Age and John McCain: Judgment
Friday, 05 September 2008
See also: Age and John McCain - Part 1and Age and John McCain - Part 2.
After the past two days, I intended something light and fun to take us into the weekend, but a number of commenters raised an important point that I have not directly addressed in this discussion of Senator McCain and age: judgment.
Assessing judgment is a tougher call than health, policy positions and factual mistakes because it is more subjective, bringing together in our minds all the speeches, interviews, reactions to events and overall demeanor we have seen in candidates.
So this post is entirely subjective and I’m curious about your own subjective responses to Senator McCain after 19 months of intense campaigning on which to base them.
Throughout the campaign, there has been a continuing undercurrent of mean-spiritedness from McCain that is worrisome. He is frequently testy when asked a question he doesn’t like. For years, the press gave the senator a pass, rarely questioning him closely about his positions and contradictions.
Recently the press, who you and I must rely on to report the facts and ask the hard questions for us, has stepped up their criticism of McCain whose response has been to issue blistering condemnations of the press, cancel a scheduled interview with Larry King, and there is that peculiarly snarly interview with Time magazine.
This goes along with the growing number of reports about McCain’s temper from people who have known and worked with him over the years – that he flies off the handle easily and viciously. Not the temperament I want in a president who must deal with a world more volatile than it may ever have been.
Senator McCain’s response to the tricky Russia/Georgia conflict was one of immediate bellicosity, and it was further disturbing to discover that one of his paid top campaign aides is, simultaneously, a paid lobbyist for Georgia leaving me wondering whose interests he supports in his campaign advisory position, that of Georgia or the U.S. That's not the kind of judgment I want to see perpetuated in Washington.
Finally, there is the choice of an unsuitable vice president who, among other questionable positions (banning library books is a big one for me) has zero experience in national and international politics. To defend Governor Palin’s lack of international experience, Senator McCain made this monumentally stupid statement on ABC News a couple of days ago:
GIBSON: But as you know, the questions revolve really around foreign policy experience. Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn't traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?
MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America's national security requirements are energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands. Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.
Oh, please. How can anyone in the U.S. want a president who asks us to believe that line of thinking or who believes it himself.
There is no way to know if Senator McCain’s general belligerence, vindictiveness and, in my opinion, pandering choice of a running mate totally unprepared to be president should there be the need, is age-related. But combined with his age and the ongoing, overwhelming number of factual mistakes and/or memory lapses, I don’t believe his judgment can be trusted – even if I supported his policies.
What about you?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Elizabeth Westmark watches with compassion the decline of A Signature Woman.]
I'm afraid on Palin, there are indeed people who think that because Russia is next door to Alaska, that gives her foreign policy experience. One such popped up on UK TV last night - a delegate to the Republican convention. I guess that makes me an expert too - after all I live next door to France - I've even been there.
Posted by: ian | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 04:27 AM
A fellow POW mate of Mr. McCain’s, who resided across the hall from Mr. McCain, stated in this video (http://tinyurl.com/692v68) “he’d go off like a Roman candle at any possible time”. This speaks of someone with a volatile nature, and not someone capable of making sound decisions through measured and rational thinking.
I’ve never heard Mr. McCain speak before this morning and after watching his convention speech, I must say I was left with the impression that he came across as an old man whose life force is diminished. He might be doing better than many other 72-year-olds, but as a presidential candidate, I don't think he possess near the amount of vitality needed to woo the people solely through passion, and he is not knowledgeable enough woo them with his political insight.
Posted by: lilalia | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 04:33 AM
I've said this before.
A professed staunch Conservative told me long ago that McCain is an idiot and that the party didn't want him. What bothers me is that even they've lined up behind him after he won a couple primaries despite that they KNOW what he is. Yesterday, I heard two ministers who I respect discussing Sara Pallin and both used the word 'hypocrite'. I think they are right on target.
The day I put a political party line before my beliefs, I hope someone has the kindness to shoot me because I will have lost my senses completely.
Posted by: Kay Dennison | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 04:40 AM
There's a reason for his nickname; 'McSame'. And it's all about intellect. Thus, his answers regarding Palin's experience.
Before losing your mind, it is important to have had one. Or, no one will know...
Posted by: Steven | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 04:41 AM
I am hearing some rather disturbing information about McCain's connection to the Georgia region. They involve commercial interests in an oil pipeline and McCain's possible financial involvement. I intend to research this in coming days and will report on my blog.
Posted by: Gary White | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 05:01 AM
I thought I read somewhere about the medications Senator McCain takes regularly. I can't remember them now, but I do wonder about their affect on his memory and his energy level. As we age, often we take medications that can affect our thought processes. The odds that the vice president will take over for Senator McCain if he is elected are high - that scares me because he has picked a running mate out of a movie script.
