A story from Michael Kinsley about John McCain at the craps table seems to me a perfect allegory for John McCain's current campaign:
"McCain immediately turned to the woman and said between clenched teeth: 'DON'T TOUCH ME.' The woman started to explain...McCain interrupted her: 'DON'T TOUCH ME,' he repeated viciously. The woman again tried to explain. 'DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU'RE TALKING TO?' McCain continued, his voice rising and his hands now raised in the 'bring it on' position. He was red-faced. By this time all the action at the table had stopped. I was completely shocked. McCain had totally lost it, and in the space of about ten seconds. 'Sir, you must be courteous to the other players at the table,' the pit boss said to McCain. "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? ASK ANYBODY AROUND HERE WHO I AM."
Fair or not, this adds a little color to the speculations as to whether McCain just so passionately hates Obama that he can't bring himself to treat him with anything but barely concealed contempt.
I'm honestly beginning to think that McCain is... unhinged. Not by a lot, but by enough. In addition to stories like this, I can't help but look at the McCain/Palin campaign's sudden, apparently random focus on Obama and Ayers -- in the middle of a complete economic meltdown, no less -- and think, what the hell? Yes, I know that campaigns have strategies, and tactics, and phalanxes of people who sit down and game out what the candidates should be talking about, every minute of every day, but you have to be a special kind of "out of touch" to all but ignore a worldwide financial panic and spend your time instead talking to Hannity about the suspicious ancient hieroglyphics you've dug up that shows your opponent went to some guy's house for a party once, or was on a board with him, or whatever the hell they're going on at now that proves they're secretly best buds or something. Fine, we get it -- negative campaigning. But now, with no dearth of urgent actual issues to be attended to?
Really? You really think that's the most important thing you could be talking about, right now? What -- are you high on cough syrup?
I also think you have to be more than a little nuts -- or at least very, very bitter -- to be egging on crowds to the extent that both Palin and McCain have been. The last week has seen Republican rallies turn into screaming hate-fests, celebrations of the notion that the other candidate is a terrorist, or is anti-American, or is a danger to the nation or the like: stuff that the Secret Service really, really dislikes, and would generally put a stop to if it wasn't their own damn charges leading the rhetoric. From Palin, I'd expect it. She's proven herself at this point to be dumb as a f--king rock, and has a history of being bitterly, viciously mean in service of whatever it is she wants. She probably thinks the rallies are a hoot.
McCain I would have presumed a bit more from. Yes, he's had these craps-table outbursts and the like, but this prolonged, truly spiteful turn is positively creepy, and, I'll just say it, not something you would expect from a man whose self-esteem is so apparently inseparable from his notions of his own military honor. It seems an emotional collapse, almost Shakespearian; the antihero, foiled in life one too many times, turns into a plotting, mean-spirited beast, determined to pull the whole world down around his ears if he can't get what he wants.
He's having a damn temper-tantrum, that's what it is, but on a world stage. He's directing his entire campaign, his entire party, every supporter he can reach into a face-reddening, arm-flailing, carpet-kicking group temper tantrum, simply because the polls came back that show him running out of other options.
Is this like the craps table incident, writ large? Is it the way McCain is prone to act, when he's losing or feels cornered? I don't know, but if this is the way he runs his campaign when under stress, I don't want him anywhere near the White House, much less in it. The only thing worse than the incompetent, hyper-aggressive foreign policy of the neoconservatives would be that same neoconservative foreign policy tethered to an unpredictable man-child prone to fits of irrational rage. At least Bush was too lazy to get into more than two wars: with McCain, we'd be starting wars based on what he had for breakfast each day.