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Fix Picks: Inside the Mind of John McCain

John McCain

McCain's address to the Republican National Convention shed light on the forces that helped shape him and his worldview. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One of the most fascinating elements of the Republican National Convention last week in St. Paul was the decision by John McCain to speak candidly about his years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

In one particularly compelling moment, McCain told of how, after refusing an offer for early release, he was badly beaten by his captors:

"But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before, for a long time, and they broke me. When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door to me, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall, he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for my country and for the men I had the honor to serve with, because every day they fought for me."

Those lines provided a rare window into McCain's mind and the way in which his five years as a prisoner of war influenced his political world view -- particularly in regards to the (often controversial) stances he has taken in the long-running debate over the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the broader Middle East.

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg pries that window open much further with a terrific piece in the October edition of the magazine entitled: "The Wars of John McCain."

In it, Goldberg, a Fix friend, seeks to draw out the Arizona senator on his views of World War II, Vietnam, Korea and Iraq in hopes of shining a light on the way in which his experiences with each -- from his grandfather's service in WWII to his father's and his own involvement in Vietnam to his approach to the war in Iraq -- reveal the way in which McCain thinks about America's role in the world.

Writes Goldberg:

"In one area, though, he has been more or less constant: his belief in the power of war to solve otherwise insoluble problems. This ideology of action has not been undermined by his horrific experiences as a tortured POW during the Vietnam War, or by the Bush Administration's disastrous execution of the Iraq war."

And later he adds:

"[McCain's] willingness to speak frankly about the utility of military intervention sets him apart from his opponent. Senator Obama, though certainly no pacifist, envisions a world of cooperation and diplomacy; McCain sees a world of organic conflict and zero-sum competition."

Those paragraphs frame the choice in the coming election as starkly -- and effectively -- as any we've seen written in recent months. Unlike eight years ago when many people went to the ballot box believing that there was little difference in the directions that George W. Bush and Al Gore would move the country, the divisions between Barack Obama and McCain are real and impactful when it comes to defining (and re-defining) America's role in the world.

While that insight is critical to understanding McCain, it's a paragraph later in Goldberg's story that reveals a fundamental -- yet ill-understood -- truth about the Republican candidate.

"In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals," writes Goldberg. "It's not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor -- two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined -- that he becomes truly unbending." (Emphasis added by The Fix.)

Those lines are a perfect explication of John McCain the politician. He is a man for whom rigid adherence to ideology does not come naturally and, in fact, he tends to bridle at the idea that he must always come down on one side of an issue due to the "R" after his name. (David Brooks, as always, says it better than The Fix can: "The main axis in McCain's worldview is not left-right," Brooks wrote in recent column. "It's public service versus narrow self-interest.")

But, war -- and the politics surrounding it -- are outside the realm of McCain's tendency toward "ideological plasticity" (in the great phrase by Goldberg). The rules that govern other decisions in the campaign don't apply; it's why McCain stuck by his support for the surge despite its initial unpopularity even as he was abandoning his call for comprehensive immigration reform. The two issues simply aren't equivalent in McCain's mind. One is matter of life and death. The other is politics.

Goldberg's story is a remarkable -- and rare -- look at how McCain thinks about politics and policy; what he values, what he doesn't and why. Read the whole thing.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 11, 2008; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Fix Picks  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama and the Anger Calculation
Next: FixCam: Fundamental Change or Sound and Fury?


McCain Palin scandal is all about Alaska Oil/Gas drilling the neocon GOP wants.
Gov. Palin will soon start preaching to start drilling (she is Alaska Governer, so who knows best right??)
Dumb americans who watch too much FAUX NEWS are idiots to think he really picked her for her knoweledge and experience or being a female as they claim.
Everything the GOP does is all about the OIL/Gas including Iraq war and afghanistan and the coming wars with Russia and Iran the GOP is provoking like GEORGIA....

Posted by: Leshaun | September 12, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Well, outside of his obvious lust for Palin, there's probably not much inside his head but, hmmmmmmmmmmm, sand?

Posted by: Vampirella | September 12, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Baracky Hussein Obama has an extremely liberal Senate voting record - he cannot run and hide from that fact.

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Helen | September 12, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse


Pesky Proper Nouns
Out on the campaign trail, John McCain has been criticizing Barack Obama for proposing cuts in defense spending. But his criticism relies on a potentially misleading quote. And we found that McCain is dinging Obama for reducing spending on a program that McCain plans to eliminate entirely.

CNN and MSNBC both report that McCain told supporters in Lee’s Summit, Mo., that:

McCain, Sept. 8: …during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he’d cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars. He promised them he would, quote, “slow our development of future combat systems.”

McCain is referring to a message Obama recorded for Caucus4Priorities, a liberal group that advocates for lower defense spending. Here’s the full 1:35 message:

Cutting future combat systems? That does indeed sound alarming. But that’s mostly because it’s impossible to hear anyone speak a capital letter.

