McCain’s pre-failed candidacy |

McCain’s pre-failed candidacy

Alex Miller

Ask most Democrats what they think of John McCain and you might get a few more positive comments than your typical Republican candidate garners.

“He’s not as wholly reprehensible as the rest of the field,” might be one response.

And now that the field is reduced to McCain and the irrelevant reverend Mike Huckabee (whose campaign is based on punchlines and a Jared-from-Subway weight-loss story), the identity of McCain as a candidate and how he’ll play in the general election is coming more sharply into focus.

To his credit, McCain isn’t a whole-cloth conservative, and he has routinely angered “the base” for his stances on immigration, campaign finance reform, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, tax cuts, gun control, etc. For a Democrat, it’s a good thing when a candidate angers people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, that gays are all going to HELL and that all Hispanic immigrants should be loaded in semis and shipped back across the border.

But Mac shouldn’t count on too many Democratic or even independent votes. If there’s one thing the blue side of the aisle can’t stand, it’s the meaningless, never-ending Iraq war, so when McCain comes out and says something about maybe being over there “100 years,” well, as they say in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit.

Throw in his anti-choice stance, and all the creeping left he’ll do in the general won’t add up to much.

As improbable as a black man ascending to even be a presidential contender seemed even a decade ago, the funny thing now is that the establishment white guy looks puny and, well, pale in comparison. His support from his own party thins considerably the further right you go, and in the general ” when he’ll stop shamelessly pandering to the base and move to the center ” he’ll have to start explaining his hawkish stances to an American public that’s sick of war, and war spending. McCain’s experience 40 years ago in a Vietnamese prison was both awful and honorable, but if that identity is going to comprise much of McCain’s electoral persona, he may find it thin gruel, indeed, for Americans who’d like to live, work and prosper in this century, in peace.

One of the things I find most heartening about Barack Obama’s candidacy is that he uses the language of peace and not war. Throughout history, men with battle credentials are the ones who make it to leadership positions, often bringing that sensibility into national policy because it’s the only thing they know how to do. The public is all too often entranced by the drumbeat of war and those who perpetrate such. It’s a more interesting narrative than peace, I suppose, but in this time of an all-volunteer army, the prospect of war doesn’t have enough real implications on our daily lives to allow us to make informed choices about it. If there were a draft and a quarter of the kids at Battle Mountain High School were being pressed into service in Iraq, the war would already be over and McCain would be retired in Arizona ” where he ought to be anyway.

And that’s the final rub on McCain: At 71, he’s simply too old to be in a job that requires (or at least should require) 20-hour days, vast reserves of mental and physical energy and an outlook that’s informed by the present, not the past. If he somehow won in 2008 and again in 2012, we’d have an 80-year-old guy for president near the end of his term. Most of us hope and plan to be active, vigorous 80-year-olds, but let’s face it, at that age you just don’t have 100 percent of your mojo left. And with the challenges ahead, our next president is going to need every ounce of energy to clean up the mess the current administration will leave behind.

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