Now, as Mr. McCain prepares to accept the Republican presidential nomination, his response to the attacks of Sept. 11 opens a window onto how he might approach the gravest responsibilities of a potential commander in chief.
Within hours, Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.
“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.
Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”
These are America's worst instincts on display. This excess passion of the masses is explicitly what we want our leaders to be above. It is why we are a democratic Republic, and not a Democracy.
The article concludes with a stunning McCain quote:
I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment — their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace. It’s important to get them right.
Yes, it is important to get decisions of war and peace right, and John McCain went along with the fervor of the moment rather than dispassionately evaluating America's interests. If these are the most important decisions, John McCain fails.