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July 23rd, 2008
03:01 PM ET

McCain meltdown

Joe Klein
TIME Magazine columnist

John McCain said this today in Rochester, New Hampshire:

"This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign."

This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.  Read more


Filed under: Barack Obama • Joe Klein • John McCain • Raw Politics • T1
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Judy

    When will McCain start talking about and planning for the future. His mindset is all about the past. He brings up his time in captivity in Vietnam on many occassions. His capture and long period of captivity are well known. It doesn't help place him in a Presidential light to keep bringing it up. He derides Obama for never having served in the military. Many young men haven't ever served and again it reflects an old time war mentality to emphasize 'no experience as a soldier' as proof of their disloyalty or lack of love for the country. This is the thinking that applied in the World Wars and in the years of mandatory service. Todays world is different and young men (and women) are not seen as disloyal because they choose not to join the military. MacCain is responding to the challenges in todays world by applying the same battle crys of the 40's 50's and 60's. Todays enemy and battles are different. They will be fought differently. MacCain doesn't seem to realize this.

    July 24, 2008 at 8:34 am |
  2. Eileen, VA

    Thank you for your comments about recent McCain tactics. I am appalled that John McCain has been let off the hook. This man is supposed to be the expert on the Iraq War. He is supposed to be a straight shooter. He cannot get the geography, the tribes, or the chronology right. I still cannot believe that CBS switched answers to interview questions. I actually heard a commentator say that it happens "all the time".

    I am sickened by John McCain's assertion that Obama's "Never Again" comment was insincere. As a Jew who lost family in Nazi concentration camps and a strong supporter of Israel, I am confident in Barack Obama's support for Israel.

    It seems like the McCain campaign will stoop to anything from reinventing history to accusing his opponent of treason and secret anti-semitism to win the White House. For all our sakes, I hope the American people will show that these despicable tactics will not work.

    July 24, 2008 at 8:03 am |
  3. Efemena Doroh

    I think McCain should stop looking for the weakness of Obama, and say what he has got to offer the Americans and the world.
    I think many wives, children, friends and families have lost their persons in the so called war he is always interested in.
    I think he sould be taken to the war front in Iraq and see if he can survive a week, I trust the succide bombers if they get to know he is their they will do all they can to blow him up.

    July 24, 2008 at 6:51 am |
  4. jeff w idaho

    this over seas juant by sen obama hopefully has awakened those who have been in support of sen mccain. the republican sen has proven he has no sense of leadership or whats important to the hard working people of this great country – if he did he would have taken the opertunity to prove his metal on the issues at home instead of play the i was rite and you were wrong card- he is looking desperate and out of focus – and this is only the campaighn for the white house – we need leader ship and focus on all the issues

    July 24, 2008 at 1:22 am |
  5. greg N.C.

    I believe John McCain was right in saying that "I had rather lost a campain than lose a war, while obama had rather lose a war to win a campain". It does not matter any more why we went to war in Iraq, now it only matters whether we win or not. By win i mean not quiting until all terroist are dead. To bring the troops home with out a decisive victory would be disgracing those that have died and those that have made the personal sacrifice of being in the uniform.

    As far as the majority of the public wanting to end the war, i don't know for sure, all i know is i have never ever been polled on any issue covered in the news nor has anybody that i know. The polls only seem to be taken in the liberal north and the liberal west coast i.e. California.

