September 5, 2008

The Old Warrior

Marc Comtois

The old Warrior still has some fight left in him. No one can doubt John McCain's commitment to his country or his belief in his ideals. He speaks with conviction, a conviction fostered and formed throughout a life of service to his country and that was strengthened--even as his body weakened--in a dank cell in Hanoi. So we see the determination in his eye and the set of his jaw and we're asked to trust his judgment. But is that enough? For some.

Unfortunately, he doesn't wax as eloquently as some; his injuries contribute to his awkwardness at the podium; he smiles weirdly after delivering a line. In short, he isn't a gifted presenter, which worries may people, especially in our style-over-substance era. Like it or not, many people need a president who is able to attractively convey his ideas and decisions to short-attention spanned Americans who will give short shrift to the ideas and policies of word bumblers and halted speakers and, in the Northeast especially, anyone with a southern accent. If they don't like the presentation, they won't take your ideas seriously. Change the channel, this is boring.

But it's probably too late for McCain to get better at giving a speech. So now it's all about the debates. The physical juxtaposition of an older, leaning white man and a younger, leaner black man will be obvious. So McCain will have to prove his mental agility and experience over a younger, more charismatic opponent. He'll have to keep his temper, but show his passion. He'll have to be tough but not condescending. The Old Warrior has a few more battles before he can take the Hill.

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"...he smiles weirdly after delivering a line..."

That's a smile? It haunts my dreams like the Tall Man from the Phantasm movies.

The only thing that scares me worse is four more years of the crappy policies of this administration.

Posted by: Greg at September 5, 2008 3:11 PM

It would be a lot easier to take your criticism of "our style-over-substance era" if you had been more critical of George W. Bush whose disastrous policies have led us down a steep slop(e) while being cloaked in a folksy open collared style.

Live by the sword. Die by the sword.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at September 5, 2008 3:24 PM


You are certainly correct that this is a “style-over-substance” era. If you think about it, there’s a good argument to be made that the last 8 Presidential elections have been won by the candidate with the greater charisma. Even a political novice such as Ross Perot got a lot of attention due much more to his style than his substance. If Ralph Nader had the charisma of Bill Clinton, I believe his candidacy(ies) would have received more support from the left.

Today, this reality is stacked on the fact that this era is also more divided and partisan than it was previously. It truly is the votes of the independents that typically win/lose presidential elections. So while McCain certainly loses on the eloquence factor, he is also more likely to appeal to non-partisan voters than Barack Obama because of his record and that on the political line, he is closer to the center.

I will agree with OTL when he writes “Live by the sword. Die by the sword”. But I’m pretty sure that we would be referring to very different ideas when using that famous and apropos phrase.

Posted by: msteven at September 5, 2008 4:27 PM

OTL, to tell you the truth, I long ago surrendered to the fact that GWB's style annoyed so many that it didn't matter what he said. Over the years, I've spoken to many a "Yankee" who simply couldn't take Bush seriously because of his drawl, which they took to indicate his low IQ (while simultaneously being some sort of evil genius even!) C'mon? Bushitler Monkeyboy, etc.?. So, to me, Bush's style got in the way of the substance he did exhibit on certain issues, it didn't hide a lack of it. Obviously, we disagree.

Posted by: Marc at September 5, 2008 7:18 PM

Hey Marc,


Nuff said.

Posted by: Greg at September 5, 2008 7:31 PM

OTL-let's see-we burden McCain with Bush,but dare not "smear"Obama the ONE with Bill Ayers-McCain was screwed by Bush/Rove in 2000 and he criticized Bush's conduct of the Iraq operation early on.Turns out he was right.The war was wrong,but McCain did know what was needed to salvage a mistake.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 5, 2008 10:04 PM

There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between the effect of a friendship with Bill Ayers who now teaches at the University of Illinois, and politically backing over 90% of Bush's disastrous policies. McCain basically agrees with Bush with regard to his economic policies, energy policies, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy and supreme court appointments. McCain has thanked Bush for his endorsement.

