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Max Bergmann

Max Bergmann

Posted: September 24, 2008 06:04 PM

Flipping Out in Times of Crisis


So facing a sharp drop in his poll numbers and after struggling on the economy for the past week, John McCain has decided to suspend his campaign and return to Washington - despite him not having voted for a bill in Washington since April. One thing is clear from McCain's latest campaign stunt, when confronted with bad news McCain's first instinct is to react hysterically.

His leadership of his campaign has been anything but stable. From his choice of a first term Alaskan governor who he didn't even vet, to the total collapse of his campaign in 2007, and to his complete stonewalling of the press, McCain has demonstrated that he is completely unsteady. But it his reaction to international events which really scares me. Pat Barry presciently wrote yesterday:

John McCain sees crises just about everywhere.  He's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, in the sense that he is constantly shooting his mouth off without regard for the severity or the sensitivity of a given issue...McCain's tendency for hysterics is not just an issue of exaggeration.  It's also about prioritization...  Based on how many times expressions like "biggest crisis since" and "a greater crisis than"  pass through McCain's lips, it's far from clear which, of the crises he identifies, will be at the top of his list.

This all fits a pattern. After 9-11 McCain advocated attacking Iraq, Syria and Iran. In the run-up to the Iraq war McCain said Saddam was a "threat to civilization"

itself [Washington Times, 2/14/03]. On Russia, on North Korea, on Iran, each one has been elevated to level of a clock-stopping crisis. This is not to say that these are not serious challenges. But McCain's tendency to reach for the dramatic, combined with his knee-jerk willingness for confrontational action should make us all very very worried. As I wrote last month,

The big concern with a McCain presidency...is that the U.S. will lurch from crisis to crisis, confrontation to confrontation, whether it be with Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. The danger is that McCain's pundit-like rhetoric will entrap the U.S. in descending spiral of foreign policy brinksmanship. Just think about the very likely scenario of McCain giving Iran/Russia a rhetorical ultimatum and Iran/Russia ignoring it. Now we are stuck - either we lose face by not following through on our threats or we follow through and go to war.  We can't afford such a reckless approach after the last eight years. For the next eight we need a president not a pundit.   

If McCain's elected, hold on to your hats because things could get crazy.