    I believe obama will turn on America if he gets to be president and allow the muslims to take over this counrty.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:55 am |
  6. Greg

    Nate, the problem with your proposition for McCain is that he has already declared that he doesn't know much about the economy and his top "economic advisor" resigned after calling the citizens of this country who are hurting economically a nation of whiners. The former senator, Phil Gramm, also was directly responsible for mortgage and oil deregulation that has led to some of the problems the country is having now. So, McCain should probably avoid the economy like he is avoiding George Bush now.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:24 am |
  7. Ron (Lawrenceville, GA)

    McCain arrogance and presumed entitlement that he should be President has really come to the forefront in what he said. That's an old man's statement. One who is out of touch with the People and who would cast aside ethics and morality just to achieve what he believes is his entitlement. I guess his failure to be Admiral and his disappointing his Dad has really driven him to want to show the world he can succeed. Too bad for him. He's like a caged animal. You don't know what it will do. Look out world, I would hate for him to be President. Go Obama ... Save Us From McSame.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  8. Sarah KC

    why does Mccain find it necessary to even mention Obama every time he speaks? Does he think I'm to stupid to figure it out for myself? I need him to point out all the bad?? Why doesn't he spend more time telling me what good he (Mccain) is going to do instead of putting Obama down? I saw a commercial the other day that had a gas pump and a picture of Obama... implying that the price of gas is Obama's fault. Last time I checked, it took more than one vote to get ANYTHING done in DC. Is Mccain's whole campaign going to be negative? If it is, it's going to be a LONG time to November.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  9. Kay

    Mccain is a confused old man. Now he is telling us that the surge is a counter insurgency strategy and not the build up of troops that Bush ordered. He talks about czechoslovakia and the Pakistan Iraque border-–both non-existent and yet so many believe he makes a better commander-in-chief -amazing. God forbid, if he became President and decides to attack Iran--hemay just order the bombs to fall on Moscow.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:58 pm |
  10. Yvette

    I offer a possibly different perspective on John McCain's passionate comments about the importance of us (USA) winning the war. It formed as I heard him state that it was important for our soldiers to come home in honor and in victory. I wonder if Senator McCain's passion for winning is fueled in part by his experiences in Vietnam. We know that the conclusion is that we did not win that war. We know that for a variety of reasons those Vietnam veterans were not received with honor when they returned to the USA. Countless statistics demonstrate the many veterans who have been unsuccessful in overcoming the physical and psychological challenges that they experienced as a result of being in the Vietnam War. Senator McCain's passionate statements about the war in Iraq may be rooted in part with his desire that these soldiers do not experience what his cohort experienced. One of the issues that could arise out of this desire is that he may not make all of his decisions regarding the current war objectively but instead his decisions about this war may be tinged with subjective feelings linked to the Vietnam war; this could result in wise and sage decisions about the current war not being made as the decisions made are skewed through the prism of the Vietnam War...something to consider.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:53 pm |
  11. Rob

    What McCain said is the truth, but CNN , which is so obviously backing Obama, can't handle the truth. Obama is the worst kind of politician; he would sell out his own grandmother in Hawaii (oh – he already did that!) to get elected.

    What I am hearing from the public is that they are so tired of seeing and hearing about Obama that they can't wait until the election is over and McCain is in office. Oh, by the way, you in the news media, Obama has not been elected and the last time I looked George Bush was President and sets the policy for our country, not some arrogant wanna be!

    July 23, 2008 at 11:42 pm |
  12. Alonzo M

    I listen to McCain and I wonder if his age has diminished his thought processes. He sounds like a rambling, delirious fool. His interpretations of what Obama is saying are different that what I hear. His misstatements are becoming more numerous and quite frankly at times he seems to have regressed to childhood. How else can you explain his tantrums about not having the spotlight. Perhaps it is old age, perhaps it was his captivity in Vietnam that dulled his ability to see and understand what is going on around him. Whatever it is, I sure wouldn't want him in the White House, especially in a crisis. If he is acting this crazy campaigning for the Presidential Election, I shudder to think what kind of decisions he would make if he answered the phone at 3 a.m.

    July 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm |
  13. Michael

    I completely agree with Sen. McCain. He has said that many times before while running for the nomination, how is it different now?

    July 23, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  14. sid

    Obviously... if evry1 hasnt already noticed.... McCains entire campaign is based on talking about Obama's "lack of patriotism" Evry time i watch 1 of his speeches on the news and he's talking about what he's voted for in congress or what he supports, he ALWAYS brings up how Obama didn't or doesn't support what he does! I think that just shows how much character McCain really has. And i dont want a pres. that is known to have a bad temper. I dont know why anyone would vote for McCain!!! He's basically another Bush!!!

