11/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Conduct Unbecoming: John McCain's Dishonorable Endgame

Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman is a punishable offense of the U.S. military defined by Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as:

• "Action or behavior in an official capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the person as an officer, seriously compromises the officer's character as a gentleman."

• "Behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person's standing as an officer."

• "Knowingly making a false official statement;"

• "Using insulting or defamatory language to another officer in that officer's presence or about that officer to other military persons;"

John Sidney McCain's compelling life narrative is dominated by his 40-year-old military credentials and his fabled "grace under pressure" while confined and tortured as a POW during the Vietnam War.

He supposedly emerged from his long personal nightmare as a "changed man" who claimed the title of "maverick" to signify his unwillingness to pander to political expediency, speak truth to power and fight injustice wherever he witnessed it as an avowed "reformer." I long for such a politician. John McCain, however, is not this man.

Now that his electoral chances grow more remote every day, John McCain is facing the prospect of coping yet again with his own serially dashed ambitions to occupy the highest office in the land. Crushed by Bush in 2000 after seamy Rovian smears and daunted in 2004 by a "War President" with unprecedented powers, McCain has been about as frustrated a Presidential wannabe and as angry as a career politician with his innate temperament can get.

As Rolling Stone author Tim Dickinson writes in the October 16, 2008 issue, the true story of the "make-believe maverick...reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty." There were hints of these troubling character flaws in his youthful pre-war years. Dickinson notes that even as a young man, McCain wasn't particularly popular. "His friends seemed to dislike him, with one recalling him as "a mean little fucker." That "mean little fucker" is still quite alive and well in McCain's shrinking, 72-year-old, 5' 9" frame.

In military parlance, Mr. McCain -- the candidate -- is now behaving in a manner "unbecoming an officer" -- notably the highest-ranking officer, as Commander-in-Chief of the United States military and as the President of the United States.

His campaign is guilty of inciting crowds to hatred against a political opponent by intentionally spewing racist lies and fabricated vitriol, questioning our next President's patriotism in a time of war, tacitly approving his own campaign's spokespeople and advertisements' specific statements that his political opponent is "palling around with terrorists," Mr. McCain indelibly stains the "honor" he has been accorded from years of public and military service.

He has now earned the ignominious fate of a public "court martial" in polling places all across America on November 4th.

Article 133 stipulates that the maximum punishment for violations of this code of conduct is:

• "Dismissal,"

• "Forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and"

• "Confinement for a period...for which a punishment is prescribed in this Manual, or, if none is prescribed, for one year."

Just how many of these infractions has the esteemed former Navy flyboy committed? According to the U.S. Military Code's complete list of punishable "conduct unbecoming" offenses: 10 out of 10.

John McCain has run a dispirited, dishonorable, duplicitous, wedge-issue driven and erratic campaign during a time when his country is at war and faces the gravest economic crisis since the 1930's. His political stunts -- the most egregious of which is named "Sarah Palin" -- are more than cagey electoral strategy. They are hazardous to the health and welfare of this nation.

The conduct of his 2008 campaign should alert the nation as to what kind of White House he would champion and this should disqualify him for the highest office in the land.

However, by appealing to the most divisive and blatantly ignorant instincts of his Republican base, McCain assumes that he will gain electoral traction in a campaign that has been spinning its wheels for months. He and Mrs. Palin seem to have succeeded in molding their gullible "Joe Sixpack" cohorts into fearful lynch mobs.

Outrageous as this would be in any context, it is amplified by the fact that his opponent is the first African-American candidate in U.S. history to be the likely occupant of the Oval Office in a nation that has a shameful saga of racial hatred, lynching and, yes (gulp), political assassinations.

This nation hungers for domestic and international peace, intelligent leadership, true bipartisanship, grace, truthfulness and dignity. We -- as Americans first and Republicans, Independents and Democrats last -- need an "Officer and a Gentleman" in the White House. We must send a message that we will hold John McCain to the same standards that his beloved military has so eloquently set forth in Article 133 of the Military Code.

Thankfully, opinion leaders, lawmakers and average citizens from both sides of the aisle have taken note and are equally appalled. They have publicly scolded McCain-Palin in recent days for their "lynch-mob tactics." calling their behavior "unconscionable" and desperate." I join with them in calling for the Republican Presidential campaign to repudiate forcefully and publicly these hate-filled comments and to engage in some "leaderly" crowd control in the days ahead.

I sincerely hope that on November 4th the public throws the book at this empty shell of a former "officer and a gentleman," elects Senator Obama in a landslide to deliver us from the long national nightmare of corrupt Republican rule and sends Mr. McCain and his ilk a clear message that, in the 21st century, Americans will no longer tolerate from its politicians "conduct unbecoming."