Jewish World Review March 13, 2000/ 6 Adar II, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- FROM THE 2050 EDITION of the "History of the English Speaking Peoples," revised, by Winston Churchill VI:
Most interesting of all was the American election year 2000. On Jan. 1, there were four plausible candidates for the presidency. At which point John McCain sequentially (1) destroyed Bill Bradley, (2) bloodied George W. Bush and then (3) immolated himself. The last man standing was Al Gore. On Jan. 20, 2001, he was sworn in as president, sporting the grin of a man who could not believe his dumb luck.
Why did McCain commit hara-kiri, gratuitously throwing away a quarter of the Republican electorate with his attack on the Christian right? It was not tactical--he forfeited the support of social conservatives while gaining nothing in the center. (In Ohio and California, those who found McCain's views of the religious right important voted 8 to 1 against him.)
It was personal.
McCain made the cardinal mistake of any presidential candidate. In politics as in the Mafia, there is business and there is personal. McCain could not make the distinction.
The one essential quality of winning candidates is discipline. Al Gore is so disciplined he acts like an android. George W. Bush does not quite have Gore's steel, but he had enough old veterans around him to sit him down and march him out with a new mantra after New Hampshire (the shamelessly plagiarized "reformer with results"). That was his story, and he has had the wisdom to stick to it ever since.
John McCain does not sit down for anybody. He improvises. He reacts. Willfully. And willfulness--the very quality that kept him alive as a prisoner of war--brought him down as a presidential candidate. When he sustained all those low blows in South Carolina, he took it personal, as they say on "The Sopranos." And that's when he lost it.
In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, there was some loose silly talk about McCain's running as a Reform Party candidate. Surely Ross Perot would love to have him. It would give respectability to a party of kooks and cranks. But it would just as surely be the end of McCain. Not just because Perot's party is the last refuge of the politically disturbed but because McCain gave his word that he would support the Republican nominee.
One of this week's losers--either McCain or Bradley--has a political future. One of them is going to see the man who beat him suffer defeat in November. If it is Gore, Bradley, who ended his campaign on the classy high road where he started it, and who is still young, would be a plausible choice for 2004. Al Gore, after all, was soundly defeated in 1988; Nixon (for the California governorship) in 1962.
If Bush loses, it is McCain who has a future. If in November the party establishment brings down on Republicans their third consecutive defeat, the man who charted a different course for the party, more centrist and less beholden to the social conservatives, is going to look very good the morning after Election Day.
McCain is in a position to be the Ronald Reagan of 1976: the insurgent making a run at the establishment, falling short, grudgingly supporting the nominee, and then having his vision of the future of the party vindicated by his rival's defeat in November.
Like Reagan, and unlike Bill Bradley, McCain is in no great hurry to endorse the man who beat him. McCain is not very good at obeisance. He can bide his time and deliver the endorsement after a decent interval--at the convention, for example, when it will have maximum impact. Reagan, after all, kicked off his '80 campaign with his stunning '76 convention speech.
McCain, 63, is just young enough for that.
Reagan was 65 in '76. McCain, however, has suffered physically more than most men his age. He might think that this is his last chance. It isn't.
For six months he ran a brilliant campaign (until South Carolina). He remains a national figure with a national following.
If what he said about George W. Bush's weakness turns out to be true, he is the Republican front-runner as of Nov. 8.
And as he learned to his chagrin, campaigns are infinitely more forgiving for
03/06/00: McCain off course