    July 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  15. Dru

    This "war" is not a war. It is not about political gain. It is about money. It is about oil. It is about enriching those with ties to the war industry. If McCain wants to call someone out, he should ask for an immediate investigation of Bush and Cheney's blind trusts. How much have their interests soared through the blood, sweat and tears of American soldiers and their families? Sadly, I don't think we will ever know.

    July 23, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  16. Jim in Colorado

    McCain is a hero, a survivor, a leader. Critics sit on the sidelines and ponder.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  17. Jan

    Am very disappointed that a candidate for the Presidency of the United States would stoop to such tactics as to make statements that are not true and frequently & intentionally misrepresents the position and platform of the other candidate. If a political campaign is based solely on tearing apart the competition rather than promote the positive things the candidate has accomplished while in the US Congress, (possibly because there aren't achievements during that quarter of a century in office) then there is something seriously wrong with that candidate and Americans should not vote for him/her.
    Also, if a gaffe occurs/error made in statement of fact and the
    candidate doesn't have enough integrity to admit his own mistake (as in confusing the timeline of the Surge & other positive initiatives conducted prior to the implementation of the Surge), or to try to take credit for another's achievements (as in the efforts of the military officer who protected a Shake with a tank prior to the Surge) then that person is not worthy of the Office of the Presidency of the United States.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    McCain stated his opinion and he has a perfect right to do so. Why have an aide or surrogate do it for you? I'm more impressed with the fact that McCain had the courage and strength of character to say what he really thinks instead of dancing around it like most politicians do. I may not agree with what he says but I do acknowledge that McCain promised straight talk and so far he is delivering.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 23, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  19. Lucero1946

    McMeltdown.
    Its amazing! McCain is in a meltdown either he is lying or he has had a senior moment. How dare him take advantage of an idea by a General and applying as his own. The "Surge" mainly means an increase in Soldiers, Thats all! This man is afraid of large crowds, complains about the Media, he needs a tailor, he is a reactionary "reacts to everything Obama says", Where is his substance? Lets do some logic. If the "Surge reduced the violence in Iraq" then it follows that no surge would have increased the violence. Okay, then 9/11 was caused by Bush. He did not follow the writing on the wall of an increased threat by terra-ists to the U.S. He also blasts Obama on "Experience". What good has experience done for U.S. in the last 8 years? Bush, Cheney, etc., and not one of them served in the Military. They all had more combined deferments than Obama's age.

    July 23, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  20. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    McBush, if it is a true war, then everyone goes, even the rich kids!!
    Vietnam appears to have taught you nothing!!
    Lives lost in a hopeless cause is not an honorable undertaking!!
    Support of a corrupt regime and tribes who don't want to live in peace together is not a cause to support!!

    July 23, 2008 at 7:52 pm |
  21. nate

    Sen McCain must do some damage control and rethink his campaign's focus on Iraq. The vast majority of Americans believe Iraq hindered our efforts in capturing Bin Laden and was not necessary.
    He should redirect his efforts towards focusing on the economy and draw stark differences between himself and Sen. Obama which I believe may allow him to increase his chances of winning the White House.
    Sen. Obama has never explicitly stated his views on personal income tax and has hinted that he will let the Bush Tax Cuts expire as well as the current rate of capital gains expire. McCain should force a dialogue with Obama to reveal a detailed account of what his IRS personal income tax structure would look like and press him to make a comment on where he would establish the Capital gains tax rate.
    If McCain does not do this, he will most certainly lose due to the fact that the majority of middle class Americans want to see the economy get better, but do not want to pay for it out of their annual income tax.

