Opinion: Putting John McCain on the couch


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On the heels of a sweeping assertion about the emotions ruling John McCain -- a claim included in a lengthy Washington Post piece on him -- there came today an equally striking character assessment of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee from none other than Karl Rove.

First, for those who missed it, the recent Post article by Robert Kaiser -- headlined ‘The Curious Mind of John McCain’-- included a leaps-off-the-page quote from a source identified as a senior official in Bill Clinton‘s administration who worked with the Arizona senator on the Bosnia and Kosovo crises. Said the official:

‘In the many, many years that I’ve been in Washington, John McCain is far and away the most emotional politician I have ever met. ... McCain is all emotion. People don’t understand that, so they keep talking about his temperament, his temper. He reacts emotionally, therefore unpredictably.’


Kaiser reported that the official insisted ‘on anonymity to avoid upsetting McCain’ (a none-too-surprising request, based on the source’s view of his acquaintance).

Rove’s judgment about McCain was part of an opinion piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal headlined: ‘What McCain Should Do Next.’

After noting that national polls show the presidential contest much closer than it should be expected during these hard times for the GOP (a much-commented upon dynamic of late), Rove walks through some pretty standard prescriptions for McCain, such as ‘lay out a bold domestic reform program’ in the next few weeks.

But then President Bush’s one-time political guru adds this: ‘Then there’s character. Mr. McCain is the most private person to run for president since Calvin Coolidge (at left) in the 1920s. He needs to share (or allow others to share) more about him, especially his faith.’

One thing about running for president, it can serve as a substitute for seeing a shrink, given how eager others are to offer psychoanalysis (as Barack Obama, he of the alleged ‘Messiah Complex,’ can certainly attest).

‘Silent’ Cal Coolidge, by the way, is the subject of one of our favorite presidential anecdotes.


As recounted by his wife (the much more outgoing and, in her time, much esteemed Grace Goodhue Coolidge), a young woman told the then-president at a social event that she had wagered a companion she could get at least three words out of him.

‘You lose,’ he replied.

Imagine the field day pundits/psychologists would have with this very definition of the taciturn New Englander today.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credits: Associated Press (McCain); file photo (Coolidge)