Only an incorrigible optimist can find a silver lining in the ongoing financial crisis engulfing the United States and the rest of the world. Yet, if there is one, it is that the gloomy prospects for the American economy will most likely put an end to Sen. John McCain's bid to become the 44th president of the United States.
His rival, Sen. Barack Obama, often charges that McCain's presidency will bring four more years of Bush's. Here, Obama gets it wrong. Bush's blunders notwithstanding, his policies have been driven by Bush's vision, however mistaken, of the country's future ("compassionate conservatism" in domestic politics and "democracy promotion" in foreign affairs).
McCain is different, for he hasn't articulated any comprehensive, forward-looking, political philosophy at all. McCain is a man of the past, and his insistence on "experience" is a subconscious admission that his mind belongs to the times long gone. His repeated references to the K.G.B. (disbanded in 1995) and Czechoslovakia (ceased to exist as a state in 1992) aren't just memory lapses, forgivable for a 72-year-old. Rather, they are bold statements that McCain sees the world not as it is, but as he chooses to remember it.
At the center of McCain's world is the Vietnam War. McCain loves wars in which America fights ("to love your country is to fight for it") and he divides them into those that have been won – with troops coming home "with honor" — and those that could have been won had not defeat been snatched from the jaw of victory.
This explains McCain's nervous, almost hysterical, reaction to the results of the Five-Day War between Russia and Georgia. True, McCain has a special feeling towards Georgia, due to his warm personal relationship with Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, and to the fact that his foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, had received millions from the Georgian government. But what has set McCain completely off was that the victory — Georgia's Membership Action Plan for NATO – was brutally snatched from McCain hands when he could already palpate it.
(He looked around and, predictably enough, saw three letters: K. G and B.)
Everyone agrees that McCain's five-and-half-year imprisonment in Vietnam has had profound effects on his political views, temperament, and behavior. He went to Vietnam to fight Communism and lost. And since then, he's had scores to settle.
(In a sense, McCain has never left his prison cell. He is still a prisoner. A prisoner of the Cold War.)
I leave it to psychoanalysts to decide whether McCain's trademark outbursts of anger come from his genes, his years in prison, or both. Yet, it is utterly unsettling to have a potential Commander-in-Chief calling — during an argument on the Senate floor — another Senator "a fucking jerk." Or, calling his wife, Cindy, a "cunt" in front of other people.
(This begs, I guess, the larger question of whether people who had spent long time in prison, are fit to become heads of states. There is no reason, of course, to compare McCain to Zviad Gamsakhurdia. But Nelson Mandela he is not. Not even Vaclav Havel.)
McCain's current presidential run repeats the major theme of his life. He ran in 2000 and was humiliatingly defeated in the primaries by whom he called back then "agents of intolerance", the religious conservative wing of the Republican party. And since then, he's had scores to settle.
He is not running to promote any particular ideological agenda — as Bush was and Obama is — for he's got none. He's running to get even with people who stopped him eight years ago. His selection of Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin— inexperienced and immature populist – as his running mate is a clear indication that McCain's goal is to get elected at whatever cost. The very thought of what may happen come January 21, 2009 doesn't appear to have descended upon him.
(McCain's choice of Palin shows that he shares Vladimir Lenin's belief that under right circumstances, every kitchenmade ("kukharka") can "run the state." Just put expensive lipstick on her.)
McCain likes to highlight his patriotism by saying that he'd rather lose the election, but win the war. Well, lose the election he most likely will, and it'll be up to President Obama to win all the wars McCain has helped to start.
But I'm not sorry for John McCain. He has enough wars to fight in his head. He'll be busy for the rest of his life.