Posted by: Nan | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 05:19 AM
I agree with everything you said and it scares me. I don't think it's just his age but his age might've made him worse. He was always this way and he is unsuited for being president as is his chosen running mate.
What upset me last night was watching the Daily Show (one of the few places you do see some biting commentary and that says a lot about the mainstream media). They were interviewing people at the convention and trying to get them to say the word 'choice'. It was funny and yet very scary to see these mind-numbed people, who are the ones who cheered on Palin, who want McCain, and the almost dead look in their eyes as they either tried to understand or avoid understanding what the question entailed.
Some commentators have said we have seen the Republican party become the religionist party and it sure looks like it. They no longer care about anything but that their candidate be a fundamentalist christianist. And make no mistake this is not Christianity that these people are following. They call it that but the teachings of Jesus are a long way from what they are most concerned with following.
Fascism is made up of a type of religion and patriotism, neither one of which are really what we normally think the words mean. For a long time under Bush it has looked like fascism is gaining in this country.
Seeing clips from Sarah Palin's speech and realizing all the praise for it was the opposite of how I saw it also made me feel there is a huge chasm in this country. I don't know how it will play out but it's about more than McCain. It's about who are we as a people?
Posted by: Rain | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 06:34 AM
I agree with Rain. I'm beginning to think that it's not McCain, or Bush or Palin for that matter, who are the problem. It's their supporters. And I fear they outnumber the rest of us. At my most paranoid, I find myself wondering if the media has gone relatively easy on Obama because he really *is* the least electable of all the one-time Dem candidates.
Posted by: mary jamison | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 06:45 AM
Yes. Well, again, as you have so comprehensively pointed out, Ronni, people age at different rates, etc., etc., so on and so forth. Some of us are still hiking and climbing and doing all sorts of things while others have slowed down significantly. So, for me, age is one factor, but not, by far, the biggest factor in why I think that McCain/Palin would be a disastrous team to lead this country. BOTH of them are arrogant, have little or no comprehension of what people are REALLY struggling with in this country, and not only do they not know, they DON'T CARE. Deja vu all over again (to quote one of my favorite cartoon characters). We've had eight years of an administration that puts its personal agenda before the public agenda, and McCain and Palin demonstrate that same "if you don't like it, tough!" attitude. Beyond all of that, and to further demonstrate their lack of understanding that 18% of America's children are now being raised in poverty, Cindy McCain, I understand, was wearing an outfit that cost more than $4,000 at the convention last night. That's a lot of bowls of beef stew for hungry kids, eh?
Posted by: Zoë | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 06:59 AM
In 48 years of voting (since before the voting age was lowered, obviously), I've voted with great enthusiasm few times: for one Republican, for one Independent, and for two Democratic slates. This will be another year of cringing, when I feel that neither ticket is competent. Maybe in 2012.
Posted by: Cop Car | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 07:33 AM
As an Independent with Libertarian views, McCain is not my first choice, not by a long shot. But Obama scares me almost as much and maybe even more than McCain. I will stand in line and vote come this November, but I will not like the names I will have to choose from on the ballot.
Election day will be a sad one for me, guaranteed.
Posted by: candace | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 07:35 AM
Yesterday I read an article with comments on McCain's notorious temper. One man who knew him well saw McCain shout at a young volunteer and chew him out because the poor young man had not added something to increase McCain's height at the podium. That shows the true character of a man; when he screams at someone lower on the rung than he is.
Posted by: Darlene | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 08:08 AM
Ronni, you alluded to Governor Palin banning books. I have not found any substantive information to support this. I'm very against censorship and would like to know some facts about this. After one writer showed a list of the books, I found this disclaimer:
note: there’s some buzz being generated that says that this post contains a comment that lists the books that Palin supposedly wanted banned. The list is here, but there appears to be no truth to the claim made by the commenter, and no further documentation or support for this has turned up.
