The McCains – re-posted 21 March, 2019


In the context of the recent remarks by President Trump and the state funeral given to Senator (Captain, USN) John McCain this earlier piece is worth a re-read.  pl


 "Since his birth, it had been assumed that John Sidney McCain III would follow his ancestors' paths, something he sought to do for 23 years following his graduation from the Naval Academy, until shortly after his father's death in 1981. As he has risen in elective politics toward the Republican presidential nomination, his speeches and writing have illuminated the careful attention his parents paid to planning his life's mission: No other presidential standard-bearer during the past half-century ever had an early adulthood as thoroughly mapped out for him as John McCain.

His Navy career, like his choice of college, was a function of his parents' wishes, and his early life had a foreordained quality rare even among precocious political wunderkinds."  Michael Leahy


The McCains are an interesting family, interesting in the sense of the Chinese aphorism.  This essay appeared in the Washington Post in April, 2008.  It is worth reviewing.  pl,_Sr.,_Jr.

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32 Responses to The McCains – re-posted 21 March, 2019

  1. Drongo says:

    “As he has risen in elective politics toward the Republican presidential nomination, his speeches and writing have illuminated the careful attention his parents paid to planning his life’s mission: No other presidential standard-bearer during the past half-century ever had an early adulthood as thoroughly mapped out for him as John McCain.”
    Not even the son of Joseph Kennedy, John F Kennedy?

  2. Curious says:

    whatever it is, McCain campaign is in crisis mode again. And this is only a mild pressure, IMHO.
    His team is not tight, and now that the campaign suppose to perform like a clock, fast paced, no error, precise,… It can’t deliver.
    Choosing Palin was a gamble that give McCain trouble. he is clueless and not ready for the big stage. Debate is coming fast.
    With Wall street crisis keeps brewing, McCain can’t pull the usual media trick. (lipstick on a pig, patriotism, flag pin, sexism, etc) Nobody cares.
    Voters wants real answer and hardnose solution.
    McCain team can’t deliver. They were planning to run the campaign on politics of identity and media hackery.
    Less than 5 weeks to go. This wall street crisis will last at least another 2 weeks. Then it’s final dash to election.
    I wonder what Rove’s october surprise will be.

  3. Jose says:

    Drongo, as a Catholic, like the Kennedy’s, probably thought it was beyond the families reach.
    Can’t wait to see the movie “W”, should be interesting comparison.

  4. Steve says:

    Interesting articles.
    McCain’s patterned life is indeed quite a contrast to that of Obama’s which is basically self-invented. Hopefully that inventiveness indicates a natural and intellectual curiosity about things that is so evidently lacking in today’s occupant of the White House.

  5. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Leahy’s essay is well worth reading. I think he summarizes how family became “interesting,” that is, a source of conflict for John in the following paragraph. Describing the reaction of his friend Chuck Larson (later CINCPAC) after discovering McCain reading, at the suggestion of his father, Gibbons Rise and Fall he writes:
    “Impressed, Larson was also a touch saddened. This was the inquisitive side of his friend that few people knew, particularly superiors, who were preoccupied by the image of the wisecracking, sometimes insolent flyboy and partier — in part, unfortunately, because McCain so aggressively pushed the persona.”
    Leahy’s explanation makes perfect sense. McCain’s public mask of wisecracking insolence was a product of the obligation he felt to live up to the family myths about his father and grandfather. In one way or another, it happens to all of us.

  6. Walrus says:

    Going back to my limited Jungian readings, the problem for all of us, and John McCain, is that he is still focussed on competing with his Father and Grandfather. George W. Bush is/was the same – totally focussed on competing with the Father.
    The limited rebellion against the paternal legacy and later competition is evident in Leahy’s excellent article. No more needs to be said about that. It’s also evident that after returning from Vietnam, the arena of competition changed to Congress, since it must have been obvious to McCain at that time that the Four Stars of an Admiral were never going to be within reach.
    Now the issue for all of us concerns what happens when a man motivated solely by paternal competition finally achieves his goal of equalling or besting his Father. The answer is that at that point, they become “their own man”. They have achieved their life goal, satisfied their boyhood ambition. They have finally slaked their thirst. the trouble is that they have no ambition, or vision, to do anything particularly useful with the power they have acquired. They have achieved power for it’s own sake. There is no vision beyond this, and as FDR said in his first inauguration speech, quoting proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. George W. Bush has demonstrated that.
    Jung talked about this fight to be one’s “own man”. Kids either rebel or conform, it’s a survival trait. Few either best their parent or break out of the pattern of rebellion early enough in life to be their own man. Most never do, rebelling or competing to the day of their death.
    The question then becomes “What does one do as one’s own man?” Which direction shall I take? What do I wish to achieve now? The answer to that requires mature consideration, soul searching, prayer, consulting of Oracles, perhaps a quest or two and, most importantly, much more time than John McCain would have as President.
    Of course it’s obvious why the Republicans and their elites choose such people as candidates – once elected they are deeply suggestible, and can be easily manipulated into doing almost anything, as we have seen with the Presidency of George W. Bush.
    President McCain would be no different from President Bush, a withdrawn figure confronting the absence of his own internal demons for the first time, and presenting his handlers with a clean page on which to imprint their vile instructions.
    Contrast this with Obama, a man who is obviously his own man, is comfortable with that idea, has a vision of what he wants to achieve, and is thus both mentally more mature and tougher than McCain.
    God help the elites if Obama wins.

