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Evan Eisenberg Headshot

McCain in the Whine Cellar (Sans Bearings)

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Just when you thought the Clinton campaign had cornered the market in whining, special pleading, and all-around silliness, the McCain people give them a run for their (dwindling) money.

Responding to Obama's smackdown of McCain's Hamas smear, McCain advisor Mark Salter said: "He used the words 'losing his bearings' intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue."

Salter is right about one thing: if Obama had intended to raise McCain's age as an issue, this would not have been a particularly clever way of doing it. The reason is simple: the phrase "losing his bearings" has nothing to do with age.

Google is, I think, a fairly good guide to current English usage. Googling the phrase "losing his bearings" is not very helpful, as the first page consists mostly of references to Obama's remark. So I googled "lose his bearings."

Excluding the two mentions of Obama and McCain, the first page of results referred to the following:

A man whose wife has died; a generic "man" who "sometimes... has to lose his bearings to find his way"; a pitcher in a college baseball game; a soccer player in the Premier League; Pompey the Great, outmanoeuvred by Julius Caesar; a pilot in cloud cover; Eugene McCarthy after losing his fight for the Democratic nomination; the user of a film-signal outputting apparatus; a gynmnast; Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal; a bull in the Running at Pamplona; a young man suffering from brain cancer; a patient with chronic renal failure; a generic visitor to a foreign city; a pilot in an aerobatics display; Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief; Uncle Sam; Benjamin Franklin; a 25-year-old small-plane pilot; a 23-year-old center for the Lakers; Hillary Clinton (indirect reference, hence the use of "his" -- nothing to do with her recent testicular implants); God; Sigmund Freud; the viewer of a painting by Miró; the selfless searcher for truth (who, according to Gandhi, can never "lose his bearings for long"); Megatron in the sci-fi film Transformers; the 18-year-old winner of a piano competition; the reader of a novel by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff; and a 47-year-old psychiatrist who had sex wth a patient.

Of all of these, the only figure who is conspicuously old is God.

I could go on with the list, but I'm starting to get bored. Indeed, if this is the threshold at which McCain plans to play the "Mommy, mommy, they're making fun of my age" card, we are in for a truly tedious campaign.

We can only look forward to the morning of November 5th, when -- having long ago lost his moral and intellectual bearings -- Sen. McCain will instead have to learn to bear his loss.