In an e-mail sent to reporters, the Obama campaign says that Sen. Obama was referring to Future Combat Systems (or FCS). FCS is an ambitious new, integrated computer and weapons system which would require an estimated 63.8 million lines of computer code, the complete replacement of the Army’s inventory of heavy tanks, light armor, and armored personnel carriers along with the development of entirely new unmanned drones. Army officials told The Washington Post last year that the $200 billion price tag makes the FCS “the most expensive Army weapons program ever.”

Unfortunately, at the moment, FCS is more theory than reality. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report delivered a blistering indictment of the program:

GAO, 2005: The FCS has demonstrated a level of knowledge far below that suggested by best practices or DOD policy. Nearly 2 years after program launch and about $4.6 billion invested to date, requirements are not firm and only 1 of over 50 technologies are mature-activities that should have been done before the start of system development and demonstration. If everything goes as planned, the program will attain the level of knowledge in 2008 that it should have had before it started in 2003. But things are not going as planned. Progress in critical areas, such as the network, software, and requirements has been slower than planned. Proceeding with such low levels of knowledge makes it likely that FCS will encounter problems late in development, when they are costly to correct. The relatively immature state of program knowledge at this point provides an insufficient basis for making a good cost estimate. Independent estimates should provide more information but are not yet completed. If the cost estimate for FCS is no more accurate than traditional estimates, the impact of cost growth could be substantial, given the program’s magnitude.

The Congressional Budget Office expressed worries about the program’s costs, noting that, according to the Defense Department’s projections, FCS would account for about half of the Army’s entire procurement budget by 2015 (while the equipment that FCS would replace has never accounted for more than 20 percent). What’s more, the CBO estimates that the actual costs may be as much as twice what the Army projects.

In fact, Obama isn’t the only senator running for president to have doubts about Future Combat Systems. In July, McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin gave The Washington Post a copy of McCain’s plan for balancing the budget. Among the proposed spending cuts was this one: “There are lots of procurements — airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System — that should be ended.”

Posted under Barack Obama, John McCain, Military, Presidential Election 2008

Posted by: need4trth | September 12, 2008 6:38 AM | Report abuse

FACT SHEET: Unremarkable Military record of John Sidney McCain III
Both McCain III’s father and grandfather were Admirals in the United States Navy. His father
Admiral John S. ”Junior” McCain was commander of U.S. forces in Europe - later commander of
American forces in Vietnam while McCain III was being held prisoner of war. His grandfather
John S. McCain, Sr. commanded naval aviation at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
McCain III, like his father and grandfather, also attended the United States Naval Academy.
McCain III finished near the bottom of his graduating class in 1958.

McCain III lost five U.S. Navy aircraft
1 - Student pilot McCain III lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus
Christi Bay while practicing landings.
2 - Pilot McCain III lost another plane two years later while he was deployed in the
Mediterranean. ”Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines
which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the
son of an admiral.
3 - Pilot McCain III lost number three in 1965 when he was returning from flying a Navy
trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game. McCain III radioed, ”I’ve got
a flameout” and ejected at one thousand feet. The plane crashed to the ground and
McCain III floated to a deserted beach.
4 - Combat pilot McCain III lost his fourth on July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to
the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk combat pilot. While waiting his turn for takeoff, an
accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain Jr’s. plane. He escaped from the burning
aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft,
and threatened to sink the ship.
5 - Combat pilot McCain III lost a fifth plane three months later (Oct. 26, 1967) during his
23rd mission over North Vietnam when he failed to avoid a surface-to-air missile. McCain
III ejected from the plane breaking both arms and a leg in the process and subsequently
parachuted into Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi. After being pulled from the lake by the North
Vietnamese, McCain III was bayoneted in his left foot and shoulder and struck by a rifle
butt. He was then transported to the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.

