Oh, I’d say right after then-Texas Governor George W. Bush kicked his ass something fierce during the 2000 Republican primaries. In 2000, McCain got his hopes up because the whole “maverick/Straight Talk Express” stuff worked nicely in New Hampshire, but that shit didn’t play down South, especially once the Bush campaign got nasty. McCain may have spent five years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp, but he wasn’t conditioned for the monumental beatdown he took in South Carolina courtesy of Karl Rove and the Bush campaign.
It wasn’t anything for anyone to be proud of — in fact, the Bush campaign did some repugnant, borderline (if not outright) racist things and played to the worst fears of the historically reactionary South Carolinians, but it was after that 2000 South Carolina primary that John McCain realized what it took to win his party’s nomination.
Plus, John McCain is a 76-year-old man and you’d probably be cranky, too, if your plane had been shot down and then got the shit kicked out of you so regularly for five years at the Hanoi Hilton that you can’t raise your arms above your head. Physically, it’s obviously an issue. But think about the emotional scars of always having to be the “M” when you and your friends do the Village People’s “YMCA” at karaoke. (Too soon?)
On top of all that, just imagine that you are John McCain. Really, imagine it. You are John McCain and you wake up every morning and look in the mirror and think about all of the adversity you overcame. All of the things I mentioned earlier — the war injuries, the lengthy time as a POW, the personal attacks. You have moved forward and leaped over many of the obstacles you faced. You bounced back from the disastrous 2000 Republican primaries and, despite your age, became the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee — winning that nomination so much more easily than anyone expected. You stand at your mirror thinking about how far you, John McCain, have come — how much you’ve grown. Look at what you’ve accomplished! Look at what you’ve become!
And then it begins. It begins with a single, solitary tear rolling down your Dr. Evil-looking head. That tear is followed by heavier, old-man-tears; thick, watery globules of sadness and loss. You’re breathing heavily, gasping for air because you are so overcome by a constrictive feeling that you’ve learned is a potent mixture of shame and disappointment — as if the chemicals and tissues that make up who you are have taken on a life of their own and decided to try to strangle you where you stand. What you are doing can only be described in one way — sobbing. You, John McCain, are sobbing. The tears falling and the pained moans seemingly escaping from the depths of your broken heart cause you to hyperventilate. You must sit down, splash water on your face, close your eyes for a few minutes. You try to control those emotions with the breathing exercises you’ve been taught. Sometimes it takes two-to-three hours for you to leave your bedroom. Sometimes, it seems as if nobody will be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, so you just pull the heavy, black velvet curtains over your bedroom windows and sleep.
But you will wake up, John McCain. And you’ll go into your bathroom and look in your mirror, and it will all begin again, just as it does three or four times a day. Your lip will quiver, your hands will shake, those ever-present tears will rush to flood your eyes, and you’ll scream at yourself, “WHY DID YOU NOMINATE HER? YOU BLEW IT! YOU FUCKING BLEW IT!!!”
And that might explain what’s happened to John McCain — why, in between the tears and the gasps for breath, you hear him angrily mutter the words “Hockey Mom” and “Fuck Alaska”. If after a lifetime of service, when you were making your bid for the White House, and you stupidly nominated Sarah Palin to be your Vice President…well, you might be cranky, too.