    July 23, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  22. vern-anaheim ,ca

    i have heard sen mccain critisize sen.obama for lack of political expierence,i'll wager mccain doesn't know one of our greatest presidents abraham lincoln had no more expierence than sen.obama has when he was elected president but what else could i expect from a old man who finished so low in his class at the naval acadamy.the only reason he was admitted to the acadamy was his last name of mccain and who his grandfather&father were.

    July 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  23. Monika

    I had a marvelous idea. Since McCain is so eager to wage wars and KNOWS how to win them and since he believes he would make such a great Commander-in Chief, let’s promise him all the troops he could possibly want. Just one little catch: He is only allowed to wage a war at the Iraqi-Pakistani border. And since he believes he would make such a great Commander-in Chief, he will be required to lead the troops PERSONALLY, on the ground. And to make sure nobody gets lost, McCain will be required to fly ahead and scout out the territory, and he will only be allowed back into this country once he discovers the Iraqi-Pakistani border. Then he can have all the troops he wants to wage war on both the Sunni and Shia, which he can’t tell apart anyway.

    July 23, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  24. Alex

    In listening to the back and forth rhetoric between Obama and McCain, as well as many Republicans' and Democrats' opinions of the opposite party, it occurs to me that regardless of who is finally elected President, I foresee a HUGE division between people in general and the parties. I doubt that is "change" either candidate envisions, yet we are sure to be divided no matter who wins. I'm a mainly an optimist who hopes for better times. But my gut tells me this ain't gonna be pretty either way.

    July 23, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  25. gina

    Amen Michael Arisi

    July 23, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  26. HF in CA

    No problems with this statement. It's about time someone said something like that...and its TRUE!

    July 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  27. orisis

    McCain is a jealous hater just like Jesse Jackson, please quit hating on Obama. Obama shake the haters off.

    July 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  28. Linda

    I don't have a problem with the statement and agree that I'd prefer McCain to make such a statement, if that is what he believes, than to have a staffer do so. I don't think recent comments are whining...people are classifying many remarks like that because they don't like the fact the surge is showing progress. Why shouldn't McCain point it out? Neither guy has a strong enough platform at this point...I probably won't decide until the minute I am in the booth, though I will be watching both candidates closely over the coming months.

    By the way, I am a Republican and have NEVER called Democrats traitors...I don't paint members of other parties or organizations with broad strokes and would appreciate it if others would do the same. This is the whole problem with race relations, political debates, and religon...we need to respect others' opinions and quite being so divisive.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  29. Bette

    Thanks Joe for expressing an appropriate sense of outrage. For Sen. McCain to accuse Sen. Obama of sedition is beyond the pale. If this is Sen. McCain's idea of a compelling political argument, just imagine the witty ripostes we can expect from a McCain administration. The man doesn't have the temperament or the judgment to be President.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  30. Jeremy

    I'm an Obama supporter, but I have to say, this is the kind of language that makes me like McCain. It's straight up and to the point. It may not be PC, but aren't we always saying we don't want PC?

    July 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  31. Pat McCarthy

    Isn't the important issue the fundamental question of was this war worth getting into? Who gives a nickel as to whether the surge is the focus...is that all McCain has? The rational smacks of desperation and the type of anger that is not needed...we have real issues to deal with...and it does not help that the press has to re write John McCain's mistakes on geography every day...my God this man may have his finger on the nuclear trigger...no way!!!! Go Obama....

    July 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  32. Sammie

    If John McCain truly beleives that he would rather loose an election thatn win a war, he needs to lok at Vietnam. If we had waited to win that war McCain would have spent much more time in the Hanoi Hilton. So in my mind if he trully beleives what he says p check back in.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  33. Marc

    McCain is becoming more than insulting and his constant whining the past week is becoming unbearable. I believe that Obama has agreed that the surge was part of the recent success but there were other factors too. If McCain could stop patting his own back and stop whining he might discover that the public is aware of the past – but more interested in the future. What is his plan? Just more of the same? sound like it.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:17 pm |
  34. Michael Arisi

    The media has also allowed John Mccain to get away with making the debate ONLY about the SURGE. We would not have needed a surge if we had made the wise decision NOT to invade Iraq. The cost of that colosal mistake include the death of over 4000 young Americans, over 20,000 wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi killed, over two million Iraqi refugees, 800 billion dollars US tax dollars wasted. The cost of taking our eyes off of Afghanistan and transfering our military assets to Iraq include the resurgence of terrorist forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the failure to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden seven years after the twin towers came down.