1973 New York Daily News labeled POW McCain III a “PW Songbird”
On McCain III’s fourth day of being denied medical treatment, slapped, and threatened with
death by the communist (they were demanding military information in exchange for medical
treatment), McCain III broke and told his interrogator, ”O.K., I’ll give you military information if you
will take me to the hospital.” U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former
POW John McCain.
It was then that the communist learned that McCain III’s father was Admiral John S. McCain,
the soon-to-be commander of all U.S. Forces in the Pacific. The Vietnamese rushed McCain III to
Gai Lam military hospital (U.S. government documents), a medical facility normally unavailable
for U.S. POWs.
By Nov. 9, 1967 (U.S. government documents) Hanoi press was quoting McCain III describing
his mission including the number of aircraft in his flight, information about rescue ships, and the
order of which U.S. attacks would take place.
While in still in North Vietnam’s military hospital, McCain III gave an interview to prominent
French television reporter Francois Chalais for a series titled Life in Hanoi. Chalais’ interview with
McCain III was aired in Europe.
Vietnamese doctors operated on McCain’s Leg in early December, 1967.
Six weeks after he was shot down, McCain was taken from the hospital and delivered to a
U.S. POW camp,
In May of 1968, McCain III allowed himself to be interviewed by two North Vietnamese
generals at separate times.” May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
In August 1968, other POWs learned for the first time that John McCain III had been taken
On June 5, 1969, the New York Daily News reported in a article headlined Reds Say PW
Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral, “ . . . Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of
United States Commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having
bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since
being taken prisoner . . .” The Washington Post explained McCain III’s broadcast: “The English-
Language broadcast beamed at South Vietnam was one of a series using American prisoners. It
was in response to a plea by Defense Secretary Melvin S. Laird, May 19, that North Vietnam treat
prisoners according to the humanitarian standards set forth by the Geneva Convention.”
In 1970, McCain III agreed to an interview with Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist
who was living in Cuba at the time.
The meeting between Barral and McCain III (which was photographed by the Vietnamese)
took place away from the prison at the office of the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in
Hanoi (declassified government document). During the meeting, POW McCain sipped coffee and
ate oranges and cakes with the Cuban.
While talking with Barral, McCain III further seriously violated the military Code of Conduct by
failing to evade answering questions ”to the utmost of his ability” when he, according government
documents, helped Barral by answering questions in Spanish, a language McCain had learned in
school. The interview was published in the in January 1970.

McCain III was released from North Vietnam March 15, 1973
In 1993, during one of his many trips back to Hanoi, McCain asked the Vietnamese not to
make public any records they hold pertaining to returned U.S. POWs. McCain III claims, that
while a POW, he tried to kill himself.

McCain III was awarded “medals for valor” equal to nearly a medal-and-a-half for each
hour he spent in combat
For 23 combat missions (an estimated 20 hours over enemy territory), the U.S. Navy awarded
McCain III, the son of famous admirals, a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished
Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a
dozen service medals.
“McCain had roughly 20 hours in combat,” explains Bill Bell, a veteran of Vietnam and former
chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs -- the first official U.S. representative in Vietnam
since the 1973 fall of Saigon.
“Since McCain got 28 medals,” Bell continued, “that equals to about a medal-and-a-half for
each hour he spent in combat. There were infantry guys -- grunts on the ground -- who had more
than 7,000 hours in combat and I can tell you that there were times and situations where I’m sure
a prison cell would have looked pretty good to them by comparison. The question really is how
many guys got that number of medals for not being shot down.”
For years, McCain has been an unchecked master at manipulating an overly friendly and
biased news media. The former POW turned Congressman, turned U.S. Senator, has managed
to gloss over his failures as a pilot and his collaborations with the enemy to become America’s
POW-hero presidential candidate.
For more information:

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse

You do know the military was his alternative to jail?

what a sorry little punk you are. she's sending her son off to War on something that was set up months ago.

Your still sleeping on your Moma's couch. This young boy is more of a Man than you will every be.

what a spineless pathethic twit.

Get back down to the basement and wait for moma to bring you dinner.

Posted by: Obama2012 | September 11, 2008 7:30 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

On a day of mourning and remembering for all Americans; especially so for the families of the victims, I think it's disgusting that Palin has politicized her son Track's deployment (as well as his division) and used it as another campaign tactict.

Posted by: A regular blogger | September 11, 2008 6:37 PM


what a sorry little punk you are. she's sending her son off to War on something that was set up months ago.

Your still sleeping on your Moma's couch. This young boy is more of a Man than you will every be.

what a spineless pathethic twit.

Get back down to the basement and wait for moma to bring you dinner.

Posted by: Obama2012 | September 11, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this, Chris. It actually explains a lot about McC's world view.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

On a day of mourning and remembering for all Americans; especially so for the families of the victims, I think it's disgusting that Palin has politicized her son Track's deployment (as well as his division) and used it as another campaign tactict.

What kind of a mother spends all day prepping herself for TV, going over her position on stage, meeting with press and using tax payer dollars to hold a personal and private ceremony? Did she do that for every soldier in Alaska being deployed? No, just her son & his division. And who's paying for all the security guards and speech writers? Today, the people of Alaska. If she's elected she'll pull that crap on us next. She won't call that wasteful spending, now will she?

I heard that it was orchestrated prior to her being selected as McCain's running mate. That makes no difference to a great many of us who have had to watch family members leave for harm's way without ratings-grabbing fanfare planned by someone with an ego twice the size of her state.

Shame on you Sarah, shame on you.

Posted by: A regular blogger | September 11, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I didn't find McCain's speech on his time as a POW the least bit fascinating. Exploitive, yes. Fascinating, no.
I find it sad that he continues to view the war on terror as a single place and not a state of mind that will continue to come at us from all directions unless we can begin to rebuild our world trust and our allies. It's clear he was forever altered by his sad experience and that it has blinded him to where the real threats are.

