Election 2008

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Did John McCain Want to Lose the Election?

November 06, 2008 05:21 PM
by Shannon Firth
While some journalists argue Palin cost McCain the election, others argue he didn’t want to be president in the first place.

Why McCain Might Have Sabotaged the Race

In the wake of his loss in the presidential election, journalists are pondering why Sen. John McCain seemed to concede so readily. Some observers suggest the answer is simple: he wanted to lose. McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, according to several journalists, may either be evidence or the root cause of his ambivalence about winning the presidency. Other journalists draw their own conclusions.

In early October, The Huffington Post reported that Matthew Dowd, a chief strategist for George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, told a discussion panel that McCain did not choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, but was strong-armed by the Republican advisors: “[McCain] knows, in his gut, that he put somebody unqualified on the ballot … and when this race is over that is something he will have to live with.”

Dr. Daniel Mangera argued that McCain’s decision to choose Palin might have been the primary reason he threw the election. Mangera said he pictures McCain, head in hands, saying to himself: “God, what have I done?” Mangera admits that the concept seems somewhat fantastical but continues his line of thought: “What if, in the mysterious world of his mind, John McCain had basically decided that for the sake of America, he had to lose this election in order to allow for the possibility of a less risky choice for America, that is, Barack Obama?”

A blogger for Talking Points Memo also considered McCain might not have wanted to win the presidency. Like Mangera, the blogger cites McCain’s decision to run with Sarah Palin, despite her inexperience and limitations, and his attempt to put his campaign on hold in September as evidence of “self-sabotage.” The writer argues McCain does not enjoy being a leader and decision-maker: “What he really loves to do is sit in a cat bird seat and opine about the people who are actually making decisionsMcCain, when you get right down to it, is a Pundit.”

The Daily Beast cites a third reason for his loss: a desire for revenge on the Republican Party. In the 2000 primaries, McCain was slandered by his own party when George W. Bush’s campaign team spread rumors he had an illegitimate African-American child. McCain responded by withdrawing his own negative ads, losing the South Carolina vote and finally the nomination.

T. Byram Karasu, a professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, suggested that having a father and paternal grandfather who were prominent Navy admirals might have influenced McCain’s subconscious decisions. McCain, being the maverick that he is, would have rejected these “paternal figures” and their values, choosing to “break the mold by courting failure.”

Related Topics: Why was Spitzer so reckless?; the temperament factor

McCain is not the only publicly elected official who seems to have subconsciously sabotaged his career. In March 2008, despite an in-depth understanding of law enforcement’s investigative procedures, Gov. Eliot Spitzer sent a federal wire to a call-girl ring. Observers speculate Spitzer wanted to get caught.

FindingDulcinea’s blog explores how temperament has affected this year’s election. Senior writer Sarah Amandolare examines how McCain’s “facial gymnastics” and Obama’s calmer demeanor during public appearances may have overshadowed the voters’ response to what the candidates were actually saying.

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