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The Hardest Call

It's hard not to read John McCain's new book, "Hard Call," without feeling like the pages echo with what might have been.

The Arizona senator's fifth book with Mark Salter, his top aide, is a collection of essays about decision-making, using examples drawn from business, politics, science and sports--each presented as object lessons.

The book was largely written months ago, when McCain looked to be the man to beat in the 2008 presidential campaign. Now, thanks to decisions McCain made about staffing and strategy, his campaign is barely afloat -- falling in the polls and running on little money.

His own campaign, it turns out, could easily have been a case study in the book.

From the beginning, McCain made fateful choices: to run a Bush-like campaign with a huge staff, expensive consultants and a big budget; to stand by the war in Iraq and the president's surge in troops; to push for immigration reform despite opposition from conservatives.

So were those the right calls?

In the book, McCain argues that there are six attributes to good decision-making: awareness, foresight, timing, confidence, humility and inspiration. Looking back, it might be said that the McCain 2008 presidential campaign suffered from a lack of several (awareness and timing, in particular, though perhaps not confidence).

In the book's introduction, McCain writes about an Air Force pilot, Bud Day, who was shot down in Vietnam. Captured and wounded, he escaped and made his way to the edge of an American airfield. His decision: to cross at night, risking triggering a mine or friendly fire, or wait until daylight. He waited, was recaptured, and endured six years of torture.

"He had made a sound decision, in a crucible few people ever encounter," McCain writes. "It had probably been the right one. But it had not worked out as he had hoped...It is one of the rare instances when the assessment of the decision doesn't depend most, or even much, on its outcome."

Which makes one wonder how McCain might assess his own decisions in the current campaign? It's likely that McCain would conclude that his decisions were sound -- they just haven't work out as he hoped.

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  August 14, 2007; 5:16 PM ET
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If he simply stuck to his guns on good decision making and did not pander to the Christian base so heartily, probably would have one the GOP nom.

Posted by: icebluebeast | August 14, 2007 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I am proud to be an American when I see the way the Iowa straw poll seemed to cut through some of the hype created by the media that was in favor of the over financed candidates.

Back about 1915 or so we had a politician named Woodrow Wilson that accepted a bribe to create the Federal Reserve. They were a group of very powerful bankers and businessmen from around the world at the time. Through the monopoly of being the source of our money and by being outside of our government, or paying any taxes, they have built up a fortune that, I believe, includes owning most of the politicians of the world.

It is going to take a determined, We the People, to restore law and order in our government before we can restore law and order in our streets.

"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men."

-Woodrow Wilson

Posted by: Stokeybob | August 14, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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