That men are at a disadvantage when attractive women are present is a fact upon which women have banked for centuries. Ignoring it now profits only fools. McCain spokesmen have said that he was attracted to Palin's maverickness, that she reminded him of himself.
Recognizing oneself in a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex, as the case may be) is a powerful invitation to bonding. Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in the river, imagining it to be his deceased and beloved sister's. In McCain's case, it doesn't hurt that his reflection is spiked with feminine approval.
As my husband observed early on, McCain the mortal couldn't mind having an attractive woman all but singing arias to his greatness. Cameras frequently capture McCain beaming like a gold-starred schoolboy while Palin tells crowds that he is "exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief." This, notes Draper, "seemed to confer not only valor but virility on a 72-year-old politician who only weeks ago barely registered with the party faithful."
It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama -- under any circumstances. And though it isn't over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman's power, made the wrong call?
Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president and Hillary might be today's Democratic nominee.
If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, then he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature's power to befuddle.