It is hard to believe, after the past couple of weeks, that John McCain’s chances of becoming the next president of the United States are anything but slim. He has given enough evidence to suggest that he is a bit of a loose cannon, unpredictable and rash in the way he takes major decisions and indeed in the kind of decisions he takes. And that should be unthinkable for most people when you consider a suitable candidate who can lead the world’s only super-power. This election isn’t any more about Barack Obama, or about white/black, man/woman, it is more about keeping Senator McCain and his running mate out of the White House. Republican commentators themselves have begun to express their doubts openly about their party’s ticket, and that should have been unthinkable when the elections are barely a month away. The polls so far show only a slight shift in favour of Obama over the past fortnight, but the McCain campaign is in danger of imploding by the weekend, if the vice-presidential debate goes badly for the Republicans.
Two or three issues lie behind these judgements, the most obvious being Senator McCain’s choice of candidate for vice-president. In the month since Sarah Palin was presented to a surprised country and world, she has held not one press conference. And she has given all of three interviews, which have only served to make her the butt of jokes on late night television. She is being shown only to the party faithful, who seem happy (indeed, delighted) to overlook the raw limitations of a candidate who believes that the earth is all of 6,000 years old, that human beings shared the planet with dinosaurs as contemporaries, and (in effect) that the latter were walking around at the time of the Sumerian civilisation. President Zardari of Pakistan may have found her “gorgeous”, but she is now in purdah, preparing for the Friday morning (India time) debate with her counterpart, Joe Biden. Even the party faithful now sense that she is unprepared and unfit for the vice-presidency. For the country (and world), she is a serious risk factor when you consider that McCain is 72 and has health issues to worry about. She may or may not survive the debate with Senator Biden, but one commentator has suggested that someone put her out of her misery by suggesting that she spend more time with her family. The issue, however, is not Governor Palin; it is McCain, as her very presence on the ticket raises serious questions about his decision-making processes and indeed his judgement.
The second set of issues concerns McCain’s handling of himself over the financial crisis. He has called for the sacking of the chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission (not realising that that worthy has nothing to do with the banking crisis), then wanted to stop the election campaign and postpone the first presidential debate so that he could help deal with the crisis in Washington, then made matters worse from the point of view of getting a bailout package approved, and eventually showed up for the presidential debate that he had wanted postponed. After this erratic behaviour, he proceeded in the debate to spell out a foreign policy perspective that signals more confrontations between the US and sundry countries around the world. If this is what long years in the Senate have taught McCain, then his freshman counterpart in the Senate should be preferable, if for nothing other than his sobriety when addressing serious issues.
7 months ago