As inspiring as a bar of cream cheese, as interesting as a broken clock, John McCain at any age would prove to be bad presidential candidate. At age 72, he is making his own case that he should have been put out to pasture years ago. Even if you don’t believe McCain is too old to serve, there is a growing perception that he is and it is this that may very well doom his candidacy.
A president, he will not be. This is largely beyond his control and has nothing to do with his long life devoted to serving the United States. He suffered and almost died fighting for America – something I readily admit I have no idea whether I would have been able to muster the guts to match – and he has spent the last quarter century in the halls of power fighting to make America safe and strong.
He is a vanishing breed in Washington – an honorable man. Certainly more honorable than his opponent whose shamelessly wild swings toward the center done in order to obscure his wretched judgment on the importance and vital necessity of being able to leave Iraq with some sense of American honor proves Obama’s overweening ambition and shocking lack of principle will not matter in November.
Perhaps because his supporters are too busy gloating they can’t see how their candidate has delivered a body blow to their entire critique of the Iraq War and in the process moved much closer to John McCain’s position than any of them thought might have been possible even a couple of months ago.
Both McCain and Obama say they want “victory” in Iraq and that it is not only achievable but necessary. Both say that Iraq is a front in the War on Terror (McCain agrees with al-Qaeda that Iraq is the “central front” in the War on Terror while Obama says it is an “important” front). Both say the surge has worked although for different reasons (Obama’s reasoning is more solid on this point).
Anyone care to revisit how our lefty friends see the war in Iraq? That it is “unwinnable?” That it is not a front in the War on Terror (a war they believe is made up by Bush in order to have an excuse to grab dictatorial powers)? That the surge didn’t work? Either their judgment is superior to Obama’s or they are wrong and Obama is right. Which is it?
Maybe liberals can make all that disappear down the memory hole but I’m doubting it. Their own candidate has now abandoned them, hung them out to dry. And after he is elected and finds his timetable idea a chimera, then perhaps we can get serious about removing our troops properly and in good order. McCain’s idea of semi-permanent bases will be abandoned but that may be a good thing. In the end, our relationship with the Iraqis is just too complex and leaving a sizable force there for decades will probably cause unnecessary friction. Any residual force, however, will probably be there at least 3 years and perhaps beyond that so get used to it my liberal friends.
None of this will prevent Barack Obama from becoming president. As much as it pains me to contemplate the idea of this fakir sitting in the oval office, it might be even more damaging if John McCain were to somehow manage to pull the upset of the ages and win through to victory.
That’s because I believe McCain is too old to be president. Not in years – 72 is not too old for some. For him, it is. Time has passed him by. Even when not making gaff after gaff he seems unsteady and confused at times. And even If you accept the explanation that McCain speaks off the cuff a lot and one’s tongue is bound to get tied up at times and anyone’s brain can experience a hiccup now and again, his fitness for office – fairly or unfairly – will be a major issue in the campaign.
Frankly, I don’t see how he can defuse it.
The contrast alone with Obama’s relative youth will make anything McCain tries a tough sell. The last time the age issue cropped up was 1984 and Ronald Reagan’s devastating one liner that took age off the table in the campaign permanently. But the Gipper’s opponent was Walter Mondale, no spring chicken himself. McCain is fighting the growing perception of being too old while trying to minimize or dismiss the stark contrast between his own advancing years and Obama’s seeming youthfulness.
Of course, the late night comics are having a field day with McCain’s gaffe prone campaign, portraying the candidate as a confused old man and who can blame them? They have plenty of fodder to feast on. Admittedly, the real impact that Leno et al have on voters may be slight. But the constant belittling and denigration of McCain abilities due to his age are not helping to dispel the notion that McCain couldn’t handle the job of president.
In this respect, the slightest doubt among voters about whether he is up to the job might be enough to sink his candidacy. That’s because, as Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei of Politico point out, almost everyone knows an oldster who is slipping away mentally:
The McCain campaign says Obama has had plenty of flubs of his own, including a reference to “57 states” and a string of misstated place names during the primaries that Republicans gleefully sent around as YouTube links.
McCain aides point out that he spends much more time than Obama talking extemporaneously, taking questions from voters and reporters. “Being human and tripping over your tongue occasionally doesn’t mean a thing,” a top McCain official said.
But McCain’s mistakes raise a serious, if uncomfortable question: Are the gaffes the result of his age? And what could that mean in the Oval Office?
Voters, thinking about their own relatives, can be expected to scrutinize McCain’s debate performances for signs of slippage.
Every voter has a parent, grandparent or a friend whose mental acuity declined as they grew older. It happens at different times for different people — and there is ample evidence many people in their 70s are as sharp and fit as ever.
To McCain supporters who point out quite rightly that Obama is a gaffe machine himself, I would answer that the context is different. Obama gaffes cannot be construed as evidence of failing mental faculties. In other words, it’s not the gaffe itself that is the issue. Obama’s verbal faux pas reveal ignorance and inexperience – troubling for voters but not a deal breaker.
McCain’s flubs raise questions of mental fitness. And with every voter aware of the little red button that, when pushed, launches the missiles, they are bound to be much more concerned about a candidate who exhibits similar symptoms to people in their own lives who they have watched as age has taken them away via dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
McCain’s performance on stage can be quite good at times. At other times, he reminds me of the way my mother was just before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I am not saying McCain has Alzheimer’s. His doctors have given him a clean bill of health just recently when the candidate released his medical records – with a noticeable lack of psychiatric information. McCain was trying to defuse his other health issue – a reoccurring melanoma that the doctors say shouldn’t pose a problem for him.
But diagnosing the diseases of age can be problematic. Ronald Reagan did not have Alzheimer’s his last years in office but sometimes behaved in a similar fashion to McCain. Of course, it was less than six years after he left office that he informed the nation he was suffering from the disease that would eventually claim his life.
McCain could very well make it through 4 or even 8 years of office and not get any worse. Will voters want to take that chance? I think it’s a good bet they won’t. The Obama campaign won’t even have to raise the issue because the press will do it for them. And the judgment of voters about McCain’s abilities, despite the many negatives of Obama and the real gamble people might believe his presidency would be, nevertheless seems certain to derail John McCain’s ambition to be president.