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Iraq to IGMFU -- A McCain Meltdown?

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Is John McCain in a meltdown? Can this campaign be saved? Can the dots remain unconnected? I don't know about the first two other than just observing from the sidelines. But the third one I can take a crack at. I'll try to be brief. After all, neither you nor I have all day.

It's becoming increasingly evident, at least to me, that the Iraq policies on which John McCain has hitched his wagon are not stars but anvils these days. In a classic "be careful what you wish for," McCain and friends tried to goad Barack Obama into going to Iraq -- the novice, they said, who might even benefit from traveling with the political greybeard, who could "sorta show the new kid around." On their terms, of course. Unfortunately, Barack didn't bite.

Obama finally did go to Iraq and Afghanistan to see for himself and it's the McCain camp left grinding its collective teeth. He's done rather well without the services of Mr. Hundred-Years-Over-There as a tour guide. Obama came, he saw, and he conquered. He not only looked cool in sunglasses and avoided an embarrassing Dukakis-style helmet howler, but he looked downright presidential. Significant meetings with General David Petraeus, exuberant rank-and-file soldiers, and Iraqi government officials including Prime Minister Maliki and his second-in-command made for some terrific photo-ops, flanked by the Bipartisan Brothers, Democrat Reed and Republican Hagel. Maliki further added insult to injury by echoing a preference for a U.S. departure very much like Obama's long-held 16-month withdrawal timeline. Hilariously, the White House then clambered aboard, babbling frantically about a neat new something called a "time horizon" for -- er -- um -- withdrawal. I guess they figured if they came up with something else to call it, it wouldn't count, and voters won't notice anyway.

The press spotted it, though -- so much that McCain is whining about Obama getting too much attention. As if the man long known as "Teflon John" has a right to complain -- for his many gaffes and embarrassments that the mainstream media has resolutely either soft-pedaled or flat-out ignored. Now, of course, he's been recast as Odd Man Out, as events slip through the side door while he's still desperately barricading the front gate. When in doubt, channel Rumplestilskin in hopes of spinning what's already turned into straw - into a kind of fool's gold. "...But, but, but, Obama was wrong about the surge!" Well, Mr. McCain, it can hardly be forgotten how YOU were wrong about the whole thing from the get-go. You REALLY want to get into which man has the best overall, long-range judgment? Besides, if the escalation, or surge, is such a success, then why can't we start leaving?

At any rate, Obama has thus officially bigfooted McCain on McCain's pet issue. That's gotta hurt. As Marc Abinder speculated in theatlantic.com -- "via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We're f- - - - -."

It would be bad enough if the McCain meltdown stopped with Obama's checkmating the national security debate. But there's also that other problem: the economy. My favorite incident in a veritable avalanche of them involves the hapless Scrooge-unmasked, the stone-hearted Phil Gramm. Until recently he was McCain's BFF and lobbyist/UBS financier/economic policy czar. Then, he became poison. Phil Gramm inadvertently exposed the most crass bedrock belief of the modern Republican Party -- blabbing the dirty little secret they don't want you to know. My late father had a term for it -- his favorite "greed-is-good" punchline: "IGMFU" -- pronounced "IGGUM-foo". It stands for "I Got Mine, (and, considering the last two letters, you can probably fill in the rest with both accuracy and -- um -- decorum. Consult Marc Ambinder's source above if you need help)." It's the John 3:16 of the GOP Bible.

Phil Gramm had the outrageously poor taste to blurt that the bad economy from which his own wealth and connections insulate him is merely a "mental recession" and that we're nothing but a bunch of whiners to dare complain about it. The story's faded by now, yet another McCain campaign oopsie that got a once-over-lightly from the media, but I think it's worth revisiting, especially as a further meltdown metaphor. Choice words from this modern Marie Antoinette who, during his own Senate career, pushed legislation that made the Enron and sub-prime mortgage messes possible, and allowed corporate tax cheats to dodge accountability in hush-hush offshore banking havens. Phil Gramm may have had to resign the campaign in disgrace, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's still exerting influence under the radar. I doubt whether John McCain would deep-six a friendship considered that strong, long-running, or key.

The Phil Gramm IGMFU fiasco should stick in our minds throughout the rest of the campaign -- and even beyond -- every bit as much as the now-empty McCain claim to exclusive ownership of the Iraq/national security issue. It's just one more thing about which McCain himself and his entire party are just plain wrong.

On the war, their dearly-held My-Way-or-the-Highway arrogance and American-brand democracy forced on other sovereign nations at gunpoint by rich old white men nursing John Wayne complexes all are now exposed as little more than castles built on sand. On the economy, it's We've-Got-Ours and the rest of you can just shut up and stop complaining, and try to work out your own fabulous golden parachute crony deals like we did. If you can't, well, tough luck, Chuck. Be sure to write when you find work. And don't forget -- Free Market!!! Free Market!!! That, and a dime, will get you a few minutes at a parking meter anymore.

Thankfully, I think, America seems to be waking up and catching on. Neither the lust for empire because "our oil is under their sand" nor robber-baron economics work for the vast majority of us any longer. Never mind that we've been preached this gospel ever since the Reagan era -- that cutting back government is good, that taxes are a nuisance instead of a shared civic obligation for the betterment of the common good, and that big business should be liberated from all those pesky regulations that keep them fairly honest and prevent their running amok. Furthermore, we've been told for years that public money is far better spent buying and building more destruction delivery systems than any adversary (or even we ourselves) could afford. Our people may be sick, homeless and starving, but by Jove we'll still be able to blow you to smithereens!

It doesn't work anymore. The World According to John McCain doesn't work anymore. The World According to the GOP doesn't work anymore. No wonder so many millions of Americans have warmed to the idea of a change from years of that. It's a meltdown that may lead ultimately to defeat for the McCain campaign. But it's a welcome thaw from a very long, harsh, and heartless deep freeze for the rest of us.