I am a McCain/Palin supporter as of Thursday but still want to review my options, as there are other issues I do not agree with on their platform
Posted by: Granny Annie | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 08:12 AM
Ooops! I need to make a correction! Seems I was a bit off with regard to the cost of Cindy McCain's outfit. NOT $4,000 (how silly of me!) - her outfit cost more than $300,000. Check this out: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2008/09/cindy-mccains-300000-outfit.html
Now THAT's a tad amazing to me - I mean, I look for sales at Kohl's myself, and take advantage of their 15% off for seniors on Wednesdays. What continues to amaze me even more is that there are so many McCain supporters who can't even hit the Kohl's sales! Talk about serf mentality! Just accepting that these people OUGHT to, and have every RIGHT to spend that kind of money on their clothes and cars and homes and etc., considering the state of the economy (about which, of course, McCain HAS said he knows nothing, even though he's more recently found reason to recant his words)is absolutely reflective of mass hypnosis or just plain sheep mentality. But of course that sheep mentality is exactly what they want us to have, isn't it? It works for the Evangelicals (and here I apologize for offending anyone who is offended by this characterization) which is why McCain is suddenly an Evangelical. Oh, UGH!
Posted by: Zoë | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 08:32 AM
Palin's attempt as mayor of Wasilla to ban library books has been widely covered. In Time magazine:
"Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor."
In The New York Times:
"Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question."
And many others. Here is a well-researched story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution devoted entirely to the library issue.
Posted by: Ronni Bennett | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 08:33 AM
To compare the so-called "executive experience" of Obama and Palin is meaningless. Far more important are the matters of world knowledge and intellect. Unfortunately, Palin isn't in Obama's league.
Posted by: Mort Reichek | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 08:37 AM
Thanks! So, no book banning ever took place. That's good.
Posted by: Granny Annie | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 09:21 AM
George W. Bush was a poor student, a business failure and an alcoholic when the "Wise Guys" of the radical right picked him for the nomination.
John McCain is a a choleric and often befuddled old man who wants to "do good" but isn't really sure what "good" really is and he's their pick for 2008. Palin is "Miss Congeniality", an airhead with a brilliant smile. They're all just puppets on strings for the "Wise Guys" who are intent on destroying American democracy
Posted by: mythster | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 09:22 AM
I suggest if you don't like Sen. McClain, vote for the other guy, and let's me on to a more productive topic.
There is nothing we can say that is going to change the Senator or his running mate. It is a fruitless exercise to keep pounding on them.
Posted by: Dr. Ron Evans | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 09:23 AM
But Ron, there is something we can do. We can talk with our friends and neighbors to ensure that they are paying attention to what dangerous people the Republicans are trying to foist on us all -- and make sure they never get elected to anything.
That's call democracy.
Posted by: janinsanfran | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 10:24 AM
I agree, Ronni. His candidacy, and the possibility that he might win just scares me to death (and so does she).
Posted by: | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 10:35 AM
Oops, that was me just before.
Posted by: kenju | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 10:36 AM
I agree with kenju! The possibility of a McCain/Palin win scares the living daylights out of me.
I have to admit that I've never given money to any political campaign. Yesterday, someone from the DNC came by my house and started his spiel. I told him he didn't have to continue, just tell me where to sign and let me get my checkbook!!
Posted by: possumlady | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 10:54 AM
Well sure John McCain makes more mistakes than someone younger might make but his wisdom, experience and
HIS CAMPAIGN STAFF'S HIGH LEVEL OF EXPERTISE more than make up for any of McCain's shortcomings
I am kidding :)
Example of McCain's campaign staff's expertise:(re last night's McCain speech)
"A giant green screen. Or so it appeared to TV viewers for the first several minutes of the speech.
McCain has had trouble with green screens before, when internet mischief-makers used a green backdrop at one of his worst-received speeches of the year in June to superimpose other images behind -– making for some popular YouTube spoof videos.
So, had the McCain campaign set designers really picked an image for the screen that highlighted the same unfortunate shade of green?
On close up the viewer only saw green, but on a wider shot, and to those in the convention center itself, the green was part of a lawn in front of a distinguished white building. What building?
A little Googling reveals that the photo appears to be the exterior of Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California. Was this a school McCain attended or is otherwise significant to the campaign? Symbolic of his message, perhaps? The campaign isn't saying. But there is speculation on the web, asking, could it simply have been an error and Walter Reed Medical Center was the intended image?
No comment at this writing from the McCain campaign."
Posted by: chancy | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 11:21 AM
McCain failed us in choosing Palin, since his age and life experience do need to be factored into the equation, as you have explained so well.
Take this scenario: with their usual devious tactics, the Republicans get McCain elected, then they have him assassinated and Palin gets to impose her way of thinking on the country. That could be even more disastrous than what Bush has wrought. I was never one to believe this kind of thing could happen in the United States, but now I have my doubts.
And, I think Mary hit it on the nail. Their supporters have become more numerous. They do not reason the same way. This is downright scary.
I remain hopeful that the wave of optimism Obama/Biden create will take the Republican party by surprise. I would be so proud to have Obama and Biden lead the country and cringe at the idea of being subjected to Palin instead, even as Vice-President should McCain manage to stay alive ....
