John McCain: The GOP's Wizard Of Oz? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek
John McCain seems to be the GOP frontrunner...a position he has rarely held while aspiring to be the Republican presidential nominee. Following his victory in Florida, McCain and his campaign seem to have accepted the esteemed moniker. His apparent inevitability is troubling to many establishment conservatives and a number of evangelicals. As I watched the Senator in the GOP debate from the Ronald Reagan Library, I couldn't help but notice the emergence of what I would characterize as the leading edge of his desire to release a blend of pent-up bitterness and spiteful and surly bravado.
Let me be clear, I don't seek to disparage the Senator or his debate performance. I'm sure he and his fellow candidates must be tired. Nonetheless, McCain's temperament has long been a topic of discussion...and a reason for pause. Last evening, in my opinion, I observed a man who has longed for the authority and the opportunity to speak his mind without the filters politicians so often employ. It left me wondering if I was watching a man who, upon attaining the presidency, might shed his subtle sophistry in favor of an unbridled style of authoritarianism.
Stay with me for a moment. McCain has made a career of portraying himself as a "straight talking" politician who is amenable to reaching across the aisle. When he's done so, it's often been to the chagrin of his fellow Republicans. On the surface, that's an admirable trait and one that seems to have served the Senator well...especially with the mainstream media...the tool he often utilizes to assuage the animosity and skepticism his actions have generated amongst his peers. In my estimation, whether it's a demonstration of sincerity or a carefully executed strategy is open to debate.
Now consider the 2000 GOP primary and the character assassination and personal assaults John McCain endured at the hands of his adversary, George W. Bush. If one can believe the media reports, the attacks were understandably quite hurtful to the Senator...and they are thought to have played a significant role in derailing his presidential aspirations.
Next, think about a man who spent over five years in captivity...a man forced to hold his tongue and bide his time in the face of adversity. Such treatment can undoubtedly alter one's relational skills and interaction style...as well as lead one to adopt a strategy that I would equate with treading water. Essentially, it's a recognition that survival is the fundamental objective...and that may mean saying what is expected or demanded in order to keep one's head above water...until one has the opportunity to do otherwise. As such, John McCain certainly understands what it means to tarry.
As I've watched the run up to the 2008 election, I've felt that McCain has made a number of strategic decisions intended to afford him another shot at the prize he seeks...the presidency. His campaigning for the reelection of George Bush struck me as an attempt to receive the party's presidential baton...in spite of his dislike of his former adversary. His subsequent forays into mending fences with the evangelicals he once assailed were more of the same. As best I can tell, in most instances, these mea culpa moments took place absent the dialogue one would expect to accompany a difficult reconciliation.
At the same time, my sense is his memory is akin to that attributed to an elephant. Hence he never forgets a slight, a fight, an insult, or a defeat. Like with his time as a prisoner of war, McCain has spent the last seven years plotting his escape from the subservience he resents and his ascendancy to the authority he craves. The phenomenon isn't unique to prisoners of war. The same often exists in spouses who stay in abusive relationships until they can envision and enact their escape and exact their revenge.
His occasional episodes of vitriolic derision directed at his primary opponents may offer a glimpse of what lies beneath the affable surface he labors to demonstrate. The measured and halting nature of his recent speeches...delivered with a structured and rhythmic cadence...suggest an alternative stream of thought is on the verge of surfacing...and ample energy must be diverted to keep it at bay until the opportune moment.
His palpable dislike of Mitt Romney prompts other concerns and considerations. One, McCain is apt to see Romney's flip-flopping campaign as a usurpation of the McCain "go along to get along" style. Two, the occasionally uncensored animosity aimed at Romney supports the psychological concept of projection...which essentially posits we're prone to recognize and resent in others that which we have failed to expunge from our own suspect identity.
John McCain may well win the GOP nomination...and that may occur as a function of voter's calculating he is best suited to defeat the nominee of the Democrats. If my hypothesis is correct, the more proximate McCain finds himself to his quintessential objective, the more difficult it will be to suppress the psychological scars that power his psyche. If this happens, the intervening months between his nomination and the November election may pull back the curtains and expose him as little more than the GOP's angry, though impotent, wizard.
The following graphic is a tongue-in-cheek summarization of the above observations.