We also forgive the self confessed "born-again" Bush for his profligate younger years but hold Obama's feet to the fire for calling the reformed, but not necessarily born again Ayers, his friend.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at September 6, 2008 1:12 AM

Yes, Greg, that's my point.

Posted by: Marc at September 6, 2008 7:05 AM

"we burden McCain with Bush,but dare not "smear"Obama the ONE with Bill Ayers"

Or Reverend Wright.

Posted by: Monique at September 6, 2008 8:07 AM

"Reformed" Bills Ayers?BS.He may not be planting bombs,but he is still the same damn terrorist he was years ago.Bush?I DIDN'T vote for him,or can't you read?
I really like his two SCOTUS appointments-the only good thing he's done.
Obama thanked the Clintons-just good political manners.Same with McCain and Bush.
This may be why you and I don't run for office.If I don't like someone I won't thank them-I won't even piss on them if they're on fire.
Reverend Wright bothers me a whole lot less than Ayers.he served honorably in the US Navy as a corspman with the Marines.He never committed a crime as far as I know.Certainly he didn't set off any bombs.
Ayers was not convicted but he admitted what he did and was proud of it-so it is legit to call him a terrorist.Wright is just another angry guy that probably got screwed one too many times over his race and is bitter over it.Not hard to believe given his age and living in Chicago-if you ever lived there,you'd know.
I just don't believe for a second Obama never heard Wright's damagoguery.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 6, 2008 1:12 PM


The man with the nuclear football isn't allowed to mis-pronounce the device which will eradicate all mankind.

At least McCain can speak. Even if he did graduate 394th out of 399 students at the Naval Academy.

Posted by: Greg at September 6, 2008 3:54 PM

I now fear McCain being assassinated (after inauguration, of course) just as much as I fear Obama being assassinated on the campaign trail.
I wish him as much success surviving the people in his own party who want to toss him under the bus (and a cursory listen of talk shows has turned up plenty) as he had surviving seven years of the Viet Cong.

Posted by: rhody at September 7, 2008 2:27 AM

rhody-sometimes you sound bizarre.There is no way to predict if a President will be a target of an assassin.
Clinton and the current Bush have generated a lot of hate(albeit from different directions)against them,yet no attempts on their lives.
Ronald Reagan was shot by a raving psychotic.
Gerald Ford,not a controversial man by any means,survived TWO attempts,one by a Mansonite and the other by a left wing activist.
I think I know where you are going with your "concern"for McCain and it would be more appropriate on RI Future.
Maybe you got your expertise on assassination threats the same place you got it on "military protocol".

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 7, 2008 6:45 AM

I said

McCain basically agrees with Bush with regard to his economic policies, energy policies, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy and supreme court appointments.
and you never commented on this. You went into a Bill Ayers rant thereby avoiding the tener of my text. It seems illogical that you reject Bush's policies and then look the other way when McCain espouses the same things. Apparently, your anger has affected your reason.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at September 7, 2008 8:03 PM

"Reverend Wright bothers me a whole lot less than Ayers.he served honorably in the US Navy as a corspman with the Marines.He never committed a crime as far as I know.Certainly he didn't set off any bombs."

You're right to distinguish the two as you do, Joe. Violent actions are far worse than negative words.

The problem with Rev Wright is, how could Senator Obama have sat through (and thereby endorsed) week after week, year after year of virulently anti-America speeches? And he was motivated to leave the church only after heavy publicity drew attention to those speeches and negative attention to himself. There is no indication that he left because he saw anything wrong with the content of those speeches.