Posted by: terri t | September 11, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

To: McCain = Bush's third term
I agree with you. The questions you raise are issues that demand answers. We're just not going get most of them between now and November. When a candidate gets more air time just for being popular and crass than another who is steadily trying to answer the tough challenges, we should be outraged. Instead, we are entertained.

Our nation has cut its teeth on scripted TV. Most of us are grossly under-educated and ill-informed on real world issues. It seems the only time we voice our concerns and generate opinions is in the few short months preceding critical elections.

The media has been controlling the ebb and flow of our collective attention spans for years. We're shown only the colorfully scripted lines of our candidate's speeches that will glue us to our TVs and computers. Then, instead of the issues that will affect us all, we base our decisions in the voting booth on crap. This election is not a joke.

Posted by: peakmom | September 11, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain in 2008

Posted by: Miguel | September 11, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Very good Atlantic piece. McCain is not a rash warmonger nor is he a softhanded diplomat. War is a necessary evil to him and I think that's about right.

Posted by: Mordecai | September 11, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse


Obama has no economic or business experience except for buying cocaine........


Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if it is true that the actual candidate that bumps off mutual opponent of both parties will win in November? Apparently the opponent exposed corruption within both parties and is specifically targeted.

The question is how... For example, will the GOP use a Guiliani-like mob ties such as his protege Bernard Kerik was indicted with 140 years of jail time? Will the Dems use an OJ Simpson-like convict with jail time instead? Will both parties use the popular law enforcement community practice of 'sweetheart exchange deals' where crimes/murders are committed in exchange for less penalty on their behalf?

And do we have to worry about our family's safety having shared this detail now? Will my husband be targeted and murdered during his daily jog after work in Hackensack and Bogota, NJ around 4pm today? Especially since all our habits and plans are known in advance due to bugging devices implanted both in public and private?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Can he define negative equity? Will Merrill Lynch be able to pay dividends forever? How do you explain tax cuts when government bails out corporations and pays obscene severance packages to the failed executive? We're worried about John Bush's grandstanding VP pick and HER bridge thing when bridges and levees are falling apart all over what was once the richest country in the world. Yes, he was a POW, nice. We need him to come up out of the foxhole now. Our country has been looted by his pal, 43, and we need a plan. FOCUS on that.

Posted by: PreAmerikkkan | September 11, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You've probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and a close friend of the McCain's, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode. And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy's drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife's theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time - this was after the Keating 5 scandal - another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCain's do business.

Posted by: mysteryguest | September 11, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Where's the Tom Gosinski story? Why is it missing from the Post's website? What gives?

Posted by: mysteryguest | September 11, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: ZappoDave | September 11, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I find McCain's unwillingness to speak to, much less debate, substantive policy issues to be a material issue of character. How can a man who lacks the nerve to face off with his opposition in an election be prepared to face the challenges posed by Osama bin Laden, Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, or even Sarah Palin? His campaign tactics have become an expression, not only of exhaustion, but of cowardice.

McCain spends most of the time he's not attacking his opponent raving about earmarks, even though earmarks account for less than 1% of the Federal budget. Whether McCain understands this or not, the earmark tactic is nothing more than a diversion from more substantive issues.

McCain's energy proposals have clearly been written for him by status quo energy industry lobbyists. He proposes to spend billions per year on coal, oil, and nuclear power, and nothing on renewable sources. This is not so much a recipe for failure as it is a surrender without a fight.

McCain's managed to position the troop escalation in Iraq as not only successful, but the only strategy that could have possibly succeeded. Were he to face a challenge on the facts of this issue, he would have to deal with several weaknesses in his argument:

-- The number of fighters bought and paid for through the Sunni Awakening Council movement dwarfs the size of the escalation, and exceeds the total number of US troops in Iraq.

-- Our Sunni mercenary allies have been conducting their own campaign of torture and assassination under US sponsorship.

-- Muqtada al-Sadr's forces have stood down at al-Sadr's order, leaving al-Sadr arguably in the driver's seat to choose the course of Iraq's future.

Taking all these additional factors into account, McCain might have a very hard time defending the escalation's relevance, much less its success, in bringing Iraqi violence under control.

With regard to tax policy, supply-side "economics" has never been demonstrated to work, and the party in power is well aware of this fact. When times are good, Republicans indulge in supply-side policies, to the benefit of their wealthy donors and themselves. When the economy starts to go south, however, even Republicans fall back to positions based on Keynesian principles, and launch spending programs. Clearly, Republican policymakers don't believe in thrie own rationales for the tax policies they're selling.

What's going on in the mind of John McCain as he runs for president must be just about as surreal as what being a POW was like. This time, though, he has no hope of release.

Posted by: Ken in Dallas | September 11, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

That is so scary.

Otto von Bismark, Germany's Iron Chancellor, did not believe in the utility of war. Germany was unified and grew to a world power with, for the times, a great restraint on military power. Only when Bismark was kicked out of office did Germany start to officially believe in the utility of war.

