A couple of weeks ago I wrote:
I hate to believe that sideshow distractions and tangentials sway the votes of millions, but I believe that sideshow distractions and tangentials sway the votes of millions. A couple more of these Viagra/PC incidents, coupled with McCain’s penchant for wearing those giant Granny-at-Luby’s Cafeteria sunglasses, and not even his attractive and oft-photographed wife will be able to offset the charges of premature senility. America today is no country for old men, especially old men who want to be president.
And now comes the “Honey, How Many Homes Do We Have?” gaffe just as the polls were tightening and just as McCain came off a surprisingly strong performance at the Saddleback Chat.
His groping, out-of-it answer was so dumb in so many ways, but forget the particulars for a moment. It’s McCain this week, it may be Obama next week, but the really vexing thing that pushes a thinking person almost to despair is not This Gaffe or That Gaffe, but the fact that our campaign process, by which we hope to pick someone who’s up to the awesome challenges of our time, is so full of these Gotcha Carnival Moments.
And it’s not a new problem. Remember Walter Mondale’s “Where’s the Beef?” riposte vs. Gary Hart in 1984? George Bush’s ill-timed glance at his watch in the 1992 debates vs. Clinton and Perot? Mike Dukakis’ spin in the tank? John Kerry’s windsurfing? Again and again, what should be trivialities become Defining Moments. That’s why I referred to the presidential election process as “barely controlled insanity” in a radio piece a few weeks back
No serious person of good will can like this process or believe it is good for the country. The kneejerk Dems may be loving McCain’s How Many Houses moment, but what’s the logic there? “As long as the other guy keeps screwing up, I like things just the way they are.” When Joe Biden tosses off some explosive one-liner in the next few weeks, the Dems will rediscover what they hate about the system.
As I’ve noted before, I’m probably one of the few people in America who has voted for both McCain and Obama. As this blog amply demonstrates, I’m not a blind partisan of either man. So I don’t really want to spend much time “defending” McCain’s House Gaffe, and obviously someone should have prepped him for such a question, but I will say that I, with a much less complicated financial portfolio than the McCains, don’t know this morning my complete net worth, or how much I owe on my home mortgage, or how much income I will have in retirement if I ever retire.
With that in mind, I don’t think it’s beyond belief that a multimillionaire who’s part of a complex financial empire might not know how many homes he/she/they own. And as this item from Politico makes clear, McCain himself doesn’t own any of them, which might be one reason the number wasn’t top of mind. But try cramming all that into a thirty-second spot.