Posted by: Alexandra | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 11:25 AM
Here is the bottom line: some political pundits just talk to hear their voice; some media dig the dirt on any candidate so they can say they broke the news first. All of us most do our own research and make informed decisions. For me, the big issue is health care and the economy and McCain's polcies do not cut it and you can find the comparisons on alot of sites, healthdecision 08 is one of them (hope I got that right).
MOST IMPORTANT: YOUR VOTE COUNTS. Please vote, please, our numbers can make a difference! We could be the deciding block of votes in this campaign!!
Posted by: NancyB | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 12:22 PM
Last night, John McCain presented himself to the nation as a gentle, humble and courageous man who loves his family, loves his country and is the best qualified to be the next President of the United States. His quiet demeanor was in stark contrast to the strident tone of his running mate, and was impressive.
John’s qualifications? He was a POW and survived horrendous treatment, injuries to both body and spirit, and came home with an even stronger love for his country. Does this qualify him to be President? He obviously has an iron will and great survival instincts which served him well in this instance and one cannot take that away from him. His will to live and his love for country cannot be denied.
But, let us consider what we have here. John’s iron will and determination has shown itself repeatedly recently. We have a man who has demonstrated that he likes to be considered a maverick, which is another name for a person who goes against the common sense or consensus to have his own way. I call that arrogance and stubbornness.
John has further demonstrated that his determination to have his own way impedes his good judgment. His choice for a running mate is clearly an indication of his need to flex his muscle and thumb his nose at those who wouldn’t let him have what he wanted. Obviously, his first priority was not choosing a person who could be President should something happen to him.
Apparently, he doesn’t think anything can happen to him. Is this an indication of his good judgment?
John McCain loves his country and has served it well. That alone, however, does not qualify him to be President. If loving your country, loving your family, and being arrogant and stubborn are qualifications for being President, I might be qualified.
Posted by: Guitar Grandma | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 12:29 PM
"..ongoing, overwhelming number of factual mistakes and/or memory lapses". To which I would add confused and flummoxed, which he seems to deal with by getting angry. Ronni, this has concerned me too, and I agree that it may or may not be age-related. For purposes of an election, rather than medical or psychological diagnosis, it really doesn't matter what the source of the problem is, it's there and it matters. A US President has an enormously demanding job that impacts others world-wide. McCain's cognitive functioning is simply not up to it, no matter how one feels about his policies. And we know what happens when an incompetent President mindlessly delegates crucial responsibilities to political operatives or allows an ideologically driven extremist VP to take over Presidential decisions.
Posted by: DeanOR | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 01:07 PM
A president need to be a strong executive. If he has a great team and he is a strong leader with a clear mission and set of goals he doesn't need to be a young vigorous person. It is all about leadership. I've worked for one or two great leaders in my life and the key to their success was that they built a team that got things done not that they did it all themselves. They had a relentless vision and focus on what we were going to achieve. An overarching vision that was empowering.
Posted by: | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 05:44 PM
Oops I forgot to sign that last post! Marion
Posted by: Marion Vermazen | Friday, 05 September 2008 at 05:45 PM
I fear McCain's temper far more than his age. I regret that Hillary Clinton was not the D candidate; not finishing his Senate term gives young Cassius a lean and hungry look, as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar. Palin is young enough to be dangerous: my daughter chose life; yours shall not have the choice if I get my way. Biden is the best of the lot with a lifetime commitment to more-or-less progressive policies.
Posted by: TropiGal | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 06:32 AM
If we can't have the talents and statesman/stateswomanship of Sen clinton, I agree with TropiGal that the Dem ticket would be improved by switching places between Obama and Biden. This may be the first presidential election, ever, that finds me sitting it out. How can I vote for any team that I find incompetent?
Posted by: Cop Car | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 07:29 AM
I suppose all politicians will employ people to dig dirt on their opponents but i recently read something that could easily be checked.
It seems that Palin, who is being praised by her supporters for standing by her pregnant daughter has voted against a) measures to educate teenagers in sexual matters b) help for unmarried mothers and c) contraceptive advice for teenagers. Also, if she said she let her daughter make her own decision whether or not to keep the baby why would she deny the same right to decide to other pregnant women (as I gather she is anti-abortion).
The news of McCain's temper is pretty terrifying. How could the world rely on a ratonal decision from such a president?
Posted by: sablonneuse | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 10:10 AM
One issue for me is this: if you truly believe you are the best candidate for President, why do you and your surrogates feel the necessity to lie and distort the truth? Not just once, but over and over again.
