Is McCain fit to lead?

While the U.S. media focuses on debunking the ever-increasing pile of stinking lies, misinformation and half-truths spewing from the McCain campaign,  they seem to ignore the over-arching question of whether John Sidney McCain III is fit to lead the U.S. in the twenty-first century.  The media allows itself to be distracted with dicussions of whether Sarah Palin was a good choice because she “energized the Republican base” and obsesses about “lipstick on a pig.”

It takes a major newspaper across the Atlantic to ask the really big questions.  is John McCain fit to lead?  Furthermore, what does McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate say about his fitness to lead the U.S. in the twenty-first century? 

The Guardian (UK) raises this question in a thoughtful manner that addresses the unease that many of us in the U.S. feel as we contemplate the prospect of the McCain-Palin ticket taking up residence in the White House. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/13/uselections2008.sarahpalin

The fundamental question raised by the choice of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republicans is not whether she is fit for that position. It is whether John McCain himself is fit for the presidency. The answer must be that in picking for his running mate a woman who is clearly incapable of taking charge of the country if he should die or become seriously ill, Mr McCain has revealed the essential recklessness of his character.

It is an aspect of his personality of which we have had glimpses before – perhaps useful in a fighter pilot, not always unattractive in a man, and sometimes refreshing in a politician, but absolutely inappropriate for one who seeks the highest office. Mr McCain is 72. He has had brushes with cancer and his body took a battering during his imprisonment in Vietnam. He might well die in the White House, should he be elected.

The overriding consideration should therefore have been to select as running mate a man or woman with the ability and authority to take up the reins should they fall from Mr McCain’s hands. Mr McCain has done the exact opposite. Mrs Palin steered herself through her first interview this week with the nervous intensity of a well-prepared candidate for catechism who was nevertheless not quite sure of her ground on the sacraments. She is not experienced, and if she has ability it has been demonstrated only at a very low level. It speaks volumes that she is being kept from the press while being tutored at breakneck speed.

But she will not be kept from public view. Mr McCain’s intuition was that in the culture wars just under the surface in American politics, Mrs Palin might be the perfect counter to Barack Obama. She could confuse the feminist issue. She could bring an entertainingly zany note into the rather leaden beat of the Republican campaign. But most of all she could function as a lens to concentrate the resentments and prejudices of many ordinary Americans on to an elegant and intellectual Democratic candidate who presents voters with a more unsettling and nuanced picture of the world than they want to contemplate.

This may be shrewd tactics, but it is not the action of a statesman. In the pursuit of campaign advantage, Mr McCain threatens to burden the nation – and the world – with an untried politician who might have to assume presidential powers in the most trying of circumstances. In a not wholly dissimilar situation, Mr Obama has made a wiser choice. Although young and healthy, his colour means he runs a higher risk of assassination. His choice of running mate may be criticised, but Senator Joe Biden could handle a succession if he had to do so.

The historian Arthur M Schlesinger Jr argued that a vice-president who was not first-rate “should not be in a position to inherit or claim the presidency”. Filling the job with a good candidate was a waste, yet filling it with an inferior one was far too much of risk. He wanted to see the post abolished, and different arrangements put into place, but he did not expect that to happen unless the 25th amendment of the US constitution, which established the post as it now exists, “blows up in our faces and causes some new and shattering crisis”.

Mr McCain’s is not the first choice to open up that possibility, but it comes at an especially dangerous time. The calibre of past vice-presidents like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson who took office as a result of the death of a president was high – indeed in their cases as high as American politics can offer. Most other vice-presidents have also been politicians of substance, some of whom went on to run for president in their own right. The only lightweight figure on the postwar list was Dan Quayle. Now Mr McCain has taken a chance on another, betting on the remote prospect that Mrs Palin might be up to the job if it came to it. Does America really want a chancer for its next president?

The answer to this question will be known sometime late on November 4th or in the wee hours of November 5th.

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2 Comments on “Is McCain fit to lead?”

  1. jia2000 Says:

    mccain will not be president

  2. benafia Says:

    Exactly right.

    McCain’s first major government post pick, and it was only for show, and a show of superficialities at that. Presumably they expected to grab the light, and as usual, benefit off of the hard work of many women, in the not conservative womans movement, to be seen as eligible for high office. Some even call her the first woman to make it that high, completely forgetting Geraldine Ferraro, which surprises me not in the least.

    It was shocking to see Palin interviewed, she asking the microphone to tell her what it is a vice president does. Seems whomever contacted her to tell her of the short list, forgot the job description—as if that mattered.

    I felt insulted, as any American should, to think someone so clueless would be one heartbeat away from pushing a button, let alone deciding anything for me or the world.

    We may have grown too complacent as a people, being conditioned to unbridled hubris and other contempt for the commons, to get our heads out of the sands of illusion. We now seem all about winning, and not about what reality will bring from our reckless choice.

    We should feel outraged. It is America, and all who care for this earth, who are being scammed.


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