Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's the Thought that Counts

It's time to dispense with the political correctness -- no pun intended -- and talk openly and honestly about something that's been in the back of a lot of people's minds for some time, but which no one has dared truly confront. In this election, there's simply too much at stake for any relevant subject to be considered off-limits to the well-intentioned, especially not when it might have monumental ramifications for the future of this country. I'm talking about the kind of impact that could shake our nation to its very core and change the course of history -- and not for the better.

So we must ask the question:

Is 72-year-old John McCain mentally fit to be President of the United States?

Last night in an interview with Spanish-owned Union Radio, McCain seemed confused when asked whether he would be willing to invite Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to the White House if he wins the presidency. Up to that point, the conversation had focused on Latin America and the anti-U.S. sentiment of leaders like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, allowing McCain to robotically issue a boilerplate soundbite promising to stand with those who support us and against those who don't. But once the interviewer mentioned Zapatero, McCain appeared to be thrown; he seemed, to anyone with ears and a brain, to not know just who it was the reporter was talking about. He responded by repeating, several times, the same standard exhortation: that he would embrace those who believed in democracy and "confront those that don't." He also insinuated that Spain is in Latin America.

Then he started talking about Mexico.

I could try to put into words the palpable feeling of unease that permeated the entire interview -- especially when you realized that the more McCain stayed relentlessly on message, the more lost he became -- but I'd never do it justice.

Listen for yourself.

I really don't mean to make light of this, but upon hearing that clip, my first thought was, "Dear God, he needs a nap." I found myself feeling sorry for McCain because it was late and the interview was obviously so taxing on him.

But then I remembered what he hopes to become next January -- the President of the United States.

The leader of the free world.

Listening to McCain's response, or lack thereof, to the reporter's question about Zapatero, one of two scenarios is possible: Either McCain really did confuse Zapatero with one of the other Latin American despots he had been talking about a few minutes earlier, or -- and this is actually much more terrifying -- he publicly and without pause thumbed his nose at a U.S. ally, a standing member of NATO that's contributed troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. If the latter is true (which McCain's spokespeople are leaning toward, rather than admit an embarrassing mistake) McCain just took a blisteringly hardline approach to Spain's new government that not only defies even the Bush Administration's handling of the situation but stands against his own words from April of this year. (He told a newspaper that any problems between the U.S. and Spain should be put aside.) A diplomat -- someone with tested foreign policy experience -- simply doesn't insult an allied head-of-state the way McCain did, which would lead anyone with a clear head to assume that McCain didn't have a clear head when he answered the question.

And that's the problem.

Over the past several months, we've seen and heard dozens of what are insouciantly euphemized by the media as "gaffes," as if they were simply harmless slips of the tongue: confusing al-Qaeda with generic extremists; confusing Iraq and Afghanistan; confusing Sunnis and Shiites; claiming that troops in Iraq were down to pre-surge levels when they weren't; suddenly adjusting a major point in a story about his captivity in Vietnam that he'd told the same way for years.

Or how about this:

Saying that the fundamentals of our economy are strong on a day the Dow dropped 500 points, then attempting to correct himself by claiming that we're in a "total crisis" the following day.

Forcefully rejecting the bailing out of AIG one day then enthusiastically embracing it the next.

Lying -- yes lying -- over and over again, even when his words can easily be disproved by anyone with an internet connection.

Or possibly worst of all: choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate after meeting with her just once and apparently without fully vetting her.

Sarah Palin -- the former small-town mayor and half-term governor with no foreign policy experience who would become President of the United States should John McCain be elected then become incapacitated or be deemed unfit to lead.

That's why we have to be willing to talk about this.

We can't afford not to.

(Update, 9.19: No sooner had I spoken...)


Girl With Curious Hair said...

You're not showing enough deference to either John McCain, POW or Sarah Palin, Moose Hunter. Which means you are not qualified to comment about anything they say or do.

(Please don't change.)

Anonymous said...

Everything in the McCain campaign is now about "narrative". Narrative about Vietnam. Narrative about Palin. Narrative in the form of feel-good phrases when asked anything substantial: "I'm a uniter, not a divider". Wait, that was that other guy. Narrative is the best they can do at this point, it's all they've got.