I'm disgusted with everything Bush and Cheney have done to this country the last 8 years. I do not want more of this. So McCain now trying to claim he is the agent of change is laughable.
Palin is now refusing to cooperate in Alaska on the "Troopergate" investigation and 7 or so of her aides, who were cooperating, have all lawyered up since McCain sent a bunch of lawyers to Alaska. And Palin wasn't really against the Bridge to Nowhere until it became the laughingstock of the country.
Part of her executive experience as Mayor of Wasilla included inheriting a surplus budget and leaving it $20M+ in debt, AFTER courting and taking millions in earmarks.
No, she wasn't able to ban any books from the library because the librarian stood up to her. Had the librarian caved in, you can bet she would have done so. Believe me, I'm a retired librarian and dealt often with people who wanted Harry Potter books banned from the library because they advocated witchcraft. And these were nasty people who would get in my face and call me names. It is not an easy task to stand up to such people.
We can argue which of the Bush policies a McCain/Palin administration would continue. Here's what I believe: they are disrespectful of the rule of law and believe everyone should believe the way they do.
I would like to hear more from those who think Obama is scary. Is it raising taxes? Do you think he lacks judgment? As for raising taxes, does anyone else find it ironic that with such huge deficits, and more to come if we stay in Iraq, that McCain's answer is to keep cutting taxes?
Posted by: gyma | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 10:15 AM
Maybe it isn't just his chronological age that makes McCain seem "old", it's the current version of conservative philosophy. Liberalism has what is often considered a "youthful" appeal because it is inherently optimistic and advocates adapting to change, actually shaping it more than just adapting, and the future. Obama, after all, isn't one of the twenty-somethings for whom he has such appeal. We associate conservatism with aging, I think, because it is oriented toward resisting change., and it does seem to get harder to adapt to changes around us as we age. Preserving the best of our past can be a good thing, but today's conservatism in practice also advocates the most for those who benefit most from the status quo and not necessarily for the good of all of us. There are elderly liberals who appeal to the "youthful" attitude and also appeal to young people and the idealistic youth in all of us. But liberals don't want to recklessly throw out the past; preserving and protecting our traditional Constitutional liberties is one of the pillars of liberalism. It is only when our civil liberties are sound (as well as our physical needs provided for) that we can look to the future with optimism and openness to change. We liberals also focus on preserving our communities, as well as bettering them, and we reject this idea that our government of the people is the enemy. We don't want to get rid of government or shrink it to the size that it can be drowned in the bathtub as conservatives say, we want good government.
DeanOR, age 70
Posted by: | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 10:21 AM
I so apreciate all of these well presented comments and observations. The aging issue is extremely important. Keep in mind that all of the personality flaws in McCain will continue to worsen as hardening of the arteries in the brain set in. I am sure that many of you, as I,have seen some of our sweet tempered friends become cantankerous as they age. All the things cited with Mc Cain can only get worse.
Palin is absolutely awful. I was raised in a fundamentalist denomination. For all their talk of the love of Jesus they sure can turn vicious when others are in disagreement. Heck they even turn on one another over silly hair-splitting interpetations. This Republican Convention was the worst outpouring of sarcasm,denigration and vitriol as I have seen..and the religious right lapped it up. How very loving.
I am a registerd Independent. I will vote for Obaman not because I think he's the most qualified but becuse the Republicans have brought us to the sorry state we are in. He deserves the opportunity to show us a better way and if it doesn't prove to be so why we can vote him out four years from now.
As Sir John and Saint Sarah mount their chargers..prepared to rout those awful Washinton bureaucrats and lobbyists
(who by the way put them where they are)... I'm hoping they don't make it farther than Philadelphia
Sorry about that. But they cannonized themselves...so I could'nt resist a shot.
Cheers to all from a 74 yr. old Obama Momma
Posted by: Lainey D | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 12:12 PM
I agree with many of the comments about McCain and Palin, so won't repeat them yet again.
One other thing that upsets me, though, is the apparent intention of the McCain campaign to protect Palin from any sort of appearance where she would be required to demonstrate the ability to answer questions or speak on any topic that has not been pre-scripted.
The American people don't know much about Palin, so they are taking her at face value in the way she has been presented by the campaign. We need to see her in a forum where she has to answer questions and demonstrate whether she has any knowledge of economics, foreign affairs, and all of the many complicated issues that a President of the United States has to deal with. The campaign is making the despicable assumption that if she's protected from making any gaffes the voters will assume the best of her.
We've had 8 years of an incompetent puppet government - I don't think the country can survive another 4 years of this.
Posted by: Lesliet | Saturday, 06 September 2008 at 04:09 PM