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McCain melts down

By David Green - posted Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I’m not exactly sure what (former?) chief economic advisor to the McCain campaign Phil Gramm would say nowadays about his pal John’s current situation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it included the word “whiney”.

The only thing more egregious than the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune pummeling any Republican candidate for president in 2008 is the bunglingly inept campaign of a guy who’s been in politics forever, and even run for president once before.

We see McCain committing stupid mistake after stupid mistake in a campaign that already once experienced a near-death experience from precisely such ineptitude. All this, it’s worth remembering, in a year in which any Republican running for president would need to be near perfect to have the slightest prayer of winning.


Americans have hardly ever been more surly about their politics, nor despised an incumbent quite so much. They’ve never in recorded polling history expressed so much conviction that the country is headed in the wrong direction. The country is fighting two endless and losing wars. Just about every economic barometer in existence is in record awful condition, ranging from national debt to personal debt, from the trade deficit to the value of the dollar, from inflation to unemployment, from the Dow to mortgage meltdowns. That alone should be plenty to sink the aspirations of any representative of the incumbent party faster than a gaping hole in a concrete barge.

Remember the question Ronald Reagan used so devastatingly against Jimmy Carter in 1980? “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Like any good Republican campaign tactic, it was a lie, rooted in an appeal to the public’s most base attitudes. But, also like any good Republican campaign tactic, it worked great.

It was a lie because conservatism was in fact the reason that people were less well off, and would be even more so after the 30 years of conservative policy ascendancy which would follow. And it was base because the question - especially from such a cardboard cowboy patriot like Reagan - should have been, “Is the country better off than it was four years ago?” In any case, I hope Obama has the smarts to use either variation, and never cease to remind voters, when he does, that this was Reagan’s question, in order to innoculate it from any plausible response from that (nauseatingly frequently) self-described “foot-soldier in the Reagan revolution”, John McCain.

(Of course, McCain never mentions the part about how Ronnie and Nancy disowned him and wouldn’t talk to him anymore, after McCain unceremoniously and selfishly dumped his first wife, who happened to be their good friend. After that, he became the door mat in the Reagan revolution.)

Anyhow, combine all of that with the corruption, arrogance, bungling and lies, with Katrina and Guantánamo and Social Security, with torture and domestic spying and ruined reputation abroad - put all of this together and it would be a miracle if any Republican could possibly win this year. There just aren’t enough swiftboaters out there to put this Humpty-Dumpty back together. There just aren’t enough looking glasses to step through before this Republican disaster can be twisted sufficiently into something that even vaguely resembles a desirable government.

Even those greatest purveyors of those most absurd fairytales, evangelical preachers, don’t have the heart for it this year. And why would they? Having seen that they can influence politics, they are learning that it’s a two-way street, brother. George W. Bush is many things, but a recruiter for the religious right is not one of them. It doesn’t require a prophet to see that their (not so) little pious enterprises are going to go the same way as Republican members of Congress if they continue to be associated with the Boy Wonder.


So, this is the landscape for John McCain, on top of which, he’s a ripe old geezer who can’t tell a Facebook from the Internet, who can’t effectively deliver a speech to save his life, and he’s running against an opponent who regularly gets compared to Jack Kennedy, not to mention endorsed by Teddy.

The guy, in short, steps out of the gate having to run an inspired campaign to even have a prayer under these conditions, and instead he clunks along from one ham-handed debacle to another. Is this what they mean by hoof-and-mouth disease?

Remember all these last weeks as the hapless McCain, trying desperately to find something that would stick against the opponent his campaign has now come in frustration to refer to as “The One”, ragged on and on about how Obama hadn’t been to Iraq recently, and about how he hadn’t made the obligatory pilgrimage to the tent of Deity Dave Petreaus?

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First published in The Regressive Antidote on July 25, 2008.

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About the Author

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles ( ), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website The Regressive Antidote.

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