For McCain, Barack Obama is the New Mitt Romney?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Aug 06, 2008 8:24 AM
As usual, Maureen Dowd's column this morning -- titled "McCain's Green-Eyed Monster" -- is over-stated and overly-dramatic.  She often seeks to psychoanalyze her subjects, but the end result is usually turning them into simplistic two-dimensional caricatures. 

Today's column is no exception.  Dowd's central premise -- that McCain's recent ads were approved because McCain is "green with envy" over Obama -- is, of course, absurd (according to Dowd, the old McCain of 2000 would never have stooped to this level.  The only explanation for why he would do so now is that he is soooo envious!).

But, as usual, there are also brilliant insights to glean from her observations; you just have to get past the drama.  In this case, Dowd is probably correct that Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson are jealous of the "new guy."  That certainly is consistent with what we know about them, and it has been confirmed by their highly-publicized recent statements about Obama.

In the case, of McCain, she finally hits the nail on the head when she writes, 

"For McCain, being cool meant being a rogue, not a policy wonk; but Obama manages to be a cool College Bowl type, which must irk McCain, who liked to play up his bad-boy cool."
If you're trying to create a caricature of McCain, a Marlon Brandoesqu, black-leather-jacket-wearing fly-boy who looks down his nose with derision at the book-wormy nerd is a more accurate description (as opposed to a man who is green with envy).

Interestingly, this is the same phenomenon that, as I've written about many times in the past, caused McCain -- and the other GOP presidential candidates -- to resent Mitt Romney during the GOP primaries.  McCain had been running for president for a decade, but then this really sharp, preppy, polished guy showed up with all this money, PowerPoint presentations, and a perfect family, and started rocking the boat.  McCain and Rudy were the cool kids in the back of the class throwing spitballs; Romney was the kid in the front of the class with his hand up to answer every question ... you get the common analogy ...

It's not so much that McCain is envious of Obama -- as much as it is that he currently views Obama as a "goody-goody" poseur who hasn't paid his dues. 

So yes, I think it's fair to say this is personal.  But saying McCain envies Obama is the wrong way of looking at it.  He doesn't envy Obama, he looks down his nose at him.