Friday, May 30, 2008

McCain “smitten with the celebrity of power”

As I remarked in a couple of posts last week, I often find attempts to limn Republican presidential wannabe John McCain’s motivations to be overly complex. Most notably was Matt Bai’s NYT Magazine piece that tried to somehow link McCain’s experience as a POW with his ridiculous embrace of Bush’s war in Iraq. My response was that there really is no complex worldview when it comes to McSame, no nuanced position on the use of American military might, and certainly no sense of honor bound duty to his fellow fighters.

Rather, McCain’s “positions”—if you can dignify his empty posturing as such—are the result of political expedience. John McCain, though touted as a maverick, just put his “Straight Talk Express” on what he thought was the straightest road to the White House—if he wanted the Republican nomination, he had to go along not just to get along, but to get the financing he needed, too. What motivates this third generation Navy man to embrace a “strategy” that continues to send his brothers and sisters to their needless deaths? Naked ambition, pure and simple.

Many who have crossed paths with McCain in the last few decades have observed as much, though some try to put in nicer terms. Now, writing in the New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick has given us more evidence of McCain’s lust for power. . . not to mention his penchant for hypocrisy.

Mr. McCain has often said he decided to run for office because he felt his war injuries would make attaining the same rank as his father and grandfather “impossible.” But Mr. Lehman, now an adviser to the McCain campaign, and two other top Navy officers familiar with Mr. McCain’s file insist that was not the case.

Instead, many who knew him say, Mr. McCain seemed bored by Navy life. “Sitting down with Anwar Sadat or Deng Xiaoping and being treated as an equal — that is pretty heady stuff,” said Rhett Dawson, a former aide to Mr. Tower who is now president of an electronics trade group. “It had opened his eyes to a much broader world.”

Mr. McCain was captivated, recalled Jeffrey Record, then an aide to former Senator Sam Nunn, the hawkish Georgia Democrat. “He thrives on competition, and he thrives on political combat,” Mr. Record said. “He saw the glamour of it. I think he really got smitten with the celebrity of power.”

Considering that former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who is now making the rounds promoting his book, attributes much of what went wrong during the Bush Administration to what’s been called the “permanent campaign”—using the authority of the office for partisan gain—and the president himself becoming overly impressed with his own power, does America really want another chief executive that thrives on political combat? And can we survive another four years of a man so taken with the idea of power for power’s sake?

I think the whole world—from the sultans to the serfs, from the admirals to the GIs, from the celebrities to the wannabes—knows the answer. Well, the whole world minus one, I guess.

(cross-posted on capitoilette and The Seminal)

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