A candidate with an impulse problem

A CANDIDATE WITH AN IMPULSE PROBLEM…. Watching the McCain campaign’s latest lunacy unfold yesterday afternoon, I thought about a piece Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf wrote in Time back in July about the two candidates’ gambling styles.

They relayed an anecdote about John McCain, in the heat of the primary fight last year, wanting to head to a casino floor while campaigning in Las Vegas. His staff stopped him. McCain, undeterred, wanted the casino to bring a craps table to his private hotel room, but his staff, again, refused to allow it.

A Republican who has watched McCain gamble told Time, “He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing. And he just sort of revels in it.”

As has become clear, McCain seeks the presidency and gambles in largely the same way — taking ridiculous risks without regard for consequence. Yesterday’s bizarre announcement about “suspending” the campaign obviously didn’t make any sense — McCain isn’t on the Banking Committee, doesn’t have any constructive role to play, and has no reason to leave the campaign trail — but irresponsible risk-takers don’t much care about good judgment. They just want to go all in and let it ride.

We saw this dangerous impulse problem last month when McCain made the ridiculous decision to add Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket, and we clearly saw it again yesterday.

And as Slate’s John Dickerson explained, we’ll probably continue to see similar behavior from McCain for quite a while.

Whether McCain’s crazy gambit is seen as desperate or brilliant, it doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s probably not the last. The beneficial effects of the Palin Hail Mary lasted only a few weeks, and another adrenaline injection was needed. If this one doesn’t work, that’s OK — in due time they can try another razzle-dazzle play. And if it does work, that’s great — in due time they can still try another razzle-dazzle play. It all makes the prospect of a McCain White House very exciting. So exciting, he might want to schedule periodic suspensions of his presidency to get anything done.

With extraordinary challenges at home and abroad, McCain has apparently decided that the very last thing the nation needs is a steady, unflappable leader with a cool head and reliable temperament. What we really need is someone who acts, then thinks. Or, in McCain’s case, acts, then blasts those who do think as some kind of elitists.

I suppose there are worse qualities in a president. I’m just not sure what those qualities might be.