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McCain’s Slingshot Strategy

April 16th, 2007 by dk

I have a theory about John McCain that makes more sense than anything I’ve read so far. It uses what rocket scientists call the slingshot effect.
Right now McCain is an ardent supporter of Bush and his war. He supports the surge. He insists “we can still win this thing.” And he’s alone. Hardly another presidential candidate of consequence exhibits even any ambivalence about the war, except that we must of course “support our troops.” McCain is alone, aiming his campaign into the self-destruction of the sun.
(You know the story about the fool who planned to send his astronauts for the first-ever landing on the sun? “Won’t it be terribly hot?” asked his critics. “Don’t worry,” he replied with confidence. “We’ve thought of that. We’ll be landing at night.”)
Astronauts aim for the sun all the time, or nearly so. If you want to get to Jupiter in a hurry, the quickest route is in the opposite direction. By barreling toward the sun, you can whip your craft around it’s gravitational pull and use that force to propel it out toward Jupiter with more energy than mere rockets can supply.
John McCain knows something that many of us forget. Nobody cares about presidential campaigning until later in the year. He’s also perfected the public about-face unlike anyone else in this political generation. Taken together, they might form a strategy that looks like this.
Support the war effort, the surge, the president, the whole shootin’ match (sorry about that) through the spring and summer, being careful to say it always as “give it time to work.” For the diehard righties, you look resolute and contrarian, your own man, real presidential timber.
Then in the fall, offer the public another helping of your renegade, populist, adorable self. Confess to yet another “crisis of conscience” and break with the White House, saddened that everything is “just not working.” Blame your presidential opponents for giving comfort to the enemy or to the White House for mismanaging the effort, depending on the poll numbers at the time. Now you’re also an anti-war candidate, but set apart from the rest, as only a new convert can be. The public hears a clear trumpet for change (you) against the dull drumbeat of your campaigning colleagues. The media swoon at your courage to change direction, reminding us all about your other heroic turnabouts on behalf of Vietnam and campaign finance reform, to mention just two.
There may be many anti-war candidates, but only one John McCain.
The risk to this strategy is that the sun’s size and force is constant. George W. Bush is not. If his popularity grows through the summer, even a little, the current trajectory may aim too close to the center and the McCain campaign crashes in a poof. If the size and pull of the president wanes, the path might miss the gravitational pull and could barely bend your trajectory, much less turn it around and offer the planned-for boost of the slingshot effect. Unlike Columbus, McCain might head west to get east, but find himself at the end of the world and then over its edge. But even that would make him again a media darling, wouldn’t it?

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