John McCain got confused again last night in an interview about American foreign policy towards Latin America. The details aren’t particularly important—nobody really thinks McCain is unaware that Spain is in Europe. He’s not Palin, after all—but the episode and the somewhat panic-stricken way his spokesmen covered for him is getting to be routine. There’s nothing mysterious going on. McCain is simply getting senile, a fact that is hardly surprising in view of the man’s age and medical history. Time, torture, boxing, cancer treatments, and heavy drinking will do that to you. And blaming the guy is also beside the point since he has far more serious things to apologize for than mere decrepitude. The question is, do we really want to witness a long process of increasingly embarrassing public gaffes, all relentlessly denied and covered up by the PR sharks while a subterranean succession-struggle plays out in the White House basement? That wouldn’t be a very pleasant spectacle even in settled times, but it might be fatal in an age in which great power competition is awakening from its post-Cold War slumber and economic and environmental crisis require an energetic response.
Of course it is possible that McCain’s mental state is better than it appears to be, and the remarkably uninformed or merely strange remarks he makes reflect his previous level of ignorance rather than the advent of dementia. If so, his age remains a serious issue because one can hardly expect a 72-year old to learn on the job—heck, I’m 63 and you can’t teach me anything! McCain is certainly not going to rethink his assumptions or listen to new ideas. What you get it is some fraction of what the man was ten or twenty years ago; and if that wasn’t all that much to begin with, you can’t expect that McCain will turn out to be an American version of Adenauer, Mandela, or Gladstone.
By the way, is it decent or patriotic for Republicans to support the candidacy of an obviously incompetent man? Why do they keep nominating people like that?