Posts Tagged ‘Jacob Weisberg’

What the Hell Happened to John McCain?

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Two years after his historic loss to Barack Obama, it is worth asking: “What the hell happened to John McCain?” 

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McCain was one of my favorite Republicans back in the day (it’s a very short list), but in the past two years (and especially in the past one year), he has become unrecognizable.

The process started with the 2008 campaign, when he started kissing the asses of Jerry Falwell and the Christian Right after he had called them “agents of intolerance” in the 2000 Republican nomination campaign against George W. Bush. It continued as he embraced the Bush tax cuts in 2008 after campaigning in 2000 on a program that wasn’t much different than Al Gore’s “lockbox” and then voting against the tax cuts in the Senate in 2001.

But even through the 2008 election, he stuck to his guns on issues that he had bucked his party on, including Cap and Trade, Immigration Reform, the Border Fence, Campaign Finance, the DREAM Act and at least keeping an open mind on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. On each one of those core issues, he has since reversed his position or stopped actively advocating for the policy.

Inevitably, these 180 degree reversals have invited parodies and armchair psychological theories on what is going on with this guy. Most of those analyses start with the fact that, as Richard Wolfe noted on Hardball, losing a presidential election “messes with your head.” Jacob Weisburg laid the situation out well (although quite melodramatically) during the 2010 primaries in an article which posited that a badly run campaign and the choice of Sarah Palin weighed heavily on McCain’s conscience. After McCain ended the year bitterly leading the charge against the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal, the DREAM Act and the START Treaty in the Lame Duck Session of the Senate, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein hammered McCain, writing: 

His public fall has been spectacular, a consequence of politics…and personal pique. He’s a bitter man now, who can barely tolerate the fact that he lost to Barack Obama. But he lost for an obvious reason: his campaign proved him to be puerile and feckless, a politician who panicked when the heat was on during the financial collapse, a trigger-happy gambler who chose an incompetent for his vice president. He has made quite a show ever since of demonstrating his petulance and lack of grace.

Jon Stewart’s piece (posted above) on how John McCain’s continual moving of the goalposts on on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will forever put him on the wrong side of history is particularly devastating. Stewart (another former admirer of McCain) started this year lampooning McCain as a cranky old man who had become, “less as a paragon of straight talk independence… and more of an object lesson in just how f-ing mad people get when they don’t get their way.”

Of course, I can’t resist adding my own theory to all of this psychobabble:

It’s been a rough few years for McCain. His frustration that America chose the inexperienced Barack Obama over him was painfully visible throughout the campaign (think of the debate where he referred to Obama as “That One“). To top it off, McCain lost ugly, picking the inexperienced Sarah Palin after his advisers told him that, if he picked Lieberman, he would lose the election by fracturing the Republican base (not to mention creating the cranky old man/whiney old man ticket). Then, soon after this gut wrenching defeat, he faced a primary where he felt the only way to keep his job was to run as far to the right as possible, effectively going back on many of the things he had stood for throughout his career.

While this 180 degree change might have been easy for a politician like Mitt Romney, McCain has always had a strong sense of honor. My PhD in armchair psychoanalysis leads me to believe that the only way that McCain could cope with this was to internalize this new set of values and (as he has done so many other times in his life) embrace the new identity wholeheartedly. Add to this the anger at losing to Obama and McCain’s consistent tendency to rebel against any authority and you have a perfect storm to make the transition from Maverick to dogmatic cultural conservative.

Tragically, McCain’s transformation comes at a terrible time for the country. In this time of crisis, more than ever, we need rational centrists that can look past the narrow political interests of party and work together to find common sense solutions to our problems.

Put more succinctly, we need Mavericks.

Does anyone know where we can find one?

A Grand Unified Theory of Palinisms

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Laugh Out Loud!

Jacob Weisberg on why Sarah Palin says all those stupid and ridiculous things.

Spoiler Alert: I now know what I’m going to get my conservative uncle for Christmas.