Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, July 07, 2008

McCain's Tragic Flaw

If I remember correctly, what I learned about drama in high school English and literature classes (not much by the way), there is a concept known as the "tragic hero." Tragic heroes differ from regular heroes in that the tragic one's contain within their characters' some tragic flaw that ends up bring on their own ruin. In the best classical literature and drama the flaw is directly linked to the thing that makes them heroic in the first place. I'll leave it to you guys to come up with examples from literature. I'm sure LTG and Seventh Sister can think of more and better examples than I can.

But I suggest that McCain is such tragic hero and thus poorly suited to be our President despite his obvious hero status. McCain is hero because of his famous captivity in a North Vietnamese POW camp where he was tortured and abused. He parlayed his heroism here into prominent political career, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate.

But some of his deepest character flaws follow from this heroic event. First, his political campaigns are riddled with hypocrisy. To be be the pure hero, McCain must appear to be humble about it. He must appear to deny his own heroism. However, since he's no great intellect (he graduated 894th out of 899 cadets at the Naval Academy in 1958), his main qualification for political office originates with a heroism he must at least appear to downplay. The result is that McCain and his surrogates frequently say that he doesn't like to talk about his captivity all the while making that captivity the centerpiece of his own biography and many of his public statements.

Second, in an interview on February 18 of this year, while Democrats were too busy going after each other to notice, McCain said this: '"I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."'

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying we should think McCain isn't a hero because he's a hypocrite and a racist. Nor am I saying that his racist attitude towards Vietnamese people isn't understandable (if extremely unfortunate) under the circumstances. If McCain were a relative of mine, I'd shake my head in private at these flaws and recognize them as part of his human response to an experience no man should endure.

I am saying that these traits are undesirable in a President. Vietnam is a particularly important country. As China rises in importance, our relationships with countries that border China will become critical. Vietnam is also a rising and rapidly changing economy in it's own right. Saying you hate them all is hardly a reasonable basis for diplomatic dialogue. What's more, such statements would be seen by the World, and our closest allies in particular, as a continuation of the hate based foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney administration.


The Law Talking Guy said...

That was February 18, 2000.

The Law Talking Guy said...

If McCain is a tragic hero, it is in this way: he suffered terribly in Vietnam for a mistake. McCain has spent the rest of his adult life trying to make sense of his own suffering, trying to make noble and purposeful his meaningless suffering in a meaningless war. He is re-living this all in Iraq. He has to hate the gooks not just because they were inhuman to him, sadistic, brutal, and so depraved as to barely deserve to be called human beings. But also because he cannot bring himself to hate the Cold Warriors (like his father) who put him there. I sometimes wonder if Isaac did not spend his life wondering how it was that his father almost killed him.

Anonymous said...

"they were inhuman to him, sadistic, brutal, and so depraved as to barely deserve to be called human beings".
Really? I have not heard the specifics of his treatment while a captive of the Vietnamese... what, specifically, did they do to him that was so depraved?

Raised By Republicans said...

2000, 2008 does it really matter? :-)

But yes, I think LTG is also on to something with the making sense of Vietname thing. To that I'd add that McCain has to believe that the people who tortured him were inherently evil because if he viewed them as pawns in the Cold War just like himself, he'd have to re-evaluate too much of his own self-image.

Raised By Republicans said...

When he bailed out he broke both arms and one of his knees. When he was captured they hit him in the already injured shoulder with a rifle butt and bayonetted him twice in the leg. They delayed giving him medical attention until they found out his father was an Admiral. In the hospital he was beaten by his interrogators. Once in a regular prison he was beaten a number of times in punishment for his refusal to accept early release as part of a Vietnamese diplomatic overture to his father.,21985,23301752-663,00.html

All that is according to McCain himself. But the man who commanded the prison where McCain was held claims that they never tortured any prisoners including McCain.

I believe McCain.

Anonymous said...

Sounds not all that dissimilar from how the U.S. treats it's captives these days.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Anonymous - you are right to be appalled at US treatment of prisoners, but just because torture is *always* unacceptable does not mean that we cannot appreciate levels of depravity. For example, I read that beatings would go on for up to six days, with the prisoners tied up in ropes, and so forth. They were also underfed, etc. Electric shocks were administered too. The torture appears to have been entirely out of sadism rather than (theoretically) directed to acquiring information.

Raised By Republicans said...

And this is another dimension to the tragedy of McCain's heroism. When presented with a chance to stand up on principle against Bush on the issue of torture he wavered. He initially took a position against Bush/Gonzalez/Cheney/Rumsfeld et al but then backed off. Very dissapointing.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

Another dimension indeed. I would argue that it is the overriding dimension. Beyond disappointing, I'd go so far as to say that him enduring what he did and then not taking a stand against such horrors mitigates his own experience. Not that those inclined to back him will care much.

USwest said...

I am not convinced that McCain wants the job he has signed up for. I do not think he is well despite his many pages of medical records.

What strikes me, other than all the things that have been said here (I whole heartedly agree with RBR and Bert) is that after years of being a senator and Congressman, he still reads every speech as if he has never delivered on. He acts as if smiling is an effort. Something has happened to this guy in the last 8 years.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's tough to be comfy when your testicles are in a jar.

Uswest said...

This guy should be used to it if he is such a war hero.