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Bush End Game
George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06

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George W. Bush's presidency, 2000-04

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The secret world of Defense Secretary Gates

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From free trade to the Kosovo crisis.

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McCain Goes Over-the-Top Negative

By Brent Budowsky
July 28, 2008

Editor’s Note: Some Republicans, as well as many Democrats, are scratching their heads about the harsh and negative tone of John McCain’s presidential campaign, which has accused Barack Obama of everything from wanting to lose the Iraq War to causing $4 a gallon gasoline.

In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional aide Brent Budowsky, who liked the McCain he knew on Capitol Hill and admired the independent-minded candidate he watched in 2000, is amazed at the transformation:

The man who used to be John McCain is reacting to the pressures of a campaign by becoming Meat Ax McCain with low-road attacks that raise core questions of presidential temperament.

On Monday, as Barack Obama hosted a meeting with financial leaders from across America, the anger-ridden, increasingly desperate McCain campaign accused Obama of creating a future depression.

The performance of the man who used to be John McCain -- and his campaign which is run by foreign agents and Bush-Rove disciples -- now raises grave questions about whether McCain has the temperament and stability in a crisis to be President.

In recent days McCain has accused Obama of supporting genocide, wanting to lose the Iraq war, and now possibly creating a world depression.

There is an anger to all this, an emotional and intellectual distemper, and an intolerance of alternative opinions, traits that have flared up in McCain's behavior before and have deeply troubled his Senate Republican colleagues for many years.

There is an irrational anger to this, a stability meltdown under the pressures of a campaign that leads McCain to attacks that I have called short-pants McCarthyism. Supports genocide? Wants to lose the Iraq war? Will cause a world depression?

These are the weird, strange and ridiculous charges of an angry candidate lashing out without regard for truth, dignity, common sense or the normal civilities even in our lower-standard national politics.

Equally dangerously, in recent days McCain has made factual gaffes and misstatements that are bizarre.

He confuses Sunnis with Shiites, and has done this a number of times. He places Iraq on the border of Pakistan and, on one occasion, made Vladimir Putin a German. He quotes a conversation between Sunnis and Americans in Iraq that took places months before the “surge” and credits the “surge” for the conversation.

The list of these gaffes is long, and growing.

I won’t try to explain the reason for these gaffes and mistakes on matters a college student should know, on matters of foreign policy that McCain claims as his strong suit. Whatever the cause, it must be ominous indeed.

One has to hand it to Obama. McCain taunted Obama to travel abroad, and Obama hit the ball out of the park while McCain was left to make cheap-shot insults that are laughable and unworthy of a President.

Obama returns to a perfectly scheduled meeting with financial leaders, and the McCain campaign is reduced to saying Obama would start a depression, already having said he favors genocide and wants America to lose a war.

The man who used to be John McCain is now Meat Ax McCain.

It is time to ask whether any candidate who unravels in this manner, under the pressure of a campaign, should have his finger on the nuclear button.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill newspaper where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at

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