Of course that will win them the election. And then the question in this article comes up: is McCain fit to lead? He comes across as weak-willed, gossamer thin, out of touch, and most dangerously, with a rage problem. The kind of guy that doesn't count to ten, but starts doing whatever the moment impels him to. Sure, he'll be capsuled in, as the others have been, but the chance that he does something stupid, like misreading someone's intentions in a situation when every second matters, is just too large. Four years of unpredictability and a thin mask of sanity and maturity is a horrifying prospect.

See You Next Tuesday said...

Yesterday at Huffpo there was a great post about how airline pilots must retire at 65. There is just too much risk to life.

Think about that.

Being nuked by Russia (thanks Palin!), Spain (Thanks McCain!), Iran, North Korea?

For airline pilots, they are risking up to a few hundred lives.

A McCain/Palin win risks 300 million.

Anonymous said...

He has become an example of the type of politician we hate the most. No, not someone who is dumb or will lie or embellish the truth for political expediancy. No, these characteristics are typical in D.C. or Albany.

What he has become is truly despicable. Lie, cheat, and obfuscate for the simple pleasure of a man acting out of desperation to either save his job or move up the ladder. Win or loose, acting out of desperation to run for President at any costs is what I will be left with in assessing the character that I once admired.

Laura Swisher said...

So Spain ISN'T in Latin America? Why does the name Zapatero sound so....Latin-y?

See You Next Tuesday said...

Laura Swisher--

Yeah, the racial ignorance undertones are staggering, aren't they?

Riles said...

And what about the now-famous "3am phone call?" How coherent will McCain be if that happens?

To touch on age one more time, it's very noticable how visibly presidents age between being inaugurated and leaving office. Just looked at Clinton and Bush. If the Palin-McCain ticket were to win, can you imagine how much the position will age McCain? It may be hard to hard to watch.

Jacki Schechner said...

I heard Celinda Lake - the pollster - give a presentation to the Senior Caucus in Denver. She told the room that more seniors had a problem with McCain's age than with Obama's race.

That's encouraging considering how racism lingers in this country.

Anonymous said...

I see you got the "Obama Wire Alert" urging bloggers to follow up on Barack's ridicule of the "OLD boy's club" by sliming McCain as demented and mentally infirm. So does this mean McCain is not really a liar - since lying requires enough mental capacity to form an intent to deceive?

Hillary should be grateful. The Obama campaign only slimed her as a man-eating bitch and closet racist who would sell off Chelsea for the Presidency - but it held back on questioning her ability to serve in the Senate. John McCain should be so fortunate.

Ahhh, the change you can believe in - how refreshing!

Chez said...

You're absolutely right, Anonymous (and of course -- the critics are always anonymous). I'm just a big lackey. My point has nothing to do with every "gaffe" I just cited -- including last night's cringe-worthy interview. I made all of that shit up to smear McCain because I just don't like the cut of his jib.

Get back to me when you have an actual argument to make.

Steve said...

Sorry, anon 10:31 -- we're not buying your crap. All it takes is two eyes, two ears, a brain and some compassion to see that Mr. McCain was a fine man, still is a fine man, but his mass of contradictory statements of late can only be attributed to some form of dementia.

No, I don't believe he's a liar. I do believe he can't keep track of everything that's been thrown at him. I also believe he's a good man pushed into applying for an incredibly trying job that he's physically unable to handle.

If he were to pull out of the race, admitting that his physical ailments would prevent him from doing the job as well as it should be done, he would regain the respect of the American people and prevent the incredible loss of dignity he would suffer in a debate without handlers or boilerplate slogans.

And he would be effectively telling the neocons to "shove it". Which I'd like to see.

Mark said...

Given his notorious reputation as a hothead with a short fuse, listening to the clip you can feel his ire rising as the interviewer persists with the question.

The image of him that has stayed with me the entire campaign is the birth control versus Viagra video. The look on his face at 50 seconds into that clip says it all.

VOTAR said...

Rather odd for anonymous to assume that these two such disturbing character flaws are mutually exclusive.

It's easy to demonstrate that someone can be both mentally infirm, and an untrustworthy liar.

Do I even have to type the name?

March said...

