You certainly can't take away from the man the very real sacrifices he made and the service he gave to the country. He deserves to be honored for that. But that's not the whole story of John McCain.
To start with, as a candidate in 2008, as opposed to a war hero from the 1970s, his campaign has run out of ideas. On issues, they are playing the same stale Republican playbook that got our economy in such a sorry state, gave us an energy crisis and has actually compromised our security by entering the wrong war, in Iraq, while ignoring the real threats from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. McCain is simply wrong on all those issues. And on the policies where he once was right, such as environmentalism, independence from the religious right, etc., he's flip flopped in order to secure the nomination and win the support of the same social conservatives who vilified him in the past. He's lost his moorings.
Worse, his recent unfair attacks on Barack Obama highlight that his time is past and makes him look exactly like a crotchety old man.
Indeed, his temperment has always been a concern among even Republicans. He has a less than presidential demeanor, a biting and sarcastic sense of humor, and a sharp temper. He's verbally abused members of his own party, fellow senators and even his own wife in public. Here's what a conservative publication said about him.
1) Defending His Amnesty Bill, Sen. McCain Lost His Temper And “Screamed, ‘F*ck You!’ At Texas Sen. John Cornyn” (R-TX). “Presidential hopeful John McCain - who has been dogged for years by questions about his volcanic temper - erupted in an angry, profanity-laced tirade at a fellow Republican senator, sources told The Post yesterday. In a heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul, McCain screamed, ‘F— you!’ at Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who had been raising concerns about the legislation. ‘This is chickens—stuff,’ McCain snapped at Cornyn, according to several people in the room off the Senate floor Thursday. ‘You’ve always been against this bill, and you’re just trying to derail it.’” (Charles Hurt, “Raising McCain,” New York Post, 5/19/07)There are nine more examples of McCain's egregious temper, including an attack ad he once ran against George Bush, comparing him to Bill Clinton. The Washington Post, back in 1999, wrote about McCain's short fuse too.
And his Straight Talk Express, which vowed to take the high road and make this campaign about issues came to a screeching halt early when he and his advisers discovered that Obama would be a formidable and attractive candidate. In fact, all that's left for McCain is the same old GOP playbook of politics of personal destruction, the most recent example of which is a mean spirited ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
The problem is Obama is a fast learner who's not about to let himself be Swiftboated without a fight. Obama didn't throw the first punch but he won't duck or cower while Republicans try to pummel his reputation. I'm proud to say that Democrats learned how to fight them back as this new commercial shows.
It's important to remember that while Americans dislike negative campaigns, they also are unforgiving of those who let themselves be bullied into silence. The Swiftboat ad cost John Kerry the election, not because people believed the lies, but because it disturbed them that Kerry wouldn't respond to the attacks. They reasoned that any man who wouldn't even defend his honor could not be trusted to defend the country.
In fact, even I wondered about that. And I worked and voted for Kerry.
I'm proud to say that Barack Obama and his team aren't making that mistake. I honestly believe they wanted to keep the campaign on the high road and focused on the issues that are important to the public. But they are not going to take attacks lying down. And given how much money Obama has raised, he can afford to dispute every false charge, and fight every lie that McCain and company throw at him.
They might want to reconsider taking that high road and discussing real issues that concern real people rather than playing dirty politics as usual.