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October 13, 2008

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I think maybe McCain was joking?

McCain also said he was going to kick Obama's "You know what" (but I'm sure he said it in a dignified and respectful way).

I'm gald the Republicans chose McCain and he chose Palin. I'm hoping it makes the GOP toxic for 20 or more years (they deserve it for all the "emboldening the enemy" [email protected] they spouted after the invasion of Iraq.

"Does John McCain actually expect anyone to believe..."

Um, Hilzoy, that's obviously intended to be humor.

McCain is famous for that kind of thing: "It's always darkest before it's totally black," and so on. (The reference to Mao is a joke, as well. This has been written about in countless profiles of McCain.)

strange. that kind of rhetoric doesn't inspire confidence at all, i think. more of incredulity.

there's really no upside, i think, to a statement like that.

@gary farber:

hmmm. humor. true, that's possible.

still, that would be rather dark, almost gallows humor.

Gary et al: I saw him say that, and if it was meant to be humor, there was absolutely no sign of it at all. (Not even the specially deadpan delivery one normally uses for, um, deadpan jokes.)

McCain also said he was going to kick Obama's "You know what" (but I'm sure he said it in a dignified and respectful way).

I think he actually said "whip" and not "kick." Which, all things considered, was an unfortunate choice of words (not that he was intentionally pushing the race angle on that one).

The hopeful future President Dys Fuctional and his trusty sidekick Polidiot Savant.

McCain's right, just like the Cubs have the Dodgers "just where we want 'em."

Just waiting for the dragon to expose its soft underbelly, perhaps?

Had he won in 2000, McCain might have been one of the greats. Certainly it's hard to imagine anyone of responding in a worse way to 9/11 and all the other tribulations of the past eight years than the current guy. While many of us here would certainly have disagreed strongly with many of the decisions he would have made, they at least would not have been indisputably moronic. He would certainly have invaded Iraq for example, but might have done so more competently from the outset, at least giving the neocon theory a fair chance to prove itself or flop (to be fair to them, they can legitimately say that the execution was so poor that their 'genius' schemes never got a fair shot).

He also would have one fairly honourably, thus perhaps saving the Republican Party from itself.

Sadly, he's clearly past it now, especially in current circumstances. Hate to be agist and all, but it is a fact, as Rentboy beautifully f**king illustrated it, that we all git oold an cannae hackit nae more. And he's now contributing to the Republican party's moral and intellectual degeneration rather than fighting an uphill battle against it. Quite a shame.

Can we start using the Pollster averages? RCP has been cherrypicking their numbers without any scientific method to back them.

If you want to use a weighted average (or projection), I recommend FiveThirtyEight.com.

Had he won in 2000, McCain might have been one of the greats.

Maybe, but I don't see this. There is nothing in his record to demonstrate that he's really good at...well, anything. He's not particularly bright, he's not an especially hard worker, and he's demonstrated no ability to find or develop good subordinates. He's not particularly honest and his instincts are problematic at best. That may not have been obvious in 2000 (I think it was), but it seems pretty clear that these problems did not develop recently.

Certainly it's hard to imagine anyone of responding in a worse way to 9/11 and all the other tribulations of the past eight years than the current guy.

I have no trouble imagining it. I just picture a President McCain deciding that we're not going to waste time invading countries, we'll just start bombing them until they do what we want. And so the US military begins terror bombing cities in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and who knows where else. Since bombing cities is a lot less effective at making people do what you want than most bombing advocates think, the various countries wouldn't knuckle under, forcing McCain to up the ante. How do you think he'd do that? I'm guessing he'd order Baghdad nuked.

More realistically, I don't see any way in which a more competent administration could have invaded Iraq successfully. Yes, Bush screwed up in many ways, but the whole project has massive implicit challenges no matter how smart you are, and I don't think any US government to date has been smart enough.

I have to agree with Turbulence on that one. McCain is famous for *being famous* and when he's not been famous for that he faked up being famous for being a chastened reformer. Well, a look at his entire life since he learned to be a reformer indicates that that was a total head fake, like his campaign itself. In reality, he's a militarist who likes military solutions, with a touchy personality, who has comfortably surrounded himself with the paid lobbyists of every single corporation or country that could conceivably have wanted his corrupt help at getting some money from the american taxpayers. If he'd been elected in 2000 and 9/11 had happened he would have gone straight into Iraq without even rolling out the WMD lies. He wouldn't have seen the need.