  7. Albertde says:

    You forget(or perhaps don’t realize) that Joe jr. was being groomed for the Presidency until he died in air crash while in the military during WWII. JFK wanted to be an academic.

  8. Albertde says:

    Perhaps you don’t realize that Joe Kennedy jr. was being groomed for the Presidency until he died in 1944 in an air crash during WWII while serving in the military. JFK wanted to be academic.

  9. Paul says:

    I hope this blurb is within the guidelines hust published.
    One can only marvel at McCain’s physical toughness for the years he spent as a POW. His greatness, however, is limited to that POW role.
    John McCain NEVER competed in his life. He got to and through Annapolis thanks to his father and grandfather; a lesser would have been thrown out in his plebe year. His military record as a fighter pilot is undistinguished. (I’d like to see his fitness reports.)
    He got to the House and the Senate – not on his political acumen or outstanding academic or civic accomplishment – but rather because he was John McCain, the famous POW. He’s nothing but a “Yeah, me too” camp-follower. His idea of leadership is snarling at someone who disagrees with him. That Obama “doesn’t understand” current events is an insult that is beneath the dignity of a presidential campaign. He is one of the few national figures I have ever heard who blatantly grades his own paper: “I know how to win, blah, blah blah”! According to McCain, everyone is out of step.
    I am the same age as McCain, and can say that he is living in a time-warp – it’s the Sixties in his mind. Behavior that was then acceptable is his modus operandi. What is most disturbing is his capacity to lie, repeatedly, with a straight face. A lot of people have tired of him: look as what David Letterman is doing to him.
    As further proof of his Sixties pedigree, witness his use of Palin solely as a means to an end. He is throwing her to the dogs for her lack of experience. She will be the butt of jokes for the rest of her life. Who could ever take her seriously?
    Like Bush, McCain is a sore loser. “My way or the highway” has really undone our standing in the world. He is not a leader because he cannot tolerate the give and take of competition.

  10. OUt of curiosity how many service academy grads have run for the Presidency, Win or Lose? No Air Force Academy yet and is that significant or meaningless?

  11. alnval says:

    re Drongo/Jose and whether JFK’s Catholic family did or not map out his early adulthood in anticipation of “command.”
    Col. Lang:
    For Joseph Kennedy, the patriarch of this Catholic family, nothing was beyond the family’s reach. Neither that nor their Catholicism was the problem.
    The problem was that Joseph Kennedy, Jr., the oldest son who was being carefully groomed by his father for greatness was killed in WWII in August of 1944 while flying a B-24 over the English Channel.
    In that sense, John, the second son, was a replacement child for Joseph Jr, in that he had not been the one chosen by his father to carry on the family’s mantle of greatness.
    JFK did OK. But he did not have nearly the expectation burden that his oldest brother, Joe Jr. would have had had he survived.

  12. GSD says:

    Col. Lang, the following observation was made by the blogger Attaturk over at Atrios.
    John McCain:
    “Gov. Palin and I agree that you don’t announce that you’re going to attack another country.”
    You would think John McCain, scion of an old Navy family, wouldn’t fall back on arguments Tojo would make.

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    My list of service academy alumni who ran for president would be:
    – Ulysses S. Grant
    – Winfield S. Hancock
    – Jubilation T. Cornpone
    – Dwight D. Eisenhower
    – Jimmy Carter
    – John S. McCain III

  14. khatari says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Can you explain to a lay person like myself about the tradition of the Pacific Fleet and the role of Admirals McCain in that.

  15. Serving Patriot says:

    You could also add Gen George B. McClellan to that list. He was, of course, defeated by Lincoln in 1864. But, imagine if he had won – what a different world we would live in today!
    And #2 of the 59 graduates int he famous Class of 1846.
    McClellan in Wikipedia

  16. Bobo says:

    “First in War, First in Peace, First to say I quit”
    J. T. Cornpone, aka ====

  17. Patrick Lang says:

    My bad. “JT Cornpone, Citadel, 1847” ran for mayor of Dogpatch. pl

  18. David W. says:

    McCain sounds like a great guy to have a beer with, but people should remember where that sentiment landed us in 2000.

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    More presidents or wannabes:
    Jefferson F Davis
    Ross Perot
    Fidel Ramos
    Anastasio Somosa (Tachito)

  20. Patrick Lang says:

    I have no idea. pl

  21. different clue says:

    Don’t scare the elites that way. Or they won’t allow Obama to win.