To be fair, I don't necessarily believe an interview has as much weight as a candidate's past and their stances on issues. The masturbation of glad-handing leaders of other countries to me is irrelevant unless it directly affects the foreign policy or our economy.

I took some time tonight and at length took a look at both candidate's sites on the issues and where they stand. To be honest, there is a ton of overlap. Both want healthcare reform, cap and trade for energy (which is surprising, considering how bush and a few other rep's have been against cap and trade), taxes, and technology (my other favorite). Of course, the execution of their methods plans do differ significantly in the details of some things (electrical energy, and the kind of reform of healthcare, and connecting to the internet), but I'm really starting to believe, and I completely hear you that this voting year may be the most important yet, that either candidate may be just as good as the other. Remember the 2004 election? How it almost divided the nation into whos on whos side, I'm rather enjoying the middle ground to beable to see both sides, and have the choice of who to vote for. I hope in the end that 2 things happen: 1. We don't get a lame duck president who ends up following his own agenda and ignoring the real issues 2. We don't have a nation divided because of the president.

A person older and wiser than me said recently that the president really isn't empowered as much as he/she used to be, that they are really charged lately with protecting the US and ensuring good policy, whether it's popular or not. I'm starting to see his wisdom, look at the financial crisis, Mr. Paulson is leading the charge for fixing the financial market, and in my opinion, doing a great job for the amount of stress he must have to endure. At the end of the day, what will the president have to do? Sign the bill that he and congress make up, he would really had no direct involvement. And whether we had Kerry or Gore or some other president, it still would have been Paulson who has led this, and it's proof to me that the president is only important for the people he selects to lead their positions.

idiosynchronic said...

One word:


McCain doesn't have Reagan's teflon sunny optimism and an actor's sincerity. But yes, we have elected a President of older age prone to gaffes, ignorances, & plain public episodes of confusion.

Now, I have three more words:

George W. Bush.

Everything I cited before without the excuse of the infirmities of age.

Chris said...

I was heartily amused by Palin's comment about Biden being elected "when I was like, in second grade!" (OMG he is teh old!!>>) Thank goodness her running mate is so young and spry.

Juan said...

Call it silver lining, but there's actually something really funny about this otherwise disturbing last episode of McCain's -- by screwing up so pathetically (that's my take, not that he was deliberately snubbing Spain and/or Zapatero) he accomplished doing something in real life that five ago was the object of a great parody of a fictional diplomatic incident between Bush and Spain's prime minister back then:


So, by surpassing fiction, I believe the Repug's candidate now deserves being nicknamed McWorse, not just McSame.

Jerrylehane said...

Well credit where credit is due, while the McCain camp may have trouble locating Spain, it's certainly making huge inroads in reminding people why Hillary wasn't so bad.

Maybe he just needed a nap?

Chez said...

March --

Wow, just wow. It's strange -- you're obviously very thoughtful and analytical, but then you say something that is, I'm sorry, jaw-droppingly ridiculous.

Both candidates are essentially the same?

Well, it's okay because the president's a largely ceremonial office these days anyway?

Just -- wow.

Anonymous said...

Again you guys are just a breath of fresh air. The so-called "gaffes" cited in this article are gaffes solely because of your perspective - your rather vicious perspective. And, yes, you drill down on your nasty perspectives to smear - it's funny that you pretend that this stuff is "enlightening." And "Change You Can Believe In" is a hoot!

Oh, and on the topic of Palin, that little prank about stealing her e-mail account was a particularly "enlightening." Too bad we didn't find out what color her shit is - which I really need to know before I can cast an enlightened vote.

Steve said...

Thanks for focusing on our shortcomings, Anon 7:28. We appreciate the attention.

And your candidate's plan is what again ...?

VOTAR said...

I guess I can say, speaking only for myself, there is no viciousness in taking a necessary and critical look at the behavior of anyone who is asking me to consider giving him the most awesome power of any human on this planet, and entrusting my life in his hands. Any person thoughtful about not only their future, but the future of their nation and their world, ought to be able, and in fact, obligated, to dig a little and see what's there under the packaged message. I'm not interested in sound bites, and I'm willing to overlook a few so-called "gaffes." It's when a disturbing pattern begins to emerge that I start to get nervous. And so should everyone else.

