Surprised by McCain

If you ever needed proof as to how cluelessly devoted to their narratives political reporters were, look no further than the “shock” their reeling in since John McCain’s transparently petty attack ads came out. I think every newspaper ad periodical has had at least one column in the “what happened to the honorable John? He didn’t used to be like this” template. But the truth of the matter is…YES HE DID! And the media knows he’s always been this way, they’ve written stories about it.

The first prominent example is the way McCain responded to the “illegitimate black baby” lies during the South Carolina primary. Now, it’s understandable that such actions would make one viscerally angry, if for no other reason than bringing your kids into a campaign, but rather than take some high road, “shame on you” approach and garnering sympathy for himself and/or outrage at the Bush campaign’s tactics, McCain’s temper took over. McCain accused Bush, in an ad, of “lying like Clinton” which, in context, came off as shrill, bitter, and childish. And of course, his short temper is legendary, and it’s flaring around Chuck Grassley, Jon Cornyn, and his wife are all widely known stories that have been repeated often. How a Washington journalist could profess to not know that McCain was hot headed, self righteous, and quick t lash out against anyone who might think they know better than John McCain is literally unbelievable. Do they read their own stories?

Maybe even more ridiculous is the fact that we know McCain has harbored this general disdain for Barack Obama since at least 2006. The general premise of it is clear, as hilzoy wonderfully lays out; John McCain is extremely self righteous, dare I say presumptuous, and nothing pisses him off more than someone daring to think John McCain doesn’t know best about everything, nevermind that he doesn’t really know anything. “Duty to country” and “honor” have been stand ins for McCain’s own ambition and, yes, arrogance for so long and so solidly reinforced by the people around him that it’s actually become molecular to McCain. So opposing McCain is something akin to treason, or at the very least stepping out, and anyone who dares to do it will incur the full wrath of John McCain.

Obama should play on this heavily, and subtley tweak McCain at every opportunity. Self-righteousness on the level that John McCain possesses can only take so much, and sooner or later that temper is going to come out full force. If Obama can get McCain to flip his lid in a debate, that’ll be the ballgame.