Posted by: Monique at September 7, 2008 10:04 PM

Monique-you realize I am sure that I no way endorse Rev.Wright's ideas,just that he is no terrorist.I don't believe Obama's explanation at all.He got caught in an embarrassing situation.
OTL-my anger has not affected my reason at all-Obama has taken positions I am opposed to-I can't imagine an incentive to vote for him.Ayers is one aspect,but far from the only one.
I don't think McCain is as much in agreement with Bush as you seem to do.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 7, 2008 11:17 PM

You’re right in that this election is a referendum on the Bush policies as the reality is that McCain supported the vast majority of them while Obama voted against them. While you are asserting that the policies have been disastrous, I think there is a reasonable debate to have on that. Also, while you may believe that the Administration’s “energy policy” is responsible for the current gas prices, I beleive most Americans know otherwise.

Finally, you have a lot of nerve referring to someone not responding to on one of your comments. Big time hypocrisy.

Posted by: msteven at September 8, 2008 11:30 AM

While it's convenient to blame everything bad in the world on George W. Bush, you and I both know it's not the truth. The Economist magazine ran a great article a few months ago talking about how the EU nations will miss Bush because they've laid the blame for their own internal economic woes on Bush to populations that are eager to blame the US.

Bush's Supreme Court selections were top-notch. You may disagree with their political views, but they're intellectual heavyweights with strong credentials.

In my view, Bush's failures and low poularity results from three things: 1.) not putting enough troops into Iraq after the invasion; 2.) the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and 3.) the economy.

But look at the facts,

Bush corrected himself on #1. Yes, it took longer than it should have to dump Rumsfeld, but since you're so fond of pointing to Lincoln, let's not forget that Lincoln stuck with George McCellan for longer than he should have.

Likewise, the initial US foray under FDR in WWII was Operation Torch, with met with less than stellar success.

Adjustments were made and Bush finally got it right.

But John McCain had it right from the start. He called on Bush to put more troops into Iraq at a time when Obama was willing to hand Iraq over to al-Qaeda. It's deceiving to suggest that a McCain presidency's foreign policy would be an extension of a Bush presidency's foreign policy.

Now take a look at Hurricane Katrina. While everyone blamed FEMA, the reality is that the catastrophe was a failure of local, state AND federal government. I love how Democrats hold Bush personally responsible, but give Ray Nagin a pass, even though Nagin was far more to blame than Bush. FEMA told N.O. to be prepared to survive for two days on its own beacause FEMA has no organic assets. But somehow it's "Bush's fault". This last hurricane saw the federal government basically running N.O. and things went exceptionally smoothly (note that you didn't see the needs for the feds to run the MS coast evacution). Still I dindn't see anyone saying "Wow, Bush did a great job on this hurricane response".

As for McCain he didn't have anything to do with either of the hurricanes, so it's impossible to suggest what John McCain would have done.

Finally, we get to the economy. Because the "economy" is so broad, it's difficult not to hold a sitting President partially responsible for the state of the economy. But the reality is that many of the problems were rooted in the dealings of the real estate sector and there are strong indications that Bush's tax cuts and stimulus programs actually lessened the severity of the economic downturn.

Either way, given John McCain difference with the Bush adminsitration on the topic, you can't honestly assert that McCain is 4 more years of Bush.

Those areas in which John McCain agrees with Bush are those areas in which Bush has done well.

Obama's "selling point" is that is he unqiue and a "uniter". But he's gotten way off track and now comes across a just another politician--and an inexperienced one at that.

If Obama wants to have any chance of winning this election, he's going to have to give voters a reason to vote FOR him. Thus far, his campaign strategy seeks only to convince Americans to vote AGAINST somebody who isn't even the ballot this year.

With Obama having little experience and having been proven wrong on Iraq, he will have an uphill climb. And if the economy starts to rebound even a little bit in the next month, Obama is toast.

Why? Because his whole pitch to voters has been "vote for me, I'm not George W. Bush". His only problem is that neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin are George W. Bush either and they have alot more experience.

Posted by: Anthony at September 8, 2008 1:34 PM

F.Y.I. Joe Bernstein and I disagree but we do have a "speaking/writing" relationship. You don't have any idea of the past dynamics between Joe and me so your remarks about our give and take are irrelevant and not to the point. Joe speaks pretty well for himself.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at September 8, 2008 3:19 PM
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