11/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Projecting McCain

When a little boy shoves a girl in line and then tells the teacher, "She hit me," that's called projection.

When a cheating husband accuses his wife of infidelity, that's called projection.

And when a Presidential candidate with a dismal 20% voting record for disabled veterans accuses his opponent (who has an 80% record) of being "against our troops," that, my friends, is projection.

Projection is one of our most primitive psychological defense mechanisms. According to Freud, when we feel threatened by or afraid of our own impulses, our first reaction is either to deny or to "project" these impulses onto someone else. Projection "is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits."

In other words, we project onto others that which most unnerves, shames, or confuses us about ourselves. Just ask the kid who plays with matches, then blames his brother for lighting the fire that burned down the family home. Or the candidate who blames his opponent for raising the negative campaign rhetoric that is causing his own attack ads to backfire.

Nietzsche wrote, "When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." As we gaze into the abyss of McCain's disintegrating campaign, we see that the abyss has been gazing back at him for months now. Virtually every attack he makes against Barack Obama is a projection of his own fear or loathing.

Here are just a few more examples:
- McCain accuses Obama of being a proponent of "big government," even though the Tax Policy Center finds that McCain's policies would likely add $1.5 trillion more to the federal deficit over 10 years than would Obama's.
- McCain accuses Obama of having "dubious judgment," when he himself picked a hockey-mom running mate under investigation for abuse of executive privilege and then dressed her up in $150,000 worth of clothes from Saks and Neiman Marcus and allowed her make-up artist to become the highest paid member of his campaign team.
- McCain claims Obama' s tax plan will hurt "Main Street Americans" when, according to the Tax Policy Center, " Senator Obama offers much larger tax breaks to low- and middle-income taxpayers."
- McCain calls Obama a Socialist, when his own Sarah Palin is governor of the most socialist state in the union -- where every man, woman, and child receives $3200 of redistributed oil wealth per year.
- McCain warns that Obama is "out of touch" with "real Americans," but McCain is the one with thirteen cars and so many homes he can't count them.
- McCain suggests that Obama is "anti-American" when his own Vice Presidential pick is closely allied with the Alaskan Independence Party -- whose stated goal is to see Alaska secede from America.
- McCain accuses Obama of being "in the pocket" of lobbyists, when the watchdog group Public Citizen has found that McCain himself has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates -- not to mention the veteran lobbyists like Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon, who serve as his senior advisers.

Psychohistorian Peter Gay describes projection as "the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable -- too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous -- by attributing them to another." McCain's pattern of projection, in its breathtaking totality, suggests that the feeling he secretly needs most to expel is his wish to be President.

If the pollsters' non-psychological projections hold true, the Republican nominee will soon be relieved of his misery.