A military is necessary, the world is not all butterflies and flowers, but its use is a failure of policy. Especially with America whose strength lies in economic and technological dominance. The ability to dominate militarily should be nothing more than a side effect of economic and technological muscle. As we are losing both, especially economic dominance, that is what we need to concentrate on building.

Posted by: muD | September 11, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It is the Media's responsibility to represent the populace in holding politicians, those occupying and seeking government office, to public account. The media is clearly doing an inadequate job of informing the public of the consequences of the past 8 years of Republican rule.

Posted by: OHIO CITIZEN | September 11, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Whatever McCain did forty years ago (my entire lifetime ago), my concern is what he will do in the future. And if you want to do the retrospective instead, what has happened in the last forty years. He returned from Vietnam only to desert his wife and children for the 25 year old woman 42 year old McCain was sleeping around with...he used his office to permit her to escape prosecution for crimes she committed in feeding her drug addiction...he became embroiled in the Keating 5 scandal and exercised less than good or ethical judgment, he rejected Bush-Rove politics in 2000 only to embrace it in 2008, he renounced every principled position he's ever taken (immigration, for example) to instead see exactly how far he can bow to the far-right wing of his party. It is time for the media to get off the tire swing.

Posted by: Jackie | September 11, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The national media is failing the American electorate by failing to force the McCain campaign to address policies, issues, and the Republican record of the past 8 years. The media is a willing accomplice in the Republicans' efforts to run a third consecutive Presidential campaign around the Culture Wars.

Posted by: OHIO CITIZEN | September 11, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse


• Is Biden About to Fall on His Sword for Hil?

Today Obama meets Bill for lunch. Bill predicts an Obama win.

Yesterday, Biden said Hillary would have made a better vice president.

Would Biden have said something like that, which seems to call Obama's judgment into question, if there weren't a "September surprise" coming from Barack and Hillary?

Could Biden be about to nobly withdraw from the race to better ensure that victory that Bill predicted?

Does Bill know something that the rest of us may find out tomorrow -- or perhaps Monday morning at the top of the week's news cycle?

Anyone checking in with Biden today to follow up on his "Hillary would have been better" comment?

A Hillary re-entry would melt the snow from beneath the mukluks of Palin, just as the press scrutiny of her fiscal, personal and environmental policies starts to get intense.

Posted by: Outside the Box | September 11, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

John McCain wrote:

Hello, I'm John McCain, a former POW. There was a time when I didn't have lipstick and I didn't have a pig. And even if I had, the Vietnamese guard would not have let me put the lipstick on the pig. Now, I don't care if you vote for me or not, but I do care about the right to put lipstick on a pig.

I tried to put lipstick on Gov. Palin, but she said, "Thanks, but no thanks. If I want lipstick, I'll go out and shoot a Polar Bear and make lipstick from its blood."

I tried to put lipstick on Cindi, but she said, "I've already got three coats of primer and face paint. Any more, and I'll look like Heath Ledger in that Batman movie."

Please vote for me. I've lost all my integrity, but if you vote for me, I'll give you a house. Did I tell you that I was a POW?

I'm John McCain, a former POW, and I approved this message.

Posted by: Skeptic21 | September 11, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"[McCain's] willingness to speak frankly about the utility of military intervention sets him apart from his opponent. Senator Obama, though certainly no pacifist, envisions a world of cooperation and diplomacy; McCain sees a world of organic conflict and zero-sum competition."

Wow. This clearly shows why McCain is NOT my candidate. I am unwilling to vote for a President who so firmly believes in the "utility of military intervention." For me, "military intervention" isn't a "utility"... it's the end result of failed policy, patience, and diplomacy.

At some point the USA will wake up to the fact that we are not the sole arbiters of what is "good" and "evil" in the world. At least with Obama we have the rhetoric that one party is not the sole arbiter of what is "good" and "evil" in the USA. I'm going to vote for this 1st step towards the inevitable and necessary unification of humanity on Earth.

There is no American world.
There is no unAmerican world.
There is only one world, one people, one home.

Posted by: egc52556 | September 11, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of press-fueled meteoric rises to stardom, Sarah Palin is about to go on ABC to get slow-pitch softballs from Charlie Gibson.

Soon, she won't be able to duck the press. Then she'll have to deal with getting real questions, then the debate.

Now the shine's off the apple. Suddenly, Palin actually has to have positions, then she has to defend them.

It'll be around that point, with one month to go, that Palin will wish she'd turn down the job.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Poor Obama. his press fueled meteoric rise has turned into a just as rapid plummeting to earth. darn facts and figures.

always ruining it for the slippery people.

Posted by: kingofzouk | September 11, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

How about some harsh truth. McCain's opinion about Vietnam are as credible as mine. He learned about Vietnam by reading history books, just like I did.

I'd have to look up when McCain became a POW - off the top I'd guess 1968ish. Ok so when started his period of isolation, he didn't see public opinion wane, nor watched as the country tore itself apart. He missed the Hard Hat riot of '70 for example.

