Friday, April 20, 2007

Is McCain Losing It?

Start with the Infinite Monkey Theorem: Could an untold number of primates typing forever produce one of Shakespeare’s plays? Today’s variation: In all of Karl Rove’s smears, would you ever find a grain of truth?

In the 2000 primaries, Bush’s Slime Machine attacked John McCain with push-poll slanders about everything in his life, including the suggestion that years of stress as a POW might have made him mentally unstable.

Now McCain seems to be raising the issue himself. In the latest bit of oddness, the Senator answers a question in South Carolina by changing the lyrics of a Beach Boy song, “Barbara Ann” to “Bomb Iran.”

His campaign has been plagued by off-the-cuff gaffes: unexpectedly announcing his candidacy on Letterman and then referring to “wasted” lives in Iraq, blabbing about safe walking in Baghdad and then having to make a bullet-proofed trip to back up the absurd claim.

McCain himself seems charmed by all this. On 60 Minutes, he said, "Of course I'm going to misspeak...I probably will in the future...I'm happy frankly with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun.”

If elected, the Senator would be 72 when he takes over the Oval Office and 76 or 80 when he leaves it. As an elder who has been through his seventies, I have some advice for him:

You don’t change but you have to be on guard against caricaturing yourself: Outspoken can become loose-lipped, strong-minded may morph into crotchety, quirky could be seen as weird. An extra beat of thought before talking can spare you a lot of embarrassment.

The only way this will not be a campaign issue would be the Democratic nomination of a long shot, former Sen. Mike Gravel, who is six years older. But McCain can’t bet on that.

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