    John McCain still insists that knowing all that we know now, he would still have made the decision to invade Iraq. That is the ultimate in poor judgement. What use is "experience" if you make poor choices?
    He is NOT qualified to be commander in Chief.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  35. J

    Funny that speaking your mind is now looked down on. Unfortunately none of the candidates will actually say what they really think or believe until after the election and we can thank the media and the ignorant masses for that. Both of these guys are out for themselves...Obama wants to be the first black president and McCain simply thinks he deserves it because of his heroism. Don't get me wrong, I think Obama could be a good president but he has no experience. I don't think McCain would be a good president ever. Maybe if either of these guys would have accomplished something for the American people then I could vote for them. When will politicians wake up and realize it's not about them, it's about US, we the people.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  36. Laura

    I would have to agree with you. This obsession with the so-called surge is a moot point–we should not have been in Iraq in the first place. As a matter of fact, I feel that the bad guys have only changed location, they have gone to Afghanistan. It is a cat and mouse play with the United States. We have totally fallen into their trap.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  37. Elizabeth

    I totally agree. How can we elect a man claiming to be the "experienced one;" yet, appears not to know where Irag is on a map (connecting it to the border of Pakistan), confuses the Sunni and Shia, and doesn't know that Czechoslovakia no longer exists, etc. Worse, he will "swiftboat" his opponent in order to "con" the American people to elect him.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  38. c. hernandez

    M ccain needs to seriously consider retirement at this time of his political career.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  39. Diane Watson

    It's been clear for some time now that John McCain has nothing to offer the American public other than a compelling personal biography. In hiring Karl Rove henchman Steve Schmidt to run his campaign, it's clear what his campaign strategy is: attack, attack, attack. Every minute of every day, he and his campaign are on the attack against Barack Obama, while Obama spends his days laying out well thought out policy prescriptions based on our most pressing needs. This is why McCain's NY Times op-ed was rejected while Obama's was printed. Obama has a road map for success in Iraq and Afganistan while McCain's was simply another attack. Couple this with McCain's constant gaffes and complete misunderstanding of basic facts and geography and you have one of the worst candidates and most poorly run political campaigns in US history.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  40. Cindy

    It is SO obvious Joe that you are for Obama so why don't you just come out and say it? Why keep downing McCain every day? Why not stick to your beloved Obama?

    John McCain is right! Obama never does , votes, or says anything that will cost him his job or this election. He'd rather someone else do the hard work then ride their coat tails in on the finished product. Why not tell the truth!? His voting record in congress and his work or shall I say non work there proves McCain's point.

    Cindy...Ga.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  41. Arachnae

    Why is this surprising? Republicans have been calling Democrats traitors since Newt Gingrich's reign.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  42. Bill

    Why shouldn't he say it? It's true. I'm tired of politicians not just laying it out there but instead letting other people do their dirty work. You are basically saying it's okay to say stuff like that... as long as his aides do it. What a dumb argument. That'd be like me wanting to call a co-worker an idiot... but, instead I'll let someone else do it for me.

    Like him or not, McCain was right about "the surge" and Obama wasn't. Obama said it would be "a disaster" if we did "the surge". He was totally wrong.

    If anyone looks sad, it's Obama who gave this amazingly hilarious answer yesterday about if he'd vote for the surge knowing what he knows now. He said NO! haha.

    By the way, anyone want to take bets on how many times immature liberals will use the term "McSame" or "McBush" in the comment section today?

    July 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  43. John

    McCain: out of touch on two fronts- the War(s) and the political climate in America.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |