John McCain: "Failure Is Not An Option: It's Essential."

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58 Responses

  1. a_random_guy says:

    Money quote: "The most important is that in Washington, failure…can only be rewarded."

    Really, I am not quite sure how to interpret this. Perhaps "one you have been accepted as one of the elite, well, we take care of our own."

    Or, alternatively "what ordinary Americans interpret as 'failure', dishonesty and corruption, is what we reward in Washington."

    However you choose to interpret it, it clearly shows the unbridgeable gap between ordinary Americans and the elite who would rule us.

  2. For the first few paragraphs you had me going. Well-done.

  3. aromatic_vegetable_lover says:

    Has someone been taking writing classes from The Onion? Well played, sir.

  4. I've been in Arizona for the last 20ish years (back off, I got my reasons). I've witnessed McCain's slide from 5-star* politician to worthless garbage.

    It took longer than most people understand. It was uglier than most people understand. The final product is not hard to understand, however.

    *: Politicians are rated on a five-star scale similar to Internet service providers. The highest rank that can be attained is "Sucks", which is awarded at five stars. Lower ranks typically are defined by titles such as "15% Packet Loss on a Good Day" or "Craven Flip-flopper Sellout Douchebag Deceiver".

  5. Basil Forthrightly says:

    I'll take minor exception on the 5 planes/Forrestal thing. Flight operations were being filmed when the Forrestal fire started, and its abundantly clear he neither caused the fire nor otherwise screwed up during it. McCain lost 3 planes to foolishness/hotdogging/incompetence, had one blown up under him on deck during the Forrestal fire (bad luck), and then got his ass shot down over Vietnam (enemy action).

    Considering how abundant his failings are, I see no point in the exaggeration; it makes a too-easy handle for his defenders to discredit the piece. The unstretched truth is damning enough.

  6. Shane says:

    Amen Patrick.

    That saddest thing for me was watching him when I was in AZ, and he was running for president. All he could say to refute Obama was, yes yes we have a socialist program just like that too.

  7. Considering how abundant his failings are, I see no point in the exaggeration; it makes a too-easy handle for his defenders to discredit the piece.

    That the piece is written as a summary of a press conference that never took place doesn't discredit it entirely?

  8. David says:

    Has someone been giving writing classes to The Onion? Well played, sir.


  9. Wick says:

    Well played.

  10. Doug says:

    I read almost all they way to the bottom before I realized…

    Masterfully written.

  11. Regret says:

    An instant classic!

  12. Anon says:

    Busted a gut reading, but worth it! Thanks for the laugh today.

  13. "Reckless diplomatic showboating" link fixed. Thanks to K for the tip.

  14. HavaCuppaJoe says:

    Double-Plus Un-Ungood

  15. ChrisTS says:

    I wonder if he really has lost his mind. This woman lied, repeatedly, about her qualifications. But… whatever.

  16. Ryan says:

    I confess it took me 2 paragraphs to realize that I was not, in fact, reading a quote from McCain :P

  17. nlp says:

    I got as far as his failing his wife before I realized what Patrick was doing. But I'm sorry he elected to omit Ms Ayotte's failings from the post.

    Of course, it's possible that he thinks we already know them too well, but I still would have liked to read his take on them.

  18. Flip says:

    It could be that I stayed up all night, but I got to "beer heiress" before I remembered that it was Patrick writing.

  19. Jeff Healitt says:

    Just build that dang wall! And while we're at, let's make sure we pass the COINS Act.

  20. Bear says:

    @nlp • Sep 28, 2013 @1:10 pm: "But I'm sorry he elected to omit Ms Ayotte's failings from the post."

    Kelly had no comments at the press conference. She was waiting for an email from the RNC telling her what to think, but it didn't arrive until the conference was over.

  21. Trebuchet says:

    Just wait. McCain, Graham, and more than 500 other senators and congressman are about to fail the country in most spectacular fashion ever. Twice. And with a good deal of help from the executive branch as well.

    I will agree that about the only thing McCain failed at in the Forrestal disaster was dying.

  22. XS says:

    Sad, and in a most obvious way.

  23. Stephen H says:

    That really is an impressively bad record. He keeps costing his country money, lives and international goodwill, and it keeps coming back for more.

  24. Ghost says:

    McCain proves every day how little difference the 2008 election made.

  25. Tarrou says:

    I feel like there's some point being made here, but for the life of me I can't put my finger on it.

  26. Clark says:


    Would read this post and LOL again and again.

  27. Clark says:


    I feel like there's some point being made here, but for the life of me I can't put my finger on it.

    It's like everyone at Popehat has gone elliptical this week.

  28. RKN says:

    I failed to find the humor in this.

  29. Hazard says:

    Quite the baffling phenomenon out there in politiland. When Dems fail(or get failed by political maneuvering), they tend to get kicked by the side. When Repubs fail, they fail up.

