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...)