Tuesday, October 21, 2008


McCain's Temperament

John McCain says he reacts quickly to a situation. He makes decisions quickly and sometimes has to live with the results of a mistake. Along with quick reactions he is said to have a quick temper.

These qualities served him well when he was an airplane pilot during the Viet Nam War. Fighter pilots need quick reactions and need to make quick decisions without taking time to think about them. A pilot who thinks too long before deciding to do something different doesn't last long in a war. Mr. McCain would bring these characteristics with him to the Presidency if elected.

I don't know how fast Mr. Obama reacts to a situation. In the debates with Mr. McCain he seemed to be calm, thoughtful, and unflappable. These are desirable characteristics in a President. The characteristic of thinking carefully before acting can be fatal in a fighter pilot.

McCain advocates will argue that the United States exists in a dangerous world. The country need a President with quick reactions, especially if the country is attacked by another gang of terrorists. Quick and unrehearsed reaction to a terrorist attack can foil the attack and save lives. Quick and unrehearsed reaction to the news that Iran has put 500 additional uranium centrifuges into action can lead to an unnecessary and unsuccessful military incursion into that country. Quick reactions without much thought is a useful characteristic in some situations and a fatal one in others.

Why should quick Presidential action be essential in foiling a terrorist attack? The action should be taken by the police and the military people and should be automatic. It shouldn't require a decision by the President, any more that action to put out a fire in the capitol building should require such action. The failure to foil the terrorist attack of 9/11/01 was due in part to the administration's failure to take seriously intelligence reports about the possible use of airplanes as bombs to attack tall buildings. It was not a result of President Bush's dithering over whether to continue reading a story about "My Pet Goat" to a group of children.

On balance, I prefer to take my chances with a President who thinks carefully before acting and who doesn't have a hair-trigger temper or other response to a changed situation. I hope that Mr. Obama will be such a President.

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