You can seethe and spit and hiss and treat everything as "you guys," and aim your derision at the imagined "viciousness" of others, and continue to be the unwitting soldier of the culture war the neocons have reignited in a cynical gambit to manipulate you; this we can't do much about. I like to dream that everyone ultimately treats reality with the same thoughtfulness and discipline that I do when it comes to these very, very important moments in our history, and when presented with an overwhelming and obvious set of facts, enough of us will make the right choice.

I'm not sure how anyone can claim that the President of the United States is little more than a ceremonial rubber stamp for the edicts passed by Congress. That idea flies in the face of what we have seen the current administration do to transform the executive office over the last few years into an unprecedented concentration of unilateral power. The winner of the upcoming election is going to inherit that office and that power, and I'd like to know we're sending someone there who will behave like a President should, and not someone who will say and do anything, who will lie and obfuscate and manipulate, just to win an election.

Mack said...

I'm still stuck on McCain's voting record when it comes to veterans. He has voted no to every piece of veteran legislation since 1995 ( and the new GI bill. As the great granddaughter (he died in France from mustard gas), granddaughter, daughter (disabled) and girlfriend of war veterans I am stuck there. I am lost as to how the guy can use his horrible five years in a POW camp to get votes and have nothing to back it up. I'm just stuck there. I don't care about the rest. That says it ALL to me.

I am a Republican at heart, but these fucking people we have elected in to office are clowns. I feel as a Virginian I have no choice but to vote a straight Democratic ticket. I wouldn’t vote Thelma Drake for dog catcher and Jim Gilmore isn’t man enough to separate my darks from my whites.

burke said...

VOTAR, as always, your insight is refreshing.

Regarding March's observation: Another tactic being used by Republican defenders lately is how much of a do-nothing Congress we have had for the last two years, since the Dems took back control. They laugh and point fingers while IGNORING the fact that the ONLY reason the Congress has been so hamstrung is due to the slim majority the Dems hold, coupled with the constantly threatened veto power of a "with us or against us" President.

Rubber stamp, my ass!

Felis Femina said...

anon 10:31 and 7:28 -

Often, when people display such anger and sarcasm (as you both have) it's directly related to the fact that what is being presented to them is the truth, even if they are unwilling to admit it. It's a frightening prospect that McCain/Palin could run this country for the next four years. We're not pointing out their shortcomings to piss you off (at least, I'm not). If these two make it into office it's not going to be a "ha ha, told you so" moment, it's going to be a "dear god, why didn't you stop and think?" moment. I'd rather not see it come to that.

You don't have to vote "Obama", you just have to vote "NOT McCain".

Jeremy said...

So very poignant Che. McCain has always been my favorite Republican (ok... so he's the only Republican I ever had a modicum of respect for, but still... I had more respect for him that some of the folks on the other side of the aisle.) But yes, the stress of the campaign seems to be showing, and the campaign is nothing compared to the rigors of the White House.
It's an important question to ask. As are other questions that have been deemed "off-topic", such as the Palin family's teen pregnancy. It may be the family's "choice" (although I'm doubting the daughter was given much of one), but that doesn't mean that teen pregnancy, and the spread of STDs among uneducated teens, isn't still a big problem. Yet we're not allowed to ask about what a horrible failure her support for abstinence only sex education has been in her own family. Then there is Todd Palin's willfully thumbing his nose at the lawful subpeona in his own state, at the behest of the McCain campaign. How valid can your "outsider" status and claims of liberal "elitism" be when you declare yourself above the law of your own state? Isn't that a little elitist in itself?
Every day that passes, the more questions such as this present themselves, and the more they are glossed over in the mainstream media.
It's truly a scary, scary time to be alive.

Jeremy said...