  22. Maureen Lang says:

    John McCain has a vid interview up today in the Des Moines Register, multiple clips of which are available for viewing online. I particularly noted his statement in the clip titled “Economic Bill Failure” that he has always aspired to be a dictator. Meant as a joke? If so, no laughter detected from those interviewing him. I’ll leave others to evaluate his general tone & demeanor in all of the clips:
    McCain Interview with Des Moines Register, excerpted on their site:

  23. Redhand says:

    McCain is a mealy-mouthed mediocrity. Despite his distinguished naval family and heritage, he was never admiral material, and would make an even worse President.
    I do respect his service, and admire his courage as a POW, but these are not reasons to elect him President.

  24. DCA says:

    Thanks for the pointer to the WP article, and also the list of Academy candidates. McCain stands out as being from a military dynasty, as well. I would have said Carter had been in the military, but was not of it–not so true of Eisenhower (what do you think?). So McCain really does stand out as having experienced life very differently from most Americans: no doubt about his future career, and no concern about himself, or his employer, having to compete in the marketplace.
    (Obviously, a military career has more serious hazards–I’m not arguing that, just that they are different).
    The extended list also brings up the comparison of Davis with Lincoln, in terms of experience and of success. Davis (and Lincoln’s predecessor Buchanan) could not have had more relevant experience for being President, but neither did very well.

  25. Jimmy says:

    I think it is interesting that McCain stood up for other people against the upperclassmen. That shows that he at least directs his anger toward a productive end. And that he cares for other people.
    Has Obama similarly stood up against bullies for other people? Or Joe Biden?

  26. SAC Brat says:

    Colonel, may I ask for your view on the current tempest-in-a-teapot over Gwen Ifill hosting a debate? I’ve seen her moderate other debates and usually ended up wanting to vote for her rather than the debaters.
    Btw, does anyone know if there are any “McCain For Senate 2008” yard signs available to confuse the checkers players?

  27. David W. says:

    For an alternative look into McCain’s life that delves beyond his carefully manufactured political persona, I recommend this article:
    A couple of key grafs:
    Two months after his release, McCain related his harrowing story of survival in a 13-page narrative in U.S. News & World Report, at the end of which he launched into an energetic defense of Nixon’s discredited foreign policy. “I admire President Nixon’s courage,” he wrote. “It is difficult for me to understand . . . why people are still criticizing his foreign policy — for example, the bombing in Cambodia.”
    In the years to come, McCain would continue to fight the war his father had lost. In his meetings with Nixon, Junior was known for chomping on an unlit cigar, complaining about the “goddamn gooks” and pushing to bomb enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia. His son was equally gung-ho. “John has always been a very bellicose hawk,” says John H. Johns, a retired brigadier general who studied with McCain at the War College. “When he came back from Vietnam, he accused the liberal media of undermining national will, that we could have won in Vietnam if we had the national will.”
    Imo, this article captures the ‘will to power’ in McCain’s personality that the WaPo hagiography misses.

  28. McGee says:

    The upcoming issue of Rolling Stone has an explosive article on the reportedly very dark side of John McCain:
    Relates very well to our discussion. Will be interesting to see how/if this is picked up by the mainstream media….
    To echo our good Colonel, this guy is sounding more and more like people I avoided-at-all-costs during my own brief military service. Calls to mind an infantry LTC that the lowly recruits in our outfit actually succeeded in getting posted OUT of the intel services. Back in the day before the ‘all-volunteer’ Army, the over-educated conscripts like me who populated the army intel services’ rank-and-file didn’t brook kindly to cowboys in our midst.

  29. McGee says:

    In an entirely separate vein, John McCain’s father was the officer the Johnson administration chose to investigate the attempted sinking of the USS Liberty by the Israelis. Not surprisingly this very political maverick father of the maverick son found no Israeli intent in this ‘accidental’ assault on a US intelligence ship which resulted in the loss of 34 US lives and injuries to more than 170 crew members. And this despite significant radio intercepts which showed exactly the opposite. I believe Colonel Lang has commented on this before.

  30. JC says:

    Jubilation T. Cornpone, the man who knew no fear…
    I haven’t seen an Al Capp reference in years, but still think his finest moment was his succinct review of the film “Easy Rider” —- “At least it had a happy ending.” Cheers.

  31. Patrick Lang says:

    Someone asked what I think of Gwen Ifill moderating the VP debate.
    Ifill is a great journalist, but I think that she should have turned down this moderating job. pl

  32. Curious says:

    McCain is pulling out of Michigan. This is a big win.
    HUGE NEWS out of Politico’s J Mart
    John McCain is pulling out of Michigan, according to two Republicans, a stunning move a month away from Election Day that indicates the difficulty Republicans are having in finding blue states to put in play.
    McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states.

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