Jennifer: McCain’s response left me utterly confused. The question was about “defining mistakes.” Giuliani cleverly dodged the question by saying he had too many sins to confess to in so brief a time period, and in any case would address them to a priest and not a secular questioner. All the candidates responded in comparable terms about something or other they regret doing or not doing because it wasn’t the best thing in moral terms. But here McCain was essentially suggesting it was a mistake to have done the right thing and volunteered for service from another carrier, because it set in motion his being shot down and imprisoned for five and a half horrible years. So was he suggesting he was wrong to do what he initially did?
As for his mentioning the Keating connection, I do recall a time or two he had alluded to it, though not in recent months. At the same time, everyone knows he became a staunch fighter against “money in politics” because of the near-miss he experienced in being one of the Keating Five. So I don’t think it was that unusual to have him allude to it. It’s not as if Teddy had suddenly mentioned Chappaquiddick. More telling, in terms of how McCain plays politics, is that he didn’t mention the Keating sin until having first brought up his Vietnam War suffering. Who would hold a minor intervention with a regulator on behalf of a backer against him after that?
Note also that the often joky McCain suddenly got very serious — sanctimonious? — in answering the question, unlike, say, Giuliani, who treated it with all the dismissive wit it deserved. It’s that very quality that’s caused conservatives to dislike McCain so much, ever since he unveiled it during his run aboard the Straight Talk Express.
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