McCain Intent On Reminding Voters That He Is Doddering

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

The Bad McCain Week express rolls on:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said “Iraq” when he apparently meant “Afghanistan” on Monday, adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition.

McCain was talking about how we will face a "hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."  (Video here).


One prob:  Iraq and Pakistan don’t have a border. 

Or maybe, maybe… McCain in his expertise has a super special secret map:


A slip of the tongue?  Probably.  But as Drum notes:

"Even we partisans can get a little tired of pointing out John McCain’s constant verbal flubs and, um, moments of confusion. But Jesus. The question was about Afghanistan in the first place, which was an obvious invitation to talk about its ongoing border problems with the tribal areas of Pakistan. So what does McCain do? He deliberately pivots away to mention the nonexistent Iraq/Pakistan border. Does he even know what a map of central Asia looks like? Isn’t this supposed to be his strong suit?"

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ironically, the errors have been concentrated in what should be his area of expertise: foreign affairs.

Not good, especially during the same week when Obama is pulling a foreign affairs expertise showcase of stellar proportions.

McCain aides point out that he spends much more time than Obama talking extemporaneously, taking questions from voters and reporters. "Being human and tripping over your tongue occasionally doesn’t mean a thing," a top McCain official said.

But McCain’s mistakes raise a serious, if uncomfortable question: Are the gaffes the result of his age? And what could that mean in the Oval Office?

Voters, thinking about their own relatives, can be expected to scrutinize McCain’s debate performances for signs of slippage.

Every voter has a parent, grandparent or a friend whose mental acuity declined as they grew older. It happens at different times for different people — and there is ample evidence many in their 70s are as sharp and fit as ever.

Oh, good!

There’s "ample evidence" that McCain won’t be wandering around the White House in his boxer shorts, yelling at the squirrels in the front lawn, and repeatedly asking for peanut butter.

He’s got my vote!

UPDATE:  More on Obama’s unprecedented trip:

A veteran of former president Clinton’s administration, someone who understands both politics and foreign policy, described this week’s seven-nation trip as one of the four most important events for Obama between now and Election Day — the others being his selection of a vice presidential running mate, his convention and his debates with McCain.

What struck this person was the boldness of Obama’s decision to spend more than a week abroad in the middle of a campaign. Not, of course, for the reasons Obama outlined, but no less an example of Obama’s self-confidence. "This is a big-league move to directly address a concern that the American people are going to have" about his candidacy, he said.

What is striking is how Obama’s campaign differs from past Democratic campaigns. In earlier years, Democratic candidates couldn’t wait to move off of foreign policy and onto domestic issues, aware that their party more or less owned the domestic debate, while Republicans generally held the high ground on national security. The more time they could spend focusing the contest on domestic issues, the better their chances of winning.

That was true certainly for John F. Kerry against President Bush four years ago, and it’s clear that the polls currently show that national security issues are McCain’s one key area of strength against Obama. Obama’s advisers believe the economy will dominate the fall campaign, but the candidate shows no indication that he will try to avoid engagement with McCain over foreign policy.

The journey Obama began when he left Washington last Thursday is one wholly unique in the annals of presidential politics. Everything smacks of a presidential trip. The credentials issued to the traveling press corps on Sunday in Chicago — reporters will catch up with Obama in Jordan later this week — say "The visit of Senator Obama to the Middle East and Europe," mimicking the language of a presidential sojourn.

Once he is out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama will join up with the press and travel on his newly configured campaign charter, a Boeing 757 that carries the words "Change We Can Believe In" along the fuselage and the distinctive Obama logo on the tail. Never has a presidential candidate been overseas with such visibility.

It’s winning admiration from unexpected quarters:

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, is watching with some fascination as Obama travels this week. He may disagree with Obama but nonetheless called him "one of the smartest people we’ve ever seen run for president." Obama may have "huge structural challenges on cultural and other issues," he added, "but I think he’s very smart … very formidable."