The only thing he might have done differently from Bush is to take the Bin Laden warnings seriously, but even that is mere speculation. And if he had taken them seriously, you can bet your bottom dollar he would have chosen the wrong course in dealing with Bin laden in advance of 9/11 because every day since 2000 has shown that he has very, very, very poor judgement.

aimai

Had he won in 2000, McCain might have been one of the greats.

I will go so far as to say that, of the serious Republican contenders in the last 20 years, I would have found the John McCain of 2000 among the least objectionable.

My problem with going any further than that starts right here:

He would certainly have invaded Iraq for example

Once again, with feeling:

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda, the folks that actually attacked us.

Iraq is a strategic piece in the middle east puzzle. Hussein was a thug and a bastard.

The first is absolutely not a sufficient reason for invading another country.

The second is an arguable case for invasion, but in the actual context of the time is kind of insane.

The reason I belabor these weary points once again is this:

at least giving the neocon theory a fair chance to prove itself or flop

The problem with the neocon theory is not whether it was well executed or not. It is not whether it "works", in some pragmatic sense, or not.

The problem with the neocon theory is that is is predicated on the idea that the United States is justified in dominating, through military, political, and economic means, every other nation in the world, because (a) we're better than they are and (b) we can.

I'm not making this up, you can go read it for yourself in any of the 1,000,000 public writings of folks who, at the time, were more than happy to wear the "neocon" badge.

It's a screwed up, pernicious, evil theory. The fact that it was poorly executed has nothing whatsoever to do with any evaluation of its goodness. There is no goodness there to evaluate.

Thanks -

I am dubious that McCain would have invaded Iraq. What he would have done is probably executed better in Afghanistan. It is at least very possible that he would ahve ahd us back out of Afghanistan by now, and never in Iraq. Which, with hindsight, would have been a vast step forward.

I am dubious that McCain would have invaded Iraq.

He certainly seemed very excited to invade Iraq in 2001.

What he would have done is probably executed better in Afghanistan.

Why do you think that? Is the idea here that because you think McCain wouldn't have pushed for an Iraq invasion, he wouldn't have taken resources away from Afghanistan and would have been able to capture bin Ladin early on?

I am dubious that McCain would have invaded Iraq.

McCain was talking about attacking Iraq within a month of 9/11. He was doing it on national programs like Meet the Press. He continued for the next few years until the actual invasion.

He was far out in front of any other voice, at least publicly, in trying to shift the nation's focus from al-Qaeda to Saddam.

I am not as dubious.

"I am dubious that McCain would have invaded Iraq."

Why? He was cheerleading for it in public even before the Bush Administration.

Hmm, I was going to give some links, but Turbulence already got there, and should do.

Just to pile on the the McCain/Iraq question, in 2000 Bush was the one with the humble foreign policy, and McCain was the one getting his foreign policy ideas from the national greatness crowd of NeoCons from The Weekly Standard and Commentary. I suppose he could have had a completely opposite foreign policy in office to the one he campaigned on - after all, Dubya did - but it hardly seems the most likely situation.

Gary, you're slipping: McCain is a "dubious" character. WJ is merely doubtful.

--TP

He would certainly have invaded Iraq for example, but might have done so more competently from the outset, at least giving the neocon theory a fair chance to prove itself or flop.

There was nothing particularly wrong with the way the invasion was conducted; the problem was the following occupation. And in order to conduct that competently, another 150,000 or more troops were needed and they simply were not available. Of course, the neocon theory as I remember it being espoused at the time was that no occupation would be necessary.

"Gary et al: I saw him say that, and if it was meant to be humor, there was absolutely no sign of it at all."

I don't know what to say, Hilzoy, but here's the clip, and he's got a big grin on his face, and grins afterwards, and it couldn't be plainer to me that meant to be dark humor. I see every sign of that. I'm not sympathetic to McCain in the slightest, and I don't find it particularly funny, but it's perfectly obvious to me that he's attempting to be humorous about "we've got them just where we want them." Which is, as I said, perfectly in keeping with his much-commented-upon style of humor.

It doesn't look to me like dark humor at all. Of course it *is* dark humor, but, assuming McCain himself knows what the hell his intent is, I think the context says he was not kidding. The big phoney grin is a standard, 'dammit I'm losing but I can't show my pain!' campaign grin, not mirth.

To put in mildly, McCain is perfectly capable of being completely incoherent, and might be kidding and serious at the same time or for different audiences. But for the audience he's speaking to, I don't think he's kidding.