Ever see the movie or read the book "Cold Comfort Farm"? Ok so McCain went through unspeakably horrible ordeal - he knows more than anyone else what our 'enemy combatants' are going through. If he's serious about winning in Iraq and preempting Iran - the only way he's going to do that is to reach back into Vietnam era and pull a policy forward: conscription. Only then will he understand what ordeal this country went through while he was being tortured.

Posted by: NoOneImportant | September 11, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse


On this commemoration of 9/11/01, let us petition our government to get our own house in order:

"Government Agencies Support Domestic Torture and Gang-Stalking..."

Posted by: scrivener | September 11, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I think it would just be images of a 12 year old boy wanting to be President...

and as it is so close...that is the only thing left in there.

Obviously that and the new whispering voice of Karl Rove saying "we must keep the white is the destiny your father wanted John...and we have too much riding on the last 8 years to lose all costs"

that has moved ethics to the back of the room...beyond cobwebbed covered logic and moth eaten nobility and judgement.

Posted by: dl | September 11, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

McCain's good for nothing but mindlessly killing people, and the senile old man will be lucky if he even lives through his first term if he happened to get elected and that would leave us with Caribou Barbie the pathological serial liar as our president. Nobody (other than the Alaska state trooper she had fired for personal revenge) even knew her 2 weeks ago.

Say What?!?!

Posted by: DrainYou | September 11, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

In 1982, McCain's campaign became distilled down to his time in a cell in Hanoi. That became his calling card and his success, the key point on his resume. The 'ideological plasticity' is so malleable because its issues are so trivial by comparison, clearly.
The problem is, those five years resulted from a sorty that kept him removed and distant from real life and death on the ground.
He also lost out on the social changes happening back home, the evolution of our culture and politics - leaving a worrisome and distorted hole in his worldview.
If you're a bomber pilot, you learn to see war through an almost theoretical lens, and you learn not to be bothered much by collateral damage, even if it means the decay of our financial security, the crumbling of our infrastructure, the polarization of our politics, the diminution of our civility.
Military honor, the honor of courage on the battlefield, certainly we respect these, but honor in government, honor in society, honor in leading overdue change in health care, in working class wages, in correcting our financial mess, there is courage and honor to be noted in these non-military concerns as well.
The military is sanctioned to protect our liberties, not to overwrite them.
A commander-in-chief is also a diplomat-in-chief, a legislator-in-chief, a police officer-in-chief, a keeper of the public trust and protector of the constitution directly through administration of our rule of law, keeping all the many programs of our government running smoothly (FEMA, for instance) and without favor for one group over another.
These are not trivial matters to be administered by politics alone...

Posted by: major domo-in-chief... | September 11, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Then, I would like you to explain how a man who tells this joke...

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno!"

Qualifies as classy?

(note: McCain told that joke at a GOP fundraiser in 1998)

Posted by: JamesCH | September 11, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Since when does constantly confusing the Sunni's, Shiites and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, singing "bomb bomb Iran" and blabbering about staying in Iraq for 100 years or more, like McCain has done the last six months, make you a "foreign policy expert"?

Posted by: McCain - sane, insane or just senile? | September 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I also have an issue-based question for you:

How do you reconcile McCain's touting of his military record and history as a POW with his unwillingness to vote for one single additional dollar for VA benefits or the GI Bill?

Posted by: JamesCH | September 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Nice article Chris. Much appreciated.

Posted by: John | September 11, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

...great article, but it is why Sen. McCain would make a better Sec. of Defense or NSC Advisor than President. Do you want an Eisenhower or Patton as President? Colon Powell or McArthur? IMO, McCain is the latter in those two comparisons. The President has to see the "gray" and use "gray" to keep the broader goal and agenda going. It is the ability to see beyond and through the "heat" that creates great leaders not their narrow and hard-nose steadfastness. Specific experience is valuable, but somewhat overplayed in a changing environment - judgement, temperment, and foresight rules - chess not poker.....todays enemy is tomorrows friend or partner...that goes against the American stereo-type, but it is more in line with the reality of our history.

Posted by: bfdc | September 11, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse


God forbid that anyone, least of all journalists, question the judgment or temperment of your hero, John McCain.

Of course, anyone who comes to Obama's defense is merely a perpetrator in your "great sexist conspiracy," right?

Does it eat at you that you're such a hypocrite, or are you just not aware?

Posted by: JamesCH | September 11, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I am sickened by John McCains shameless exploitation of his military record. He has failed our veterans—past, present and future. McCain doesnt mind starting more wars, or having the Iraq Occupation last another 100 years but he does mind helping those vets when they return to the US. John McBush is typical of the I got mine but you cant have yours philosophy of the Republican Party.

Inside the senile mind of John McBush probabaly looks something like this:

Posted by: AsperChick | September 11, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I grow so tired of people claiming Obama was brought up "upper-middle class." He was raised by his poor single mother and his grandmother. If you want the truly "upper-class" candidate, try the guy married to the heiress with seven houses.

