08/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain and "the Creeps"

Sometimes nothing does it for me as much as the slang of my youth. As one who was a boy in the nineteen forties, I can recall that someone who was unctuous, untruthful, and distasteful could be described as a creep, or giving one "the creeps." My late, beautiful, older sister once dismissed the heir to one of America's wealthiest families who wanted to marry her by explaining to my dumbfounded parents that he gave her the creeps. In classical English literature Dickens' Uriah Heep was the embodiment of the creeps. William Faulkner's majestic contribution to creepiness in America was his Snopes family, and in recent years W cornered the market in political creepiness. But now Uriah, the Snopes, and W must move over; John McCain has overtaken every competitor in the creeps department. He gives the creeps in that special skin crawling way that is now found only in teen age fright movies.

My good wife has the x-ray eye of a comic book super-heroine in seeing through to the core of a person, to their essential humanity or their creepiness. It was for this reason that she would leave the room every time that her political junkie husband insisted on watching a W press conference. She could not tolerate what she saw in him. Now she takes flight at the sight of John McCain with such alacrity that it could make her a competitive sprinter in the forthcoming Beijing Olympics. Although we differed in the Hillary/Obama contest, we are now one on John McCain.

Each time I see McCain I find it progressively more difficult to watch him campaign, to see that creepy smile, and hear that creepy rhetoric, the creepy certainties he espouses, the creepy failure to hold simple facts in his head, or understand complex ideas, the creepy defamation of Obama as one who would place his political gain against American security, the creepy reversal of every principled position that he, McCain, has ever taken in his courtship of the right wing of his party. The fact that the press still fails to point out the reversals, the contradictions in McCain's record, not to mention the shady, creepy dealings in the Keating Five fiasco, shows that our mainstream media are not above a bit of creepiness of their own.

No man is responsible for his face as he ages (a bit of special pleading on my part) but he is responsible for his smile. Check out McCain's smile. These days there is a total disconnect from all pleasure and geniality. It is the smile of someone who believes he has scored a nasty but killing point by nailing his opponent with an insult, an innuendo rather than a fact; a bully's smile, a smile that lacks all dignity and generosity -- in fact, a smile that could go up against W's smirk in any creepiness competition and win by a tooth.

McCain is truly scary in his cold warrior stance -- the product of another time -- asserting that he holds the key to America's security while failing to grasp essential facts about the world as it is today; failing to recognize that Czechoslovakia is no longer a country; and that our own government is not the enemy when it imposes safety regulations on industries that affect the lives of all citizens. These are not merely verbal confusions, they reveal a smug, self-satisfied ignorance. Before you can speak of "the facts on the ground" as McCain does obsessively, it helps to have a grasp of the facts in your head. Every time McCain uses the word "surge" my creep-o-meter hits a new high as he congratulates himself on his judgment, confuses the pre-surge Suni reconciliation with the surge itself, and hopes that we will forget that he ardently supported Bush in the run-up to the war. Most of all he still fails to understand what a calamity that war has been for America. Trust me, this is not about age, you can be a creep at twenty, and muddle the facts at forty as well as seventy-two, it is about a commitment to the truth -- a commitment to reality over ambition -- something that matters at any age. If, as some recent polls indicate, most Americans believe that they share the values of McCain more than those of Obama, it is truly scary. Indeed, that alone is enough to give me the creeps.