Forget Obama as a postironic candidate. What we have here is a prospective presidency that only a flat-out ironist could love.
But Mr McCain has serious handicaps, too. One is his temper. “It is startling to contemplate how violent John McCain was well into his 20s,” notes Matt Welch, a critical biographer. Drunk on shore leave in Cuba, he charged into a brawl between Marines and sailors. He admits to having “loved” such encounters.
Mr McCain no longer brawls, but he still cusses like a sailor, even at fellow senators. He is quick to accuse adversaries of bad faith or even corruption. And he does not seem to care whom he insults. People who insist that Vietnam still holds American prisoners-of-war, for example, he calls “dime-store Rambos”.
Most Americans will forgive Mr McCain his wild youth, especially since he freely supplies so many details about strippers, affairs and knocking over power lines while larking about in his plane. Many will turn a deaf ear to his cursing too. It was not diplomatic of him to shout “Fuck you, you goddamned slant-eyed cocksuckers” at the North Vietnamese guards dragging him off to be tortured, but voters will probably cut him some slack, given the circumstances. Plus, and infinitely more important, he has since then pushed hard for reconciliation with Vietnam.
In a Clinton-McCain contest, McCain may well win it.