Campaigns are Presidential Auditions – McCain Struggling

It was an unscheduled quick stop for the Bill Clinton campaign.  Cellphone service was terrible and the quick bathroom break for the bus occupants and the 20 minutes of rapid exchanges on pay phones would suit nicely as the traveling press was otherwise cut-off.  As the traveling team assembled the name Jennifer Flowers began circulating the stale air of the bus.  By the time cell service was available, everyone on the bus knew what everyone else knew and in what appeared to be a riot – reporters fought to get  information to their editors.

Not much time passed before there was a news wave worthy of a surfing competition; and, not long after that Bill Clinton’s denials had won over evidence.  There was no doubt in any ones mind that Clinton had engaged Flowers, but the Flowers promoters were not handling their end very well and the relationship appeared to be more of a professional engagement than it did an affair of the heart.  An apology to Mario Cuomo by Clinton was delivered because of a disparaging remark Clinton made on one of the tapes that Flowers secretly recorded of their phone calls as Rush Limbaugh became a household word badgering Clinton by playing the tapes on a loop.

Why the story?  Simple. This was a Presidential campaign that was led with extraordinary leadership  While the dynamics of the team may have been closer to tobacco auction with James Carville’s Tommy Gun Talking with Bayou Bullets – there is no doubt that Bill Clinton was calm, cool and collected.  He was all that one would expect of a world leader.  Calm, collected, thoughtful and nearly immune to shame.  While Clinton may have misplaced some requisite humility, it was clear to many Americans that anyone who could run a campaign with the hired guns of the media ground force pummeling him, as Limbaugh did daily, he was a natural leader.  His propensity for womanizing seemed to be more palatable to voters than four more years of the testosterone challenged George H. W. Bush, who ultimately managed to lose an election after winning a war, which sent bookies in Ireland reeling.  Perhaps the nation was tired of being talked to as though they were children by someone who they knew couldn’t give rat’s ass about their circumstances, and did it sounding like Mr. Rogers

Now fast forward to end of the Clinton Presidency – George W. Bush is in contention for the Republican Nomination – the Democratic convention is strictly pro forma, Gore is the de  facto nominee.  The neoconservative movement has become emboldened with each failed Clinton scandal.  Flowers, Jones, White-water, Vince Foster’s suicide – while ignoring some important facts – budget balanced, budget surplus (although is a total BS accounting term that means we actually owe less), unemployment down and every military engagement on Clinton’s watch was brief and successful.  The conflict in eight state-nations formerly known as Yugoslavia was brought to the beginning of an end.  Africa is still a distant drum, but even the political parisans are not going to challenge Clinton for limited or non-engagement.  The Clinton score sheet is excellent, NAFTA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hadn’t yet been rejected by the body politique as abysmal failures.

George W Bush comes out swinging, in fact, quite impressive.  He mows down his opponents and makes a rag doll out of John McCain.  This same John McCain, hero, maverick, but, there was not enough distance between the Keating 5 scandal and McCain yet.  The accusations of McCain fathering a black child, were merely a warning – the neocons were going to have him for lunch – and they did.  Meanwhile, back at the phony ranch of the Connecticut Prep school and Yale educated Howdy Doody of presidents – it wasn’t George Bush’s impressive leadership that out stepped McCain – it was McCain’s campaign and leadership skills in 2000. The fact that he didn’t actually win the election is another matter.

McCain’s lack of focus wasn’t apparent when he was told his dream of furthering the family legacy of his father and grandfather would not come to pass and that he would not be considered again for Flag rank in the Navy.  Decisively, he rowed the lifeboat to Arizona and immediately cashed in his chips and was all but handed a Congressional seat in the US House.  More public service and a new career.  What could be more admirable.  It was, he was. Irrespective of his politics or changing views he was effective.

But in the campaign against George W. Bush, the neocons were pushing their agenda and McCain was no neocon.  Not that he wouldn’t drink their scotch and smoke their cigars, but he wasn’t going to join their club.  He didn’t see the reason to do it – he had powerful group of supporters, although not any longer the compassionate Goldwater Republicans, they were Republican’s.  The insidious influence of Richard Perle, William Krystol and the “think tanks” they touted hadn’t yet coursed through all the arteries of the Republican Party until George W. Bush, day-dreaming of his legacy, propped the door open for them like an unconscious drunk on a bender.

McCain in 2000 though, brandished his expertise, and no one challenged that; after all, half the people in his gunsights had tickets to Canada ready while he was doing time in the Hanoi Hilton.  But even McCain’s patriotism and prisoner of war scars were no match for the Joe Six-pack crowd and the Bush jingoistic gymnastics.  A most baffling anomaly – John McCain, son of an Admiral, a former prisoner-of-war and decorated Viet Nam Vet, married to the Chairman of the largest Budweiser distributorship in the country – loses the nomination to the son of a President, delinquent Air Guardsman whom red-necks favored 4-1 for best drinking buddy.

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but that may not be true, although they may not learn them well.  John McCain lacks more skill now than when he was thrown out of the ring by Bush.  He adopted new tricks to compensate, hired the a cadre of impressive lobbyists (a force with whom McCain casually cavorts) and by the time the Republican National Committee realized that their own candidate was accidentally going to be McCain – they brought all the fireworks and operatives that created the Bush presidency to McCain, Rove included.  Under McCain’s own leadership, he is essentially no match for the Obama organizational style in a fair fight.  To his detriment he has taken to lying.  Not the political overstatement or understatement that many are comfortable with, but rather, outright lies. More lies (2 videos).

While style is only an element of candidates campaign / leadership skill, it is abundantly clear that John McCain has a propensity for the unusual and that his campaign is more about marketing than governance.  What else could explain the pick of Sarah Palin as VP.  The obvious fact that she is a woman and considerably younger than McCain in order to deflect voter’s fears of McCain’s age were a marketing decision by his campaign seems to be imploding.  With more reversals than a high school foot-ball game, McCain’s weak grasp on economics and cadre of banker-advisers that  are reminiscent of a  Washington Mutual television ad, speaks volumes.   The McCain’s foolish move on Monday of airing a commercial trying to fix blame on the economic leadership of Obama was intolerable and dishonorable, much as we fear the disease inside the McCain campaign has metastasized and the audition is not going very well.

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