Watch out for the jet pilot's OODA loop. It goeth before a fall.

neocon theory as I remember it being espoused at the time was that no occupation would be necessary.
Yes, this theory was flawed, and its flaws have had consequences; but much more important than the flawed theory that no occupation was necessary was the flawed neocon theory that an invasion was necessary.

I suspect the difference between an invasion with an ideal occupation and no invasion at all is rather larger than the difference between an invasion with a lousy occupation and an invasion with an ideal occupation.

OK, I sort of see Gary's POV, but if McCain's kidding, it's a very weird kind of kidding. This is the kind of joke you make in your concession speech. It's also the kind of smile you normally do in a concession speech, except that McCain has done it throughout.

Actually, the truly fatal combination for the Bush administration was neocon ambition and Rumsfieldian obsession. The former wanted to transform the world, the latter wanted to transform the Pentagon and doled out troops and resources as miserly as possible in a futile effort to keep doing that. In the end, he didn't transform the Pentagon, and he forced the top brass to adopt war strategies they were not at all comfortable with.

I don't think McCain would have had that problem. If there's one thing we can say about the guy, he doesn't do things by half measures, not when it comes to hero-time.

In terms of greatness, I am not attaching a value judgment to that term. Circumstances determine greatness, not innate ability. FDR, Truman, etc. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer. I think McCain fits the profile well of being smart enough to be successful, but not too smart to flop. (Bush of course goes too far in the opposite direction - too dumb to ever possibly succeed).

That's my biggest worry about Obama - the precedents for very smart presidents are not good. Wilson, Clinton... kinda epic flops those guys really.

The former wanted to transform the world, the latter wanted to transform the Pentagon and doled out troops and resources as miserly as possible in a futile effort to keep doing that.

Shineski suggested that 500,000 soldiers would be enough. Experience in other occupations suggests that number is at least in the right ballpark. It represents a significantly larger force than the US Army could ever deploy in the last 15 years. So, if McCain had been President, where exactly do you think he would have gotten the extra soldiers from? Do you think he would have instituted a draft? Or do you think he would have raised incentives sufficiently high that recruitment would have risen? Or what?

If there's one thing we can say about the guy, he doesn't do things by half measures, not when it comes to hero-time.

I don't think that's true. McCain reacts impulsively, but that's not the same as "not doing things by half measures". The President cannot engage in acts of personal bravery, so I don't see how McCain's "hero-time" behavior is irrelevant.

With this post at the top of the page, is it just me or does the kitty look like it's lining up to take shots at the sinking Titanic?

There seems a kind of aptness to that, metaphorically speaking. Not that I mind.

Just to pile on the the McCain/Iraq question, in 2000 Bush was the one with the humble foreign policy, and McCain was the one getting his foreign policy ideas from the national greatness crowd of NeoCons from The Weekly Standard and Commentary.

This is really the heart of the matter.

During the 2000 primaries, McCain was the candidate of the neocons (then briefly rebranding themselves "national greatness conservatives" and practicing their TR impersonations). After McCain lost, they migrated over to Dubya.

The crowd who most profoundly shaped George W. Bush's foreign policy would have played the same role in a post-2000 McCain adminstration. And there's no reason to think it would have gone any better under McCain than under Cheney, er, Bush.

There's also an important lesson to be learned here about the neocons. They will try to attach themselves to whomever is in power. They convinced Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (not that Clinton needed much convincing). Marshall Wittman, one of the most prominent of the "national greatness conservatives" of 2000 already migrated over to the Democrats in 2004. Expect more neocons turning (or returning) to the Democratic Party over the next four-to-eight years.

Minor note: the reason I used RCP's polling average was just that I didn't want to get into arguments about whether they were unfairly biassed towards Obama. For myself, I prefer 538, or Pollster.

"OK, I sort of see Gary's POV, but if McCain's kidding, it's a very weird kind of kidding."

Yeah, but that's what he does. I'm not a fan, but it's what he does.

"Circumstances determine greatness, not innate ability."

Circumstances and the ability to respond. James Buchanan had trying circumstances, and failed miserably.

"Wilson, Clinton... kinda epic flops those guys really."

Wilson, setting aside his racism, was vastly too rigid and stubborn, and couldn't compromise at all. Clinton went the opposite route, following his first gubernatorial electoral defeat. I'm hopeful Obama will find a middle ground, but if he has a failing, it would seem more apt to go in the Clinton direction than the Wilson direction.

But let's hope we get a chance to see.

