Unlocking the Political Psychology of John McCain

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By Jason D. Hill, Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University

At first glance
John McCain does not seem like a dangerous man. He is not motivated by
the fulsome apocalyptic Christianity of George W. Bush, nor does he
have the manifest destiny complex of Bush. His impulsiveness,
hot-headedness and intransigent individualism are minor character
traits that many a good leader has possessed.

John’s McCain’s danger to this country is that he is a traumatized man.

And he has never come to terms with his trauma.

After having
spent five years in a Vietnamese jail where he was traumatized,
humiliated and punished, he needs an outlet to work through his
unconscious feelings of rage and shame.

In this respect,
McCain could use this country as a sublimated outlet to finish what in
his unconscious, is unfinished business. The unconscious compulsion to
repeat the events of the past, to make them right, serves a restorative
purpose. They (the events) undo the trauma by giving the individual the
chance to correct the failings of his past, to do what ought to have
been done but was not, either because of personal failure or through
the obstructions of others.

We the people of
this country could become the deputized stand-ins of his vanquished
enemy; the country, a vast landscape on which he can make the new
maneuvers that guarantee the obliteration of his shame as a captive,
the humiliation and the rage at being kept immobile for five years
during which he could have played a role in securing America’s honor
and victory.

As far as the ongoing Iraq war is concerned, under a McCain Presidency we could see the Vietnamization of America. McCain
himself has said that the nature of the adversary makes it difficult to
gauge victory. A man who is unconsciously working through his trauma
and who, with devilish moxie, has continued to support an immoral war
is someone for whom victory and defeat will exist on a vast continuum.
There will never be a clear cut sign of when victory has been achieved.
The war in Iraq will never end because the working through of trauma in
this style will never end. The mental psycho- drama
transplanted onto our national terrain finds a leader who (in his
political psychology) was born to right the wrongs of the screw-ups of
the past—especially Lyndon Johnson, he thinks.

Like many
military men turned leaders, John McCain carries the Cult of Death,
Honor and Victory within him. McCain is not dangerous particularly
because he is a man of the right, or because he does things his way, or
because he wants to carry on so many of the policies of George W. Bush .

McCain is dangerous because he is a damaged man. Damaged people are dangerous because they know they can survive.