If Hillary Clinton is the great triangulator, John McCain has been using political calculus to position himself.
I have a basic premise from which I begin when making most political assessments. At it's most reduced it amounts to simply accepting that anything bad said about somebody else by anyone in Washington, regardless of party, is probably true. It works more often than not, wins me few partisan supporters for long and rightly leads me to know that what resides in Washington is collectively several notches below monkey's throwing their own poop. But it doesn't always work. Only a little more than half the time, and as I said, it's only a beginning premise from which to explore the landscape. This assumption virtually never works for John McCain. At one time - the GOP primaries of 2000 -- I was actually a McCain supporter. I was ready to vote GOP for the first time in my life if they had nominated John McCain. Like many people, I viewed him as "the straight talker" and felt that if the religious right and Bush family hated him as much as they did, he must indeed be someone at least somewhat promising. He seemed willing to offend, and I found that attractive in anyone within the establishment. I also prided myself on not being easily fooled by people. But events after McCain lost the primary began to show me that John McCain turned out to be a far more shrewd, calculating and cold-blooded politician than my first estimation; I had been fooled. The first hint of something seriously wrong with my judgement about him came shortly after McCain's opponents played the race card on him in the South using "push polling", insinuating that he had fathered an interracial child out of wedlock. His forgiveness of the unforgivable violated everything I understood about human nature. Likewise, his bizarre, overtly dependent, child-like, too long for comfort, effeminate, and outright disturbed looking physical embrace of George W. Bush at the RNC convention led me to believe there might be something seriously wrong with the man. I have struggled to understand John McCain for a very long time now. He has been the most difficult personality in politics to decipher and predict, but I think I'm finally figuring out his game. Things have leaked out with McCain's increasing probability as the GOP nominee; his sudden embrace of the Christian right he's so long been a critic of was one when he announced his intent to speak at Bob Jones University -- an institution which forbids interracial dating on campus. McCain's been caught several times blatantly lying recently - to Tim Russert -- about statements he's made. The "straight-talker" has finally revealed himself to me as, as big a liar as there is, but it took a long time. But what explains his allegedly "maverick" against-the-grain nature? I'm going to begin here with recent positions on Iraq taken by McCain in attempting to explain my theory about him, for his seemingly "Maverick" position on the Iraq war today after the "thumping" the voters gave Bush, is what's finally enabled me to get a handle on what makes him tick. McCain's call for more troops is probably going to be viewed by many, as once again a "courageous out of stepness" with Washington, and refreshingly honest. I'm going to show you why it's anything but courageous, but is in fact, the result of a mind which continually schemes for any long-range political advantage, and which is utterly devoid of any guiding core principles. McCain knows, or at least believes he knows what's going to happen over the next two years. Rather than positioning himself based on events now in accordance with his principles, he is in fact positioning himself where he believes all of this is going to end up; two more years of failure to "fix" Iraq. He first knows that it can not be fixed. Second, he knows that the attempt is probably going to be viewed by the Republican base in the same way they viewed, and to a large extent still view, Vietnam; It could have and should have been won. Never mind that it couldn't, and it can't. McCain understands Democrats are innately too divided to actually get all the troops out, his fellow Republicans are divided over "stay the course" vs. bring SOME of the troops home, and the United States will end up humiliated. McCain believes that no one will be happy with the outcome because "compromise" in a situation with no good end no matter what, will predictably lay the ground work for an electorate desperate for someone, anyone, to be able to say "I told you so" and "you know this won't happen again on my watch". McCain also knows his call for more troops (impossible but beside the point because it's a political move) -- if implemented -- is going to be met with not enough; It's a safe call. McCain is a man who truly understands the axiom that "revenge is a dish best served cold": He's been waiting for a very long time to plunge the knife into the back of George W. Bush and assume the mantle. McCain knows he will be safe by the time he's ready with the knife; Bush is already well on his way to becoming a leper within the GOP. McCain's assault on Bush will be brutal in 2008, and also well received among moderate Republicans and independants. Well enough received to distract them from the fact that as future war-mongers go, McCain's capacity far exceeds that of George W. Bush. McCain's "straight talk" image although slightly damaged, is still largely intact with most Americans, and he has a shockingly high approval rating among Democrats actually willing to vote for him. His "act" has worked. If Hillary Clinton is an able political triangulator, John McCain has been using a long range political calculus to position himself. It may well have been something he developed to survive his captivity as a POW, or it may have been an innate talent from the beginning. The strategy has failed on several occasions, but he hasn't given up. Sooner or later it will succeed. The current military and political quagmire appears to be an approaching perfect storm of fertile ground into which McCain will finally establish himself. He has come back and been the good GOP whore again and again over the years and at this point, there is nothing he's not willing to say or do to become the next President, including igniting a war from which there will be no escape once he gets in. It would also not surprise me in the least to see something else take place, and I believe I can see it's shadow already emerging; a McCain-Lieberman "Unity" ticket in 2008. I believe McCain is finally going to be willing to run as an independent in 2008 if he's not the nominee. I believe it because 2008 is his last shot. Know this about the man; he is very smart, he's -- usually -- a brilliant liar, and he is without any principle other than attaining command, and he is absolutely ruthless in his pursuit of that power. Given the situation, John McCain may well have placed the winning bet this time. That probability may make him the most dangerous man alive in Washington right now.
Jay Esbe is a writer with a background in cultural anthropology and comparative religion and lives in Seattle Washington.