As I watch John McCain each day make a fool of himself and endanger his country, I am reminded of what I wrote about him during the 2008 election.
JOHN McCAIN: DR. JEKYLL OR MR. HYDE?
Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, published in 1886, dramatizes what the author believed to be the duality of human nature.
Set during England’s Victorian Era, the story tells of respectable scientist Henry Jekyll whose experiments allow—eventually compel—him to become a completely different person, the murderous Mr. Hyde.
As the story progresses, Jekyll realizes that the Hyde part of the scientist’s dual personality is taking over, and Jekyll is “slowly losing hold of [his] original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with [his] second and worse [self].”
I thought of Stevenson’s story about dual personality when recently writing a critical article about Republican primary candidate John McCain—an article in which I pulled no punches.
It struck me then that there were telling differences between the John S. McCain, III of his pre-political period and the Senator McCain who now seems to have wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination.
The McCain of the earlier time, despite his apparent cavalier attitude about academics and propriety, was nonetheless a graduate of Annapolis and a Navy jet aircraft pilot. He survived three plane crashes and an on-deck carrier accident that killed 132 sailors. McCain flew dangerous missions over North Vietnam, braving enemy SAM missiles—until one nailed him. He survived ejection, almost drowning, near-fatal injuries, torture, and five-plus years of harsh incarceration. Some six years were ripped out of his life, to which he returned partially crippled.
Dr. Henry Jekyll would have been proud to have John McCain as a friend.
Then came politics.
McCain was elected to the House, and soon after to the Senate, where he has served for several terms.
Then, even though he caucused with the Republicans and considered himself a Conservative, Senator Edward Hyde emerged, not to commit murder but instead to undermine core Republican/Conservative principles.
Why Jekyll turned into Hyde—was it because of an adulatory witch’s brew served him by the media?—we’ll probably never know.
But we do know that McCain’s Dr. Jekyll side became less and less prominent (though some of it remained—e.g., abortion, earmarks, Iraq, Roberts/Alito,), and his Edward Hyde side became predominant (e.g., taxes, speech, immigration, POW/MIA—and more).
By now, the long list of McCain’s apostasy is well known—votes and conduct so deviating from the Republican/Conservative norm that Mr. Hyde would have been proud. If McCain had not come as close to the Republican presidential nomination as he now is, we might never have seen much of Dr. Jekyll again, and been left with the rampaging Mr. Hyde.
But as of a few days ago, it appears that Dr. Jekyll is resurgent.
When Senator McCain addressed the CPAC meeting in Washington, D.C. last week, he frankly admitted that Edward Hyde had existed, but he made it clear that Dr. Jekyll was now ascendant:
- I know the party needs to be united.
- I need the support of dedicated conservatives.
- I believe in small government, fiscal discipline, low taxes, a strong defense, judges who enforce, not make out laws.”
- I am pro-life.
- I support Second Amendment rights.
- I backed the President’s decision to surge our forces in Iraq.
- I will make it a highest priority to secure the border.
- I intend to govern as a conservative.
- I stand on my conservative convictions.
- I won’t sign any bill containing an earmark.
- I will not permit expansion of entitlement programs.
- I intend to cut taxes, ending the Alternate Minimum Tax.
- I will use free market solutions to the health care problem.
- I will stay the course in Iraq.
- I will make it clear to Iran that the cannot possess nuclear weapons.
- I will take the offense against Islamic terrorism.
Although Mr. Hyde would never have committed himself to those statements, how can we be certain that he has been purged from Dr. Jekyll’s being?
But we can give McCain the benefit of the doubt for a while, examining his words and scrutinizing his actions—watching and waiting, in the hope that John McCain does not, by his own actions, end up like Henry Jekyll.
That’s because The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ends with the scientist writing a confession of his deeds, drinking his evil concoction, transforming himself into the monster Hyde and, as Hyde, committing suicide.
While it was too late for Jekyll’s lawyer-friend and butler to save him by forcing their way into his laboratory, it is not too late for John McCain to save his presidential candidacy, perhaps our nation—and surely himself.
Some of us did give McCain the benefit of the doubt, but it was too late for him to save his candidacy then, let alone this nation. Let alone himself.
John McCain long ago abandoned Dr. Henry Jekyll. Today he lives, at least politically, as the twisted Edward Hyde: Immigration. Syria. And more. While we don't wish him the literal fate of Hyde, it is not too much to hope that in a moment of clarity McCain-as-Jekyll sees the political monster that McCain-as-Hyde has become, confesses to himself, and leaves the Washington stage.
There is no lawyer-judge or butler to save him.
There is no lawyer-judge or butler to save him.