday could have been a backbreaker. McCain needed a distraction, and sneaking up behind Obama and pulling his socks down probably wouldn’t have worked. Now McCain can blunder around in the bailout negotiations and pretend to be a bipartisan leader.

But as soon as the corporate-controlled media decides the financial crisis is under control, watch for McCain to unleash a new barrage of personal attack ads and steer the news cycle to more irrelevencies.

Time back in!

Posted by: SteveT on September 25, 2008 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

The question is, do we want McCain gambling with America's security and prosperity?

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Both Dickerson and Tweety are calling these actions "razzle dazzle." That term implies some competence and strategy; I think "drama queen moves" is more accurate. This is a man who's never been able to tolerate the prosaic, boring or challenging aspects of being a grownup: he couldn't stay married or faithful, gives up on Senate projects if they don't happen immediately, picks a walking gimmick to be second in line to lead this country, etc., etc. The guy thrives on continual thrills -- his own, and screw everyone who's affected by them -- and can't sustain concentration for actual hard work.

I'm still not sure if yesterday's move was solely high drama in search of a big payoff (which anyone even loosely tethered to reality could have seen he wasn't going to get--and just look at SUSA's poll on this), or whether it was a combination of showboating about the financial crisis and panic at the prospect of having to debate in two more days. I still wonder if the latter didn't drive the former.

Posted by: shortstop on September 25, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Wait? You mean the guy who got shot down and spent 5.5 years in a hole because he was fucking off hasn't learned a single thing?

Yowza! Let's put that big stud in the Oval Office and stick the Red Phone at his elbow.

/fReichtard.

Bet: He starts publicly and blatantly putting the moves on Palin.

P.S. Have I mentioned lately that the layout and format of this site reminds me McPOW's campaign?

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on September 25, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain was a bold fighter pilot. There is a old saying about pilots. There are bold pilots and there are old pilots, but there are no bold old pilots. This is why you don't want a bold fighter pilot President.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 25, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

This is very similar to Bush's mode of "what can I get away with" - an affluent adolescent's entertainment. Bush is not such an instinctive risk-taker, and yields to stunts set up by others, but there's the same conscious or unconscious drive to position oneself as a badboy - an ethic straight from Fraternity Row. And the more centralized and authoritarian the feedback loop is, the more they really CAN get away with. Remains to be seen if they can pull it off on the ultimate stage.

Posted by: mmiddle on September 25, 2008 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican party has become a total freak show! They have a crazy old man and a bubble lady. Meanwhile, Bush had that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look last night. I think he finally realizes what a disaster he has been.

Posted by: g. powell on September 25, 2008 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

"I suppose there are worse qualities in a president. I'm just not sure what those qualities might be."

How about a President who doesn't believe in the Constitution, separation of church & state or separation of powers?

I think you can sum up the difference this way: George Bush has attacked the Constitution systemically and this will have consequences for many decades, none of them good.

John McCain could end up as a ineffective President unless there's a crisis, at which time he could literally start a nuclear war.

Obviously the latter is worse - Nukes mean never having time to say you're sorry! - but absent such a crisis, the former is more damaging.

Posted by: MichMan on September 25, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

McCain was never a fighter pilot; that's a media myth. He flew bombers (A-1 and A-4, ground attack aircraft.) There's a big difference, and it's reflected in his style. He does not, like a fighter pilot would, make precision attacks. He just blows shit up.

Posted by: Fred from Pescadero on September 25, 2008 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. Have I mentioned lately that the layout and format of this site reminds me McPOW's campaign?

Haw!

Posted by: shortstop on September 25, 2008 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

So I guess shooting craps doesn't bother his damaged shoulders like typing?

Posted by: Th on September 25, 2008 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

The spin I heard on the radio just a few moments ago was a quick news report (CBS?) that McCain's stunt "may not have been political". Allegedly, Paulson has been begging for McCain to come to DC to lead the charge to accept the bailout plan because so very few Republicans are ready to support it.

Of course, a public statement from McCain unambiguously supporting a sane bill would have worked just as well. He didn't need to suspend his campaign and run out to Couric's show and stick around for Clinton's conference today, right?

But this is the new spin. Wait for more of this.