Wow March. I agree that, in many instances, I'd be hard pressed from straight rhetoric, and even in looking at some voting records, to differentiate between Dems and Reps. In many cases they are two sides of the same coing that's spinngin out of control on a dest top, just waiting to crash.
I guess it comes down to where your bets lie when it comes us heads or tails.
While the rhetoric of change may be the same, the plans for going about such change are very different. Obama wasn't my first choice of a candidate either (I was an Edwards man and then caucussed for Hillary when Edwards dropped out). If I had my druthers, and could vote for the candidate who is actually most thoughtful and lines up with me on most issues, I'd have to vote for Ralph Nader again. But with things as close as they are, I just don't think I can do that in clear conscience. I argued back in 2000 that no vote was a wasted vote, that my vote for Nader could at least send a message to the Democrats as a wake up call. I still don't believe any vote is a wasted vote. We all deserve a voice. But there is just way to much at stake to blow it off as "two sides of the same coin", because while that may be true, we still have to bet on heads or tails.

Jeremy said...

Also, re: March. I just can't agree with the comment that the President is just a figurehead. Under the Bush administration the executive powers, especially those that can be used against the citizens of the United States, have expanded dramatically.
How can anyone look at the Patriot Act, unwarranted wire taps, an unsanctioned unilateral invasion of a foreign power (that was in no way connected to the terrorist who attacked us on 9/11) without Congressional approval, etc., and say that the President doesn't have any real power?

March said...

Votar (and Chez),

Quite noted. I suppose how I should have phrased what I said was in a way of "what I'd like to see" rather than the way I projected it to be "this is how it is." Votar pointed out the warrantless wiretaps, which I am strongly against, the main reason being the slippery slope that begets it. Bush has indeed overstepped his boundaries, and I don't think it was right to give a bad leader so much power, which is what I think is the main failure of this presidency, checks and balances failed when congress should have said to themselves "err, should we give the president all this power?" and in hindsight, the obvious answer is no. Sadly, this is a footnote.

You are right votar, the next president will inherit this power, and I didn't think of that, thanks for the thought.

My point about little difference between the next president was better explained (on a different scale) by what Burke hit on, the "They laugh and point fingers while IGNORING the fact that the ONLY reason the Congress has been so hamstrung is due to the slim majority the Dems hold, coupled with the constantly threatened veto power of a "with us or against us" President.

This is what I was getting at for unity. Definitely, the republicans are being whiney little bitches, sitting on their hands and foiling some good bills. Now, who's to say Democrats won't return the favor if McCain does get elected? Clearly, Rep's are stubborn enough to pull it on Obama, who's to stop Dem's from doing it to McCain? The health of Congress as a body in which to exist as a body of the government would be dramatically undermined if this nation is divided 50/50 with both sides too fucking stubborn to compromise or listen to reason.

That is what I'm worried about. We have a lame duck president, and a
"do-nothing" congress, left with a Supreme Court that maybe the only truly uncorrupted body in the government, and they can't make and pass laws.

The U.S. is so divided, so stubborn, so unwilling to proactively treat anything, it's not till we need to reactively fix something that we come together on it, and sadly, the last 2 examples of the US coming together as a majority are the financial crisis happening now and 9/11.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised McCain's mental state hasn't been brought up more. Does anyone remember the bit about delivering hot bottled water to dehydrated babies? Its only a tiny fraction of the speech so its kind of pedantic to harp on it but its just so strange and makes no sense at all. Take into account his frequent moments of forgetfulness and I'm thinking he's starting to show early signs of Alzheimer's.

Andrew Smash said...

My respect for McCain started to erode the minute he started sucking up to the evangelicals, after saying they were leading to the destruction of the Republican party. He just wants to be President soooo's a little sickening. With Palin by his side, it's like we are watching Tracy Flick's grandpa and mom, like there is some genetic inheritance that leads to a mental state that says "I need to get what I want, and anyone who points out why I shouldn't is evil, regardless of how right they are." Cause, let's face it, McCain is getting too unfocused to be running the big show and Palin is way too unqualified to take over if he slips and falls (either literally or figuratively.)

Anonymous said...

Felis femina, this is anon 10:31 and 7:28:

I own the sarcasm, but not the anger. Actually, I'm full of love. For Votar and his mind.

You don't need to worry that I can't see the truth in front of me. We all see the same sky. But some of us see it as blue, and some see it as aqua, and some see no color at all. You tell me which one is right. Who's telling the truth?

Anonymous said...

No worries, Spain is not a threat because Palin can't see Spain from her house.

slouchmonkey said...

"I once watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight edged razor..."