On why the many houses matter. The point that Publius makes is not academic – many of John McCain’s character flaws can be traced to a near-lifetime of being sheltered behind vast wealth. Take his gambling habit.
“Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John’s life,” says John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. “Taking a chance, playing against the odds.” Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress.
Casino games are an unwinnable stupid tax, especially the games of chance that McCain compulsively favors. The only people who can afford to throw ‘a few thousand dollars at a time’ into a guaranteed losing game are either sheltered rich, or self-destructive addicts on a last bender before homelessness. McCain has been conditioned by life to believe that he can do whatever he wants because a bottomless pile of family money will shield him from consequences.
McCain’s public life reveals the same dynamic at play. He flies into uncontrollable rages at things that most of us consider normal (e.g., a Republican colleague criticizes a policy position). On foreign policy, supposedly the Republican candidate’s strong suit, McCain’s approach weirdly parallels his private weakness. It isn’t by accident that he attracted a coterie of neocon dregs with whom he surrounds himself. Beginning with Randy Scheunemann and running down the list, most of these guys disgraced themselves so badly in Iraq that they aren’t even welcome in many Republican circles any more. They’re reckless gamblers, creative destruction, roll the dice and see what happens types. If you disagree or god forbid, criticize their fragile egos then you’re a fucking Jew-hater terrorist who should be locked up until every American enemy has been killed.
Take a look at the guy in office right now. People who knew me in 2000 ask how I knew that the Bush administration would go bad in such an extreme way. The answer is Harken Energy, and any other thing that George Bush’s lesser son tried and failed to do until he hooked up with a decent pack of advisers for his Texas gubernatorial bid. Like most children with overindulgent, wealthy mothers George W. doesn’t take care of his toys.
John McCain may have once lived like a normal person, but by now he’s spent most of his adult life sheltered behind a bubble of vast wealth. In that way he resembles President Bubble Boy more than almost any office holder in DC. Some months ago I worked out how many things I need to cut back now that I’m paying for Honda Fit. Now I’m worried that the Sharp Edge and the excellent Turkish restaurant around the block will go under before the wife and I see it again. When do you suppose was the last time McCain had to think like that?
It is a late Sunday afternoon in April, and I am sitting in a condominium in Coronado, California, taking in the view of the gorgeous San Diego Bay with Cindy McCain. She closed on the place just two weeks earlier, and the only things unpacked so far are the family photos that dot almost every surface. It’s her family’s second condo in the building. “I like the ocean, and the kids love it here, and I love that,” she tells me, curled up on a nondescript couch that looks like it might have come with the apartment. “When I bought the first one, my husband, who is not a beach person, said, ‘Oh, this is such a waste of money; the kids will never go.’ Then it got to the point where they used it so much I couldn’t get in the place. So I bought another one.”
Remember that a war has to go incredibly, catastrophically bad for those in McCain’s social stratum to feel any pain. It isn’t class warfare to point out that extreme privilege breeds a mindset that isn’t compatible with good government. It’s simply an observation that anybody who works with adolescents can tell you: when indulgent parents take away consequences, kids often go feral. Four more years of that is something that I can do without.