Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In a post titled "Klein 1, McCain 0," Steve Benen quotes remarks by Joe Klein of Time in response to John McCain's recent haranguing of Barack Obama over Iraq -- including a blog post in which Klein says of McCain,

His behavior has nothing to do with love of country; it has everything to do with love of self.

A lot of people agree that what McCain is guilty of is self-love. DougJ of Balloon Juice:

McCain's self-aggrandizement isn't cynical, it's based on the belief that what's good for John McCain is good for the United States.


...John McCain is a severe narcissist. He certainly doesn't think he's putting himself ahead of country, he's just not really able to distinguish between the two.

All of which makes sense, except for one thing: the score isn't "McCain 0" at all. What McCain has been doing has had at least some of the effect he wanted it to have.

From Politico's story on Obama's news conference today:

President Barack Obama came closer Tuesday to declaring common cause with Iranians who have mounted wide-scale protests against the Iranian regime in recent days....

Obama ... rejected suggestions that he was stepping up his support for the protesters in response to criticism from Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.)....

Here are the questions, from Fox's Major Garrett and NBC's Chip Reid:

MR. OBAMA ...Major Garrett? Where's Major?

QUESTION: Right here, sir.

In your opening remarks, sir, you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long?


MR. OBAMA: Chip?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Following up on Major's question, some Republicans on Capitol Hill, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for example, have said that up to this point your response on Iran has been timid and weak.

Today it sounded a lot stronger. It sounded like the kind of speech John McCain has been urging you to give, saying that those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history, referring to an iron fist in Iran, deplore, appalled, outraged.

Were you influenced at all by John McCain and Lindsey Graham accusing you of being timid and weak?

That's from the transcript; you can read it and decide for yourself whether Obama effectively rebutted the criticism. I think he did a pretty good job -- but the mere fact that there was a question about McCain's criticism is a victory for McCain and the GOP.

McCain isn't preening right now. He's in GOP-loyalist mode -- and, in that mode, it isn't "what's good for John McCain is good for the United States," it's "what's bad for Democrats is good for the United States."

It's not so much that McCain believes the McCain myth. It's that he knows people in the Beltway are often very happy to believe that myth, to see him as a guy who surely must be right about anything remotely to do with "toughness" and "courage," no matter what the circumstances, just because he was in a war and was tortured (and bizarrely, to believe the same about Graham and Lieberman, just because they hang out with McCain).

So if it becomes the conventional wisdom that McCain stiffened Obama's spine, then McCain was "narcissistic" like a fox.

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