Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

McCain’s Character

The more I see of McCain, the more I suspect that he is, in part, the product of two things. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. Before that, he attended a good prep school in northern Virginia. That means that his understanding of goverment probably owes a good deal to the consensus liberalism that was the reigning idea in the schools in the 1950s. McCain also seems to have the bull dog stubbornness and "don’t tred on me" attitude of Keltic culture. This is conjecture, but it might explain some things about him.

Update: I probably should have used the title, "McCain’s Political Character," as it would do a better job describing what I’m suggesting.

Discussions - 10 Comments

McCain is indeed a product of the 1950s, and, as Michael Barone points out, he missed the '60s. Since our society and its fault lines were formed by the 1960s, he doesn't understand them very well and is therefore a poor spokesman against the left. Oprahbama might implode, and not just anyone can pick up the pieces. McCain can, because he represents neither side of the Sixties divide. But if the little guy doesn't implode, McCain may not run a sufficiently aggressive campaign to win.

The ethos of his family, that of professional naval officers, informed his character more than any school, even the Naval Academy. It's very easy to see John McCain as much the same man he is without the Naval Academy in his background. But it's not possible to see him that way without his father, without his grandfather. The McCain family is one of SERVING officers. That's the key to understand McCain.

As for his stubborness, that's DNA, and that probably got him through the Hanoi Hilton, -------------------------------along with the fact that he cried out to the Almighty when he was on the verge of suicide.

McCain has gone where few men have. I recall a line that the famous cartoonist Bill Maudlin used when describing his close friend Audie Murphy, "No man wanted to be him, but no man wanted to be thought unlike him either." So it is with McCain. No man would want to live through what he did, but then again no man desires to be thought unequal to such a trial either.

All of us should be wary of underestimating the appeal of a McCain candidacy, especially in the wake of the Clinton and Bush Presidencies.

David, it's true that McCain will probably not run an aggressive enough campaign to prevail. But what he lacks in aggressiveness, talk radio and the blogosphere will provide. Just as that proved the case for GW in '04, for he didn't run a sharp, tough race either, but he went on to win nonetheless.


Fair point, but inadequate. Yes, Bush won, but just barely, against an unattractive candidate, under better circumstances than McCain will have in 2008. Talk radio, etc., can prevent a blowout. But they aren't enough to elect a candidate whose own campaign is lousy. It need not be lousy, but I have little confidence in McCain's political judgment and instincts. My fear is that McCain will continually slap down his unofficial allies for "straying from the real issues," meaning, for talking about the real issues in ways that voters can understand.

Small-r republican virtue doesn't cut it, admirable though it is. People don't win tough elections because they are dying to "serve." They win because they either detest the other side or are eager for power.

Yes, that was the point that Ann Coulter made after victory, both in 2000 and 2004, when she lambasted Bush and Rove for taking races that should have been won in a walk and turning them into nail-biters.

All of us should be wary of underestimating the appeal of a McCain candidacy, especially in the wake of the Clinton and Bush Presidencies.


I give up. What is the appeal, exactly? From the perspective of the right? It's pretty clear what the appeal is from the left.

Yes, do tell - what is the appeal of the maverick to conservatives?

John, you're implying that Conservatives are the only group in the country to be considered when assessing whether or not McCain has appeal or not.

What is his appeal? The events that transpired in the Hanoi Hilton.

Recall I didn't support McCain in the primary, I didn't much like any of them, but from that group of contestants I thought Giuliani much the stronger candidate.

Pretending that McCain doesn't have any appeal isn't going to cut it. McCain had a movie made about him. He has a bestselling book to his credit. Now how many candidates can say as much.

What is his appeal? The events that transpired in the Hanoi Hilton.

I'm a conservative Republican military vet. And that fact that McCain spent time in the Hanoi Hilton does not constitute "appeal" to me. I doubt very much indeed that some anti-war independent voter is going to think "Oh, he was a POW? Guess I'll vote for him."

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