Posted by: ManUnitdFan | September 11, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

A couple of observations about McCain's Palin choice: (i) it seems that it was the media who surmised that McCain picked her to absorb disgruntled Hillary voters, but I don't think McCain ever said this is why he picked her; and (ii) for all the women outraged about Palin, it seems that she is, based on recent polling, taking a number of female voters away from Obama.

Perhaps, McCain made 2 strategic decisions here; picking Palin as his running mate, and then keeping his mouth shut as to why he did so.

Posted by: Betsy Ross | September 11, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This article is a waste of time. You're just engaging in a fatuously naive attempt to project a pathologically violence-and-forced based ideology onto John McCain that would make any experienced military person laugh. This is the kind of lame drivel males who never go into the military imagine because they fear war irrationally, not rationally.

The McCain speech was very important, but not for the reasons you seem to grasp. At least half of his convention bump, if you look at the timing of his poll results, came from just after the McCain speech, not the Palin speech.

If you continue to distract yourselves with your liberal-male fear of the masculine violence of war, so that you don't think about it rationally, you cannot understand or strategize against John McCain. The fact that you sit around fantasizing with these lurid, absurd imaginings and rationalizations is the only reason Obama was stupid enough to be confident that McCain wouldn't pick an old white man for his VP.

You young, liberal, hopelessly callow metrosexuals are no match for McCain, that is obvious. He's getting in your heads in irrational ways, just like Palin's in your heads in irrational ways. You are all so outclassed, it's funny.

McCain's speech was pretty deep, whether you realize it or not. And what you are attempting to imply is 180 opposite from what it really meant.

Now you can sit around enlarging on the absurd adolescent purple ideas above, as it appears they do over at the Atlantic lately, in their fit of irrational, spastically incoherent coverage of the McCain-Palin in the past 2 weeks.

I think it's best that you distract and engage yourselves with this thinking, rather than come up with something useful that might help Obama win this Fall.

Posted by: AsperGirl | September 11, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama was broken too.
By the fact that you know, he only had an upper middle class existance, he wasn't real rich.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Choska: Is that all you have? You lefties keep trying to get traction from old, worn out smears. This is old news.... Let's talk about current events: Ayers, Wright, Rezco, Flager... This election will be a landslide for McCain. Obama is not viable.

Posted by: Bill | September 11, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Inside the Mind of John McCain.

Two words - hot air.

Posted by: bondjedi | September 11, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Questions for our "foreign policy expert" knuckledragging Wingnuts?

When he was warned in the August 6, 2001 PDB, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US", why did the president do nothing except tell the guy who delivered it to him, "All right, you've covered your arse, now"?

Why did Rudy Giuliani put the anti-terrorism command center in the World Trade Center against the advice of experts who knew better?

Why did the president sit in that Florida classroom for several minutes after being told "America is under attack"?

Could there be any greater examples of heroism than the passengers who fought back on Flight 93, the rescue teams at the Pentagon, or the NYPD and NYFD responders who ran into the towers without hesitation?

Father Mychal Judge: Saint...or Supersaint?

Why did NY firefighters have faulty radios instead of dependable ones, Mr. Giuliani?

Was it really necessary for the president to tell us to go shopping?

Why were rescue workers at Ground Zero told by the EPA director that the air was safe to breathe when it wasn't?

When rescue workers got horribly sick from breathing contaminated air, why were so many given perfunctory treatment and then left to fend for themselves?

Why did Rudy Giuliani say he "was at the site as often, if not more, than most of the workers," when he only visited the site for 29 hours over a span of 41 visits and spent more time in that span at NY Yankee's games?

When Glenn Beck---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---said, "When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up!' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining," why wasn't he banished into obscurity?

When the president stressed the importance of safeguarding our ports and vital infrastructure, why did he take so long actually safeguarding them? Are they much safer today?

When the president called for greater security at airports, why was there such a lopsided focus on passengers and very little on cargo until recently?

When we found out that most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, why did the president continue holding hands with their leaders?

Why were habeas corpus rights suspended years after the attacks of 9/11, when the country wasn't in a state of rebellion or invasion?

When Congress found out the president had broken the law before 9/11 by snooping on American citizens without warrants, why did they patch up the law to make his---and the phone companies'---illegal activities retroactively legal?

The president nominated Bernard Kerik to be the head of Homeland Security...and he wasn't joking???

When Ann Coulter---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---said, "These broads (9/11 widows) are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," why wasn't she banished into obscurity?

When Bush had bin Laden in his sights at Tora Bora, why didn’t he take the shot?
Why were we told repeatedly that Saddam Hussein was partly responsible for the attacks when he had nothing to do with them?

When we needed more troops to vanquish the Taliban in Afghanistan, why did we invade Iraq?

If we're winning the "War on terror," why hasn't the color-coded terror alert level changed from Yellow to Green or Blue in 2,382 days?

