January 5, 2008


McCain: The solo pilot is on another mission of redemption, flying closer to alone (CALVIN WOODWARD, Jan. 4, 2008, The Associated Press)

John McCain has stocked his arsenal with a variety of weapons over the years, like fists when he was in school and bombs when he was at war. But his WMD is a mouth that won't quit. He possesses wisecracks of mass destruction.

Who else would refer to the Arizona retirement community of Leisure World as "Seizure World," as he did in his first Senate campaign? Just for fun, out loud? He couldn't help himself. (He won anyway.)

Consider McCain's life as a series of impolitic one-liners, each one illuminating complex threads of the past.

He's had a line for everything and everyone -- those he tormented at the Naval Academy as a n'er-do-well midshipman, those who tortured him in Vietnam, his legion of friends and foes in the capital, the "little jerks" he ribbed in a campaign crowd, an "idiot" reporter, his own ego and, these days, his advancing age -- 70.

McCain, "the Punk" in high school, has plenty of targets and none more tempting than himself.

It's a quality that sets him apart in the carefully staged presidential race, a replay of sorts of his Navy academy daze. Then as now, McCain verged on flunking out but pulled himself together in the nick of time. He's gone from chump to hero before, and he's trying again.

It's nearly dispositive how often the candidate who's having the most fun wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 5, 2008 10:18 AM

True enough - and if the winner enjoys the job, he is usually re-elected and history will treat him well. Why should that be a surprise? As in most things, Reagan showed the way in 1980, showing a playful side on the campaign plane, and then making the job 'fun' so that he could do it well.

After his first year, Carter looked like he had hemorrhoids. And he tried sharing them with the country. Nixon had his moments, but his way of enjoying the job destroyed him. Same for LBJ. Kennedy was too personally risky, like Clinton. Whatever enjoyment they had was always a confession (or photograph) away from implosion.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 5, 2008 11:45 AM