I was skeptical of this whole temperament meme at first, but I've come around. It's not that I didn't believe the stories of McCain's apparently legendary temper, it's that I didn't think it would be an effective angle to play. I didn't think McCain and his campaign were undisciplined enough to allow his anger to be revealed to the public at large.
That ship seems to have sailed. John McCain hasn't blown up (and he's unlikely to), but his demeanor has, for weeks now, regularly betrayed something ugly bubbling up beneath the surface. It's been especially clear when viewed in contrast to Barack Obama whose characteristic coolness, once considered a liability, is being seen more and more as a reassuring calm in a storm.
And John McCain doesn't like it one bit.
Neither, it seems, does Cindy McCain. In fact, she's kind of pissed. A lot has been made of her speech yesterday about Barack Obama apparently voting to kill her son (I think that's what she said anyway), but getting somewhat less attention is her assertion from a couple days ago that Barack Obama has run "the dirtiest campaign in American history."
Lucky for her, Cindy wasn't asked the obvious follow-up about why it's not only dirtier to call somebody old and cranky (the most negative implication put out by the Obama campaign) than it is to call them Hussein and say they pal around with terrorists, but it's also worse than going to South Carolina and telling people her adoptive daughter is really her husband's black love child. Lucky for Cindy, she wasn't asked why she's more offended by an arguably true characterization of her husband (the candidate) than she is a plainly false attack involving her daughter, an attack whose sole purpose was to stoke racial antipathy.
I mean, putting aside the obvious hyperbole that Obama is somehow meaner than any candidate in the 232 year history of the United States, I'd say Cindy McCain is pretty lucky that no follow-up came. Not knowing her personally, I tend to think that even she would find it difficult to argue that Obama's was the dirtiest campaign in the history of her husband running for president, let alone the history of the United States.
Alas, no follow-up came. Women, the McCain campaign believes, are owed a certain deference, and part of that means the media should not be able to show the slightest skepticism with even the most overtly stupid shit they say. Also deserving of deference: senior citizens.
Still, this obviously bone-headed comment got me wondering. What if she does believe it? Does that mean she believes she and her husband are the victims of the two ugliest campaigns in American history? I know it's hard to think rationally when you're in the middle of something, but what kind of narcissism does that sort of thinking require?
It's not that they're angry. A lot of people are angry. People are losing their homes and their nest eggs. They're scared. They're cynical. And they're angry. So it makes sense, if you're going to run a populist campaign (as McCain is trying to do), that you show a little anger now and again. It can be very effective. What's weird is that the McCains don't seem angry for the same reason everybody else is angry. They're not angry at the same people.
While the American people find themselves in a period of crisis, John and Cindy McCain also find themselves facing crisis. The problem is that it's not the same crisis. Oh, there are similarities. Like John and Cindy McCain, the American people have been working and planning for decades for a reward that seems more out of reach today than it was ten years ago, but unlike the McCains, the American people do not have tens of millions of dollars and seven or eight homes to break their fall when the bottom fell out of their dreams. And unlike the American people, John and Cindy McCain know exactly who's to blame for their gosh darn problems: Barack Hussein Obama.
Why is Barack Obama dirtier than George W. Bush (don't say it's because he's black)? It seems clear that the answer lies less with Obama than with John McCain. Simply put: He's old. Eight years ago, he was 64! Four years from now, he's going to be 76.
Make no mistake about it, John McCain has wanted to be president for decades, and today, it seems just as apparent that Cindy McCain has wanted to be first lady for at least that long. They are less than a month away from the realization that it's never going to happen. I almost feel sorry for them. Cynical or not, they are people too. And they're crushed.
What's striking to me, and it sort of mirrors the Democratic primaries, is that they're so politically daft that they can't even create the illusion that the pain they feel has anything to do with you or me. Much like the Clintons, the McCains pain is their own, and rather than using this as an opportunity to display their capacity for empathy to the American people, they're coming to us, asking for ours. Fuck'em.