How unspeakably crude was it for the Republican party to exploit the 9/11 attacks in a promotional video during their convention in St. Paul?
Why hasn't the president caught Osama bin Laden?

When Jerry Falwell---one of the most respected figures in the Republican party---got on TV and said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'," why wasn't he defrocked and sent to work in soup kitchens for the rest of his life?

Why is there still a giant hole in the ground in Lower Manhattan?
Are terrorists punks, or what?
Are Republican politicians (McCain, Giuiliani) who use fear to scare citizens into submission, thugs or what?

Posted by: McCain = Bush's third term | September 11, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

John McCain's life is framed by war, Vietnam in his youth and Iraq in his old age. ...........

Posted by: Ohg Rea Tone | September 11, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

This is a very insightful and moving article about John McCain. Therefore, it should be trashed by the saintly obamanites.

What I found most interesting about the 2 conventions were the very personal testimonies given by people who have worked closely and known John McCain. IN contrast, the obama celebration seems to have only featured people who just met him.

The obama fans like to discuss his time as a community organizer, but while I might have missed it, did anyone speak at the convention about working with obama as an organizer? Shouldn't there be some stories of actual accomplishments for the community? Please don't tell me he's too humble to have people talk about his successes.

Posted by: Tony S. | September 11, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"He is a man for whom rigid adherence to ideology does not come naturally..."

...then why in the world does McCain have one of the most partisan voting records in the Senate? His ratings in the last decade were less conservative than during his first years in the Senate, but his "ideological plasticity" seems to coincide conveniently with his desire to seek higher office rather than any ideological evolution.

Posted by: Patience | September 11, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The Fix over-fluffs Brooks, in saying
"David Brooks, as always, says it better than The Fix can: "The main axis in McCain's worldview is not left-right," Brooks wrote in recent column. "It's public service versus narrow self-interest." "

Senator McCain appears to have decided that his self-interest and public service are aligned, and thus he will say anything and happily contradict previous positions taken as a 'maverick' in order to win this election.

Posted by: bsimon | September 11, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Throughout the ridiculous uproar of this week, Obama has remained cool, measured, relaxed, unphased and deliberate. He has responded with firmness and humor to the most absurd attacks imaginably. These are exactly the character traits I want in the next president.

In contrast, this past several days have revealed John McCain as a weak man out of control, buffetted by the winds of bad advice from his campaign hatchet men. He is hiding behind Sarah Palin, unable to meet with reporters anymore, unable to formulate a positive argument for his own candidacy.

McCain's convention speech was a perfect illustration of these qualities. He appeared intellectually exhausted, bereft of new ideas or vision, unable to provide even his most ardent supporters with a positive rationale for backing him. Instead he focussed his speech on a backward looking discourse on his personal travails. Of course it was a moving story. But McCain failed noticably to connect his POW experiences with any vision of how to govern our nation or where he might want us to go in the future.

Obama has been by far the strongest man in giving us a sense of where he wants to guide the country and of the personal qualities he possesses that might help us get there. Obama has been clear, direct, unruffled, and thoughtful throughout this arduous campaign process.

Kipling wrote, If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs... you will be a man. Obama is indeed a man for our times.

Posted by: dee | September 11, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

We can see clearly now how McVain and his soulmate will proceed, day in day out, till November:

- One day, bogus hysterical cries about Obama's supposed macho mysoginy, and how poor ex-Miss Alska is coping, with courage and determination, against such horrible sexist attacks. Maybe some tears will soon be necessary.

-The next day Mac Oldtimer breaking your heart with how awful it was in 'Nam. How much courage he showed (maybe a piece on McPain undergoing waterboarding with a stiff upper lip will make it even stronger.)

Dammit! Iused the word lip. The stick won't be late to show, with the coming posts.

What a beautiful presidential contest! The whole world is admiring thegood job.

Keep it up oldtimer!

Posted by: bekabo | September 11, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Rare glimpse? This is all the man talks about. For heaven's sake I haven't seen a news report in the past 10 years involving john McCain where his POW status wasn't mentioned. Give me a break.

Posted by: over_educated | September 11, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse


On this commemoration of 9/11/01, let us petition our government to get our own house in order:

"Government Agencies Support Domestic Torture and Gang-Stalking..."

Posted by: scrivener | September 11, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm amazed - this is possibly one of the most important articles that have been published on the election and I am the only person commenting on it.

The reality is that the conduct of nations is more like competition than cooperation in the long run. The choice is clear and this realism is where McCain has an edge in this election.

Posted by: B_Wutang | September 11, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You've probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and a close friend of the McCain's, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode. And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy's drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife's theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time - this was after the Keating 5 scandal - another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCain's do business.

Posted by: Choska | September 11, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"... tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor ... that he becomes truly unbending."

But if we refuse to confront the need for change in our energy/environmental policies, these issues will affect our national security - they are already affecting it.

Posted by: Rachelva | September 11, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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