Very recently, John McCain’s campaign manager said the election was not going to be about the issues, but about the personalities of the candidates.
The Obama campaign laughed and said they themselves would be running on issues, despite what McCain and his handlers wanted.
Yet, the exchange got me to thinking — what would the Obama campaign look like if instead of discussing issues, it discussed personalities?
Well, for one thing, Obama would need to be a bit more honest with the voters than he has been.
You see, I was watching some recent speeches by Obama on YouTube when I caught him in a lie. At least, I suspect it was a lie. Not much of a lie, but a lie nevertheless.
In the video, Obama more or less asserted that John McCain had in some way distinguished himself as an outstanding or exceptional man.
Now, I suspect Obama has done his homework and studied McCain. And I think it’s a fair guess that Obama is a good enough judge of people he knows McCain is at best average.
We hear white lies all the time. We know people are just being polite.
Yet, if the McCain campaign wants to make this race about personalities, then maybe it’s high time we were not so polite about John McCain. Maybe it’s high time for us to get realistic about him.
A friend of mine — a self-made millionaire — once told me he thought a reason many people who wish to be millionaires are not millionaires is because they do not actually want to make a million dollars. They only want to spend a million dollars.
He said, “It’s usually hard work to make a million dollars, Paul, and when you come right down to it, most people have other and better priorities than to dedicate their lives to making a million dollars.” To put his statement in context, in the years he was accumulating his first million, he typically worked 80 to 100 hours a week — year in, year out. Whatever else you might want to say about him, he’s no slacker.
I tend to think of McCain as someone who in some ways works very hard to be president, but in most ways doesn’t work very hard at all.
For instance, I think it’s pretty evident McCain has worked very hard to build support among the Republican base for his candidacy.
Bringing Palin on board must have been a tough decision for him because he wanted Lieberman. But he had the political skill, sense and discipline to almost immediately alter course when it was pointed out to him Lieberman would loose the evangelical/dominionist vote, while Palin would energize it. Palin might be a flawed choice — time will tell — but she was at least the right choice to energize the base. You don’t make tough choices like that one without having at some time worked hard to sharpen your political instincts and to discipline yourself to be politically realistic.
And, of course, no one is going to dispute that McCain is willing to put in long, hard hours on the campaign trail. At his age of 72, that’s even amazing.
On the other hand, he’s probably wanted to be president for at least a decade now, but he has never — so far as any of us know — mastered enough economics to understand what a president can and cannot do to pursue the best trade policies with other countries — let alone help create jobs.
Again, McCain has a problem with his temper, and he often does not stay cool under stress, yet it seems he’s never been adequately motivated to do anything effective to solve his problem.
Last, in most other ways it seems he’s never sat down, analysed what skills he must acquire to be a good president, and then set about improving himself to acquire those skills.
In short, I suspect McCain is someone who has worked hard to develop a certain narrow range of political skills, but who has slacked off when it comes to developing knowledge and executive skills. It occurs to me that might be why he feels more comfortable following George W. Bush’s policies than coming up with his own.
Overall, I would lump him with those who want to spend a million dollars, instead of with those who want to make a million dollars. He doesn’t seem to stretch himself to develop the excellence necessary to be a good president — although he’s had plenty of time for it. Perhaps he has more ambition than dedication?
At any rate, I suspect McCain has “other and better priorities” than dedicate himself to being the best president he can be. And I think that would be fine — if he didn’t want to be president.