Posted by: MaryL on September 25, 2008 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Some "qualities in a president worse than impulsiveness":

1] Shape shifter
2] Chronic farter
3] Former "actor"
4] Religious nutjob from another planet
5] Can't listen to Helen Reddy without bursting into tears
6] Doesn't use deodorant or wear socks
7] Expert at mind control
8] Civil War reenactor
9] Reanimated mule carcass from Dali's "Un Chein Andelou"
10] Starts every sentence with "My friends..." while making the "jack-off" gesture

Posted by: chrenson on September 25, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Our financial condition resembles the old joke about the deck chairs on the Titanic.The value of our currency depends on faith rather than substance.The dollar is nearly worthless and everyone is fighting over its distribution.In God we Trust is the true measure of its value.

Posted by: tom on September 25, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Allegedly, Paulson has been begging...

You can discount that theory, since Dems leaked a draft of an almost-complete compromise to TPM yesterday afternoon, shortly after McCain's announcement.

I wish someone would tell McCain, "Please, spare us the lectures, just this once."

Posted by: Danp on September 25, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

From CNN.com's totally irrelevant but always fascinating "Quick Vote":

President Bush's speech on the financial crisis was:

Reassuring 16%
Frightening 84%

Posted by: chrenson on September 25, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

It's now time for Obama to demand that Palin fill in for McCain at the debate. The only purpose for the VP is to fill in for the president at a moment's notice. That is the only role of that office. So let's see what she is made of.

Posted by: g. powell on September 25, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't leaders supposed to make the public think financial emergencies are less frightening and dire instead of trying to make them think they are worse??

McCain has brought up his POW service enough to make questions about its impact allowable. I am amazed no one has discussed the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder he displays, including out of control temper and impulsiveness.

Posted by: Sabo Pike on September 25, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

If McCain wins the election- there will be a mighty "change."

We will go from a president who can't think, but acts to one that acts but can't think -

See - this will be a complete 180 degree "change."

Posted by: Wade on September 25, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

If McCain wins the election- there will be a mighty "change."

We will go from a president who can't think, but acts to one that acts but can't think -

See - this will be a complete 180 degree "change."

Posted by: Wade on September 25, 2008 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Fred you are kind of sensitive. Sorry if I offended.

McCain had to be a fighter pilot. After all he was a Vietnamese ace.

Posted by: Ron byers on September 25, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Has McCain responded to Obama's statement that the debate goes on? I don't think he has any intention whatsoever of being there even if a bill passes tomorrow.

Posted by: shortstop on September 25, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

If I'm Obama, I call McCain's latest bluff and suggest that since the venue is prepared and it would be irresponsible to waste Ole Miss' efforts that their VP's should debate instead if there is no bill. I'd pay serious money to see the look on McCain's face at that moment Obama pushes all in.

Posted by: Keith on September 25, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is not on any money type committees at all, except Commerce, and that has nothing to do with the financial issues. He is only on 3 committees: Commerce, Indina Affairs and Armed Services. He is not on anything remotely relevant to this crisis. This stunt is a transparent attempt to shift the focus off of his tanking numbers and Palin's failure to learn from all her tutors. He is toast.

Posted by: Patrick on September 25, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Wednesday night Chris Matthews had a shill on who explained that he shd give credit to McGaffe because he "took a risk" in suspending the campaign. Maybe bravery was the point, because it sure was not steadiness or reliability. This comes after the Palin choice, and certainly does look like a pattern is emerging, only as president there are no do-overs. Spain would be demanding answers that could not be ducked, for example. Increasingly terrifying. How long will it be before even the most delusional of wingnuts realizes the bitter truth about this seriously dangerous and increasingly desperate madman?

Posted by: Tomm on September 25, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

So the Palin interview didn't run on CBS? They got outfoxed by McCain? How many Americans do you suppose are actually aware of that?

We are about to enter the end times for the US if this guy gets elected. If he and Palin had been in charge during the Cuban missile crisis, we would all be radioactive cinders.

Posted by: Artemesia on September 25, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

We saw that same willingness to risk it all on one throw in the aftermath of the Spain-leader interview. Rather than admit a mistake, he rolled again, willing to alienate a NATO ally.

Posted by: Trevor J on September 25, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

People forget that this is the 2nd time McCain has pulled this stunt in a month. Remember suspending the campaign and convention for Hurricane Gustav? How many timeouts does he think he has? Why do I get the same feeling from him as I do with a panicked NFL coach who uses all his timeouts in the 3rd quarter and then when he really needs it in the final two minutes, doesn't have any.

Time for the Hail Mary.

Posted by: The Other Ed on September 25, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I wish someone would tell McCain, "Please, spare us the lectures, just this once."

You're asking for a scenario like what happened the last ime McCain interrupted his campaign to return to Washington and partcipate in top-level negotiations on a crucial bill:

At a bipartisan gathering in an ornate meeting room just off the Senate floor, McCain complained that Cornyn was raising petty objections to a compromise plan being worked out between Senate Republicans and Democrats and the White House. He used a curse word associated with chickens and accused Cornyn of raising the issue just to torpedo a deal.

Things got really heated when Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy campaigning for president to take part in the negotiations, which have gone on for months behind closed doors. “Wait a second here,” Cornyn said to McCain. “I’ve been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You’re out of line.”M

McCain, a former Navy pilot, then used language more accustomed to sailors (not to mention the current vice president, who made news a few years back after a verbal encounter with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont).

“[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room,” shouted McCain at Cornyn.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2007/05/mccain_cornyn_cursing_showdown.html

Posted by: rea on September 25, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

So the Palin interview didn't run on CBS?

Actually they both ran, palin after McCain.

Posted by: Danp on September 25, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Actually shortening the convention for Gustav was a good move for McCain, it got Cheney and Bush off the stage.

Posted by: g. powell on September 25, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Actually they ran parts of Palin's interview. They didn't run the whole thing. There is only so much time in 22 minutes and McCain's last minute interview took up part of Palin's time.

People who saw the whole thing say Palin is a disaster. To stop the entire interview from airing is probably why McCain dumped Letterman.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 25, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

McCain revels in his "maverick" persona, but his idea of maverickness isn't about standing up to the powerful on behalf of the powerless, or taking unpopular positions for moral reasons. It seems to have more to do with impulsive, ill-advised actions that get you a lot of attention. He should just hang upside down in Times Square for a week.

Posted by: Jean Arf on September 25, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

The local Toronto talk radio station is now broadcasting some of McCain's speech at the ClintonFest: "... am suspending my campaign .. need bipartisanship ...".

And the conservative radio host is talking over it with naked scorn dripping, from his voice. "That's John McCain, NOT campaigning for president. They really think we're dumb. No wonder we are skeptical about politicians." Earlier this morning, he was raking McCain over the coals for this stunt, playing Burton Cummings singing "I'm scared, I'm terrified", agonizing over the depths of Palin's stupidity, chastising Bush for freaking people out, and playing Obama statements and saying things like, "He's sounding better all the time, isn't he? If I were an American, I'd be closer and closer to voting for Obama." This is the host who has never let a chance to mock Obama pass him by. Quite a change, eh?

Jeez. They're back from commercial and still mocking McCain. Unreal. "How can we miss you if you won't go away? Please."

Posted by: MaryL on September 25, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

He should just hang upside down in Times Square for a week.

That was funny!

Posted by: Lucy on September 25, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Wednesday night Chris Matthews had a shill on who explained that he shd give credit to McGaffe because he "took a risk" in suspending the campaign.

But the fact that he perceived the need to take the risk proves that McCain's own campaign sees itself failing.

And if you have little to lose, taking an impulsive risk isn't such a bold move after all. Put together with the Palin pick, the pattern that emerges is recklessness -- gambling with America's future.

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2008 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

I think you can sum up the difference this way: George Bush has attacked the Constitution systemically and this will have consequences for many decades, none of them good.

John McCain could end up as a ineffective President unless there's a crisis, at which time he could literally start a nuclear war.

Obviously the latter is worse - Nukes mean never having time to say you're sorry! - but absent such a crisis, the former is more damaging.

Yeah, but in my lifetime the President has been guaranteed to face a crisis at some point during his tenure in office. It comes with the territory.

What's more, Bush is handing a whole list of crises off to his successor - Iraq, Afghanistan, rising tensions with Russia, China, North Korea, and Pakistan, and the economy to name just a few. Plus McCain has shown that he's not averse to creating new crises out of thin air - see his decision to snub the PM of Spain just because he screwed up the answer to a question from a journalist. This is not a man who is going to be short of crises once he gets into office.

I suspect that John McCain would be more damaging than Bush to the country. He'd continue what Bush has done for another 4 years, but with his own added brand of Erisian Chaos added to the mix.

Posted by: NonyNony on September 25, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

This trait of McCain's is something that endears him to nearly half the populace. Thinking, analyzing, rational thought, prudence and introspection are for fancy pants elites and fags. East Coast libruls mess with all that BS. Shit, let's get drunk and shoot us some stop signs!!! You can keep your book learnin', we have our ears to the rail and fly by the seat of our pants. That's the way a real man approaches life! That's the way a real man runs the country!!

Posted by: steve duncan on September 25, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

New Slogan:

John McCain. Double Or Nothing.

Posted by: gradysu on September 25, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

The 3 AM phone call.
McCain, "Heads, we nuke 'em. Tails, we send foreign aid."

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 25, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Lemme tell you about craps-playing Republicans.

I was married to one. Watched him build and crash at least 3 very good businesses over the last 10 years. All of them fell apart because, though he excelled at bringing people together, minutiae bored and irritated him. Planning anything literally makes him ill.

He bases ALL his relationships on what he can get from you and has no scruples whatsoever about telling you that.

He has on occasion made his friends tons of money, but has left an equal number penniless.

He's a master of the dog-and-pony but the facade soon falls and the lack of fundamentals becomes glaring.

He has memorized generic responses to just about everything. There's rarely any new material. I learned early on when I heard a generic response, he was just too lazy to explain. You soon realize nothing he tells you is exactly true.

He has two emotions: loud-mouthed exuberance and rage. No empathy, no sympathy

He truly believes he's smarter than most folks, but surrounds himself with people who won't outshine him intellectually. He would've hired Sarah Palin in a New York minute. Feisty women intrigue him. But when he can't contain them, he'll characterize them as bitches BECAUSE of their independence.

He's extremely insecure but overcompensates by being callous, rude and loud. People have thrown corks at us in restaurants and popcorn in theaters when he just couldn't shut his big mouth.

Now if McCain drinks Crown Royal, and does Meatloaf in karaoke, I'd say we have a dangerous clone roaming out there.

To the poster here a few days ago nicknamed "married to a conservative". Just wanna say: I feel your pain, girlfriend. Get out as soon as possible else your soul will suffocate.

Posted by: Crapped Out on September 25, 2008 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps McCain has a gambling problem. But actually, this is a classic Rovian tactic...when things look bad, change the subject in such dramatic fashion that you dominate the news cycle:

e.g. Bug your own candidate's office (blame the other guy, of course) the night before a debate in which your candidate is expected to perform poorly.

e.g. When the Enron/Ken Lay thing is coming to a head, make a major presidential address to the nation announcing that you're forming a homeland security department.

e.g. When your campaign chief is suddenly embroiled in a Freddie Mac controversy and your VP candidate gives a notoriously awful press interview, announce that you're suspending your campaign for the good of the nation (Country first and all that).

No. This has the marks of Karl Rove and his trainees (Steve Schmidt/Nicole Wallace) all over it.

The shameful thing is that the press continues to allow themselves to get played. As Steve observed, the Palin interview became an afterthought and the Rick Davis b.s., as far as I know, got no airtime at all after McCain's announcement.

Posted by: CJ on September 25, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Great. The GOP bet it all on a sexist gambling addict who thinks he can win by wantonly throwing coins on the roulette board.

I'm a better gambler than he is. "Always bet on black".

Posted by: AgentX on September 25, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Chrenson @ 9:06 -

Now wait just a minute. I would gladly vote for a reanimated mule carcass before I would vote for McCain.

Posted by: Spero Melior on September 25, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"I suppose there are worse qualities in a president. I'm just not sure what those qualities might be."

Sociopathic sadism, e.g. enjoying blowing up live frogs with firecrackers; signing hundreds of death warrants no matter the guilt or innocence of the executed; pouring thousands upon thousands of military and civilian lives into a meat-grinder of an unnecessary war;....

Posted by: Pyre on September 25, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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