There’s a wonderful article by Jonathan Chait in the New Republic about the McCain campaign called Liar’s Poker. The article delves into why McCain has made lying a key feature — practically the modus operandi — of the campaign. His conclusion:
The pattern here is perfectly clear. McCain has contempt for anybody who stands between him and the presidency. McCain views himself as the ultimate patriot. He loves his country so much that he cannot let it fall into the hands of an unworthy rival. (They all turn out to be unworthy.) Viewed in this way, doing whatever it takes to win is not an act of selfishness but an act of patriotism. McCain tells lies every day and authorizes lying on his behalf, and he probably knows it. But I would guess–and, again, guessing is all we can do–that in his mind he is acting honorably. As he might put it, there is a bigger truth out there.
Sometimes a Herculean effort is required to twist one’s worldview until it’s perfectly parallel to one’s own self-interest, and McCain certainly seems perfectly up to the task. Perhaps he learned in prison to associate anyone denying him what he wanted with the enemy; or perhaps he was a narcissistic void to begin with, the spoiled, rebellious Admiral’s son, and prison only reinforced his sense of aggrievement and self-righteousness.
Whatever the case, as easy as it may be for McCain to act dishonorably, even shamefully, to get elected, it’s harder for the American public to twist their worldview, to change their opinion of McCain from a principled war hero to a manipulative hack. And yet, the McCain campaign’s insistence on lies great and small is slowly turning the country into McCain doubters.
Whether he loses his credibility before the election or afterwards is anyone’s guess. But we can see the price a lack of credibility has for a president in the Bush Administration’s attempt to keep the stock market from flat lining. No one trusts them; even members of the president’s own party are eager to vote against the proposal, any proposal, to paddle away from a sinking ship.
It would be the ultimate irony if McCain were able to sate his ambition and become president, while losing all his credibility in the process, and therefore losing his ability to lead.