THE BLOG
11/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Just Where/When Has McCain Led in Any Crisis? His Only 2 Speeds are Lame and Impetuous

From Joe Biden's comments, the McCain campaign is launching another effort to convince people that Barack Obama's election will prompt another terrorist attack to "test" him.

McCain asserts he has been tested, and thus such a challenge will not occur. Somehow, the notion that John McCain is equipped to lead in a crisis because he has done so before appears blithely to be accepted.

What crisis did he lead in? I understand he was mobilized during the Cuban Missile crisis, sitting in his warplane on the deck of the USS Enterprise. But, unless I am mistaken, warplane pilots are ordered a) when and b) what, to attack. Where's the leadership?

My reading of the history of that event is that it was President John F Kennedy who led the response, in part by keeping direct control over orders to operational forces so that no Admiral or General could send the wrong message to the troops and trigger a war that could have ended civilization. And that Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggested we resolve the crisis by ignoring a threatening message from the Soviet Union and responding only to an earlier, more conciliatory message.

I may have missed it, but I never read of John McCain's leading anything in that crisis. And, thankfully. With his impulsive leadership style, we might not be here writing about it. I cannot imagine McCain paying such close scrutiny to every detail as did President Kennedy.

Subsequently, McCain suffered for 5 years as a POW in Vietnam. He, like 600 others, heroically refused early release in exchange for signing "confessions." That was heroism. Was it leadership in a crisis?

McCain was not promoted to Admiral. Clearly, the top-brass did not think McCain was leadership material.

McCain suffered at least two crises in his personal life. His wife, Cindy, became addicted to drugs. McCain claimed he was unaware. One mark of leadership is pre-awareness of problems when the signals are "soft." He did not notice something going on in his own home when the evidence was clear and unequivocal.

McCain also is/was addicted to gambling. He was unable to "lead himself" out of that morass. Another mark of leadership is self-awareness. He seemed to have none.

A good leader puts the right people in the right jobs doing the right things. Take that definition and match it with Sarah Palin.

The financial meltdown is the only "crisis" in which we have observed McCain operating. One can understand why the top-brass never considered him Admiral material.

Leadership requires a clear view of the road forward, an understanding of what it takes to get there, a rational assessment of whether those match, and an ability to communicate the vision to others whose support is critical.

McCain's behavior during the financial meltdown could be a movie, Clueless in America. On day 1, the fundamentals were, he said, strong. On the morning of day 2 he opposed the AIG takeover; by the late afternoon, it was the right thing to do. On day 3 he proposed a Commission, like the Social Security Commission in the 1980s. On day 4 he suspended his campaign to go to Washington, and declared the coming debate would have to be delayed. On day 5 he went to Washington, solved nothing, and debated on day 6.

But McCain may be right about one aspect. If he were President, our enemies might not feel a need to concoct a crisis.

McCain IS the crisis. I believe the electorate has sensed that.