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Is McCain looking for his 9-11 moment? Some cheap, armchair psychologizing…

McCain’s suspending of his campaign is so very odd that I find myself looking for psychological, and not just political, explanations. So, try on this armchair psychoanalysis, keeping in mind that I’m just making this stuff up:

First, assume that McCain is desperate. When Fox puts you at 39%, desperation becomes reality-based thinking. Second — and this is the unpleasant part — imagine that McCain has had the thought that many of us had had: A terrorist attack in October would shake up the entire electoral chessboard, and might well favor the Republicans. (Yeah, yeah, I don’t think it should it, either.)

Now, no one wants a terrorist attack (except, um, the terrorists), including John McCain, of course. But we’re talking psychology here. So, could it be that McCain is reacting to the financial meltdown as if it were a large-scale terrorist attack because deep within him, he’s waiting for the crisis that saves him, the crisis that lets the aging warrior put on his flight suit one more time?

After all, the subtext of his “putting country first” trope isn’t patriotism but heroism. Heroes need crises. McCain’s brand of heroism consists of sacrifice: He gave up 5 years of his life in North Vietnam, and now he’s willing to give up campaigning.

McCain’s political problem is that in this case, his self-sacrifice seems unnecessary and can be taken as panic or cowardice. It seems like sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake. He thus runs the risk of voters turning away from the hero-without-a-cause to the leader who has one.

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9 Responses to “Is McCain looking for his 9-11 moment? Some cheap, armchair psychologizing…”

  1. Naomi Klein says it’s standard “shock doctrine” tactics; “the public should be wary of the Bush administration trying to use the crisis to push through more of the radical pro-corporate policies that helped cause it in the first place”.

  2. The difference between patriotism and heroism is that the former revolves around the greater good for the country, while the latter focuses on the personal. McCain has shown by his choices that his run for the Presidency is mostly a personal quest.

  3. As I indicated yesterday, I think he is chickening out. He may feel desperate about other parts of the campaign too, besides the debates. He may be trying to use the crisis to allow him to “put on his flight suit,” but I mainly think he feels unprepared for the debate.

  4. A friend last night suggested that McCain is showing a self-destructive pattern. I don’t quite see that. I think he views risk-taking as part of his maverick, heroic stance. Still, the notion gave me pause.

  5. Jeff’s point is worth underlining: if McCain were truly concerned about the Country, he’d opt for the inclusivity of sharing his views with the people, keeping us in the loop. Instead, he’s opting to ditch public forums for the closed door realm where powerful white guys make the big decisions and let us know after the fact — despite enormous public interest and input on Mr. Paulson’s historically ludicrous three-page proposal.

    One might also note that one candidate has been focusing on this matter for some time:

  6. I believe it is the polls driving a campaign that keeps making mistakes- so they do this big show of leadership to try to regain what has been lost. Too bad that he did not try this 2 days ago when the plan was starting to be worked on. Instead he will have to now decide if he want to politicize signing the bill that has enough votes to pass without him.

    I do feel there has been an oversight about when the Bush administration was starting to see the need for a bailout. Read Frattos response carefully…..

  7. Or, perhaps McCain is doing what he thinks is the right thing for the country.
    To be fair to the old fella, when the debates were scheduled there was not a $700 Billion bailout being pushed through both houses at breakneck speed.

    Further, I think that to assume McCain is desperate is going a bit far, this race is still very, very close.

    Still, I think this will prove to be a bad political gamble for his team.

  8. Him pulling out is similar to Palin not taking any questions or speaking at all at and after the U.N.

  9. […] McCain posturing as the saviour of the US economy this evening I was reminded of this post by David Weinberger. McCain’s suspending of his campaign is so very odd that I find myself […]

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