"Do you think he would have instituted a draft? Or do you think he would have raised incentives sufficiently high that recruitment would have risen? Or what?"

Clone warriors from Kamino!

(Because the robot technology isn't quite there yet.)

"The President cannot engage in acts of personal bravery, so I don't see how McCain's 'hero-time' behavior is irrelevant."

You're not saying this isn't realistic, surely?

Sphincterboy and his handlers are reptilian. These low-life vermin can never admit they are wrong or that they made a mistake.

I haven't watched the clip yet, but I've read the transcript (or the previously released text).

I think, at least from words on paper, that Gary's right. He recites a long list of bad news (for him); to follow that with "My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them" is basically a retread of an old joke.

If there's ambiguity in the video, I'll assume it's because -- as he demonstrated in the second debate -- McCain has absolutely no comic skills. I wouldn't be at all surprised if his tone and timing totally obscured the jokiness.

As a joke, it would be a good way to acknowledge that he's in dire straits, show that it hasn't got him down, and serve as a segue to his plans for how to fight back.

Losing an election is easy; *comedy* is difficult.

"OK, I sort of see Gary's POV, but if McCain's kidding, it's a very weird kind of kidding."

Yeah, but that's what he does. I'm not a fan, but it's what he does.

This is weird, though. I think he probably originally concieved the line as a bit of the legendary McCain Humor, but it came out at the completely wrong time. I think he's really befuddled. I can certainly see why Hilzoy took it they way she did. I mean, watch it again: do you think the crowd got the 'joke'? It really was like a pre-concession speech. Not what you do when you're trying to fire up your crowd.

You have to watch the clip, AndyK. McCain has actually been rather deft with humor in the past. This wasn't that.

I tend to have a pretty good wit, but when I'm depressed and panicked is not when I'm at my best. I have no trouble believing that this was an attempt at humor that fell flat.

That said, there really is nothing McCain can do to salvage his reputation, or this election for that matter. Nothing he's likely to do, anyway--I would probably regain quite a bit of respect for him if he called a press conference and acknowledged the vile direction of his campaign, admitted it got out of his control and that he really has no good answers about what to do with the economy, and suspended his campaign for real, essentially conceding the election to Obama.

He's going to lose no matter what he does, and everyone knows it. Even Redstate is starting to concede the shape of the electoral landscape and focus on damage control down-ticket. The only question remaining is whether he loses like a gentleman and a statesman, or cements his place as one of the worst presidential candidates in American history, at the head of one of the worst major-party presidential campaigns in American history.

It would be a dignified way to go out with some of his reputation intact. He'd never do it, though.

"That said, there really is nothing McCain can do to salvage his reputation,"

Announce he's withdrawing, that he's ashamed of how far he's gone in pursuit of ambition, and that everyone should vote for Obama?

Oh, wait, you pretty much go there in the next sentence.

I found this great cartoon on the Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 blog: dead on!

Semi-OT, but one of those things that pretty much makes me a democrat for life. On Redstate, Erik Erikson writes: The National Enquirer now suggests Barack Obama had an underage, gay affair with a pedophile. ... This post is not intended to spread that rumor.

affair? AFFAIR?!!! It's called "rape". And as for not spreading the rumor, the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Now, I'm a pretty calm person and I try to minimize my fantasies of violence. But OMFG! I want to call my Air Force friend (6' 2", 225 lbs., 0% body fat as best I can tell), have him call up a (absolutely HUGE) Marine he met in Afghanistan, go find this vile piece of human excrement and rip him limb from limb. To start with. Hanged, drawn and quartered is too quick. Give him the full Gitmo. Total isolation coupled no darkness for 3-5 years.

[ahem. excuse me. I feel better now.]

See Matt Welch's Myth of a Maverick or, for short, his video clip on McCain's underdog complex, now at H&R.

You know, I saw the video of this (via TPM) and wondered why McCain's words and intonation sounded so familiar, and then I remembered this (relevant part starts at 01:20, punchline at 01:55).

Clinton... kinda epic flops those guys really.

?!?!?!?!?

Even Redstate is starting to concede the shape of the electoral landscape and focus on damage control down-ticket.

Nah, they're just sharpening their knives.

Thanks -

You know, I saw the video of this (via TPM) and wondered why McCain's words and intonation sounded so familiar, and then I remembered this

Dang, that is uncanny! Who knew that McCain was such a fan of UHF?!

Jeff:

I'm glad someone can confirm that it's not just me! :)

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