  30. Sami says:

    I think it's a product of the current right-wing hostility to "experts". Once you decide that knowing what you're talking about is in some manner a liability, somehow, then the obvious next conclusion is that if someone is a blatant, colossal fuckup at something, then obviously that's the person you promote to be in charge of everything to do with the thing they're terrible at.

  31. Anony Mouse says:

    What Washington have you been looking at, Hazard? People from both parties fail up.

  32. Brad Hutchings (@BradHutchings) says:

    Speaking of failure… You've failed to address the most salient question of the whole O'Bagy Affair: is she hot or not? I would definitely go with "hotter than Monica Lewinsky", but I can't in good conscience give her anything above a very solid 6.5.

  33. TomB says:

    Quite the baffling phenomenon out there in politiland. When Dems fail(or get failed by political maneuvering), they tend to get kicked by the side. When Repubs fail, they fail up.


  34. Tarrou says:

    Depending on who you believe, I actually don't think what O'Bagy did was necessarily as bad as it was made out to be. She is young and inexperienced, and her sudden propulsion to the top of the news during the political knife fight over the Syria strike made her a target. I disagree with her, and her boss, but she claims to have successfully defended her dissertation, and she's just missing the actual paperwork, which is taking a while. Given the nature of bureaucracy, I find that plausible. Should she have been clearer about the situation when she applied to the job? Perhaps. But it's not as if she's a GED recipient claiming this level of expertise. She actually did the work. I may think it's ridiculous for a senior senator to hire a fresh PHD with no experience as a top adviser, but that's not against any rules I know of.

  35. piperTom says:

    Echoing the kudos above, I believed it almost half way through. Masterful satire (but an easy target).

  36. piperTom says:

    Basil Forthrightly (Sep 28, 2013 @8:55 am) has a "minor exception" in that two of the five lost planes were not McCain's fault. The navy hired and trained him so that Not Losing Planes would be what he did. McCain had the job of performing his mission without losing his assets. He failed (again).

  37. nlp says:

    I disagree with her, and her boss, but she claims to have successfully defended her dissertation, and she's just missing the actual paperwork, which is taking a while. Given the nature of bureaucracy, I find that plausible.

    Tarrou, unfortunately, that is yet another lie, and the truth is worse. All she has done is apply to enter the PhD program. She has not done the coursework, she has not written her dissertation, and she has not defended it.

  38. Tarrou says:


    If true, that would pretty much do away with any sense of charity on my part. Google-fu gooooooooooooo!

    "“Ms. O’Bagy told me that she had successfully defended her dissertation in May 2013,” Kim Kagan, director of the ISW and former advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told TheDC. “But she hadn’t. She misrepresented that she had successfully defended it.”

    Kagan also says that O’Bagy told her she was in a joint Ph.D./M.A. program and that it “continued to be [her] understanding” that O’Bagy was in that program. She graduated from Georgetown’s master’s program in 2013."

    Seems you're correct, and I retract any sympathy for Ms. O'Bagy.

  39. Mike G. says:

    I linked this and mistakenly attributed the piece to Ken. It has since been corrected. Great work Patrick.

  40. EPWJ says:

    Its interesting that we were told that Ms. O'Donnell had not paid her taxes, her house had been bought for her by a lover, that she was in foreclosure and too many other stories.

    I'm inclined to believe less when someone claims that she was told something over physical proof. Here a person took a stand that was contrary to the stand of the firm she worked for and then a story breaks about her credentials.

    I maybe wrong, but then again so could they.

    On the record I never was a fan of O'Donnell, but also the detractor who allegedly exposed O'Bagy in this case is someone who is a competitor, and perhaps we should take all this into consideration, since a military historian, would not have brought such charges without some concrete proof, like a statement or a document signed by O'Bagy. Did I miss the waived document in a press conference or was this a comment to a blogger that linked to another blogger and then it became a "fact".

    Like most of the "facts" in this article – pure rubbish is possibly too kind.

  41. Basil Forthrightly says:


    Are you seriously arguing that a pilot sitting in his plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier is responsible for the loss of his plane when another plane on the deck fires a missile into it? There's literally no action he could've taken to prevent the loss.

    Under this sort of "logic", every murder victim is responsible for their own death, including the 9/11 victims.

    It also brands all of our military who have fallen in combat "failures", since the military have trained them and given the responsibility of keeping themselves alive.

    I find your "logic" or rhetoric despicable. (My contempt does not extend to the original post; as I said, "I take minor exception" since the essence of the point as written – McCain was unfit to be a Naval aviator – is something I believe to be true based on the loss of the first 3 planes.)

  42. Hazard says:

    Didn't notice? Like the Dem officials who got caught in a fake controversy a few years ago, they got fired. O'Bagy here and Mark Sanford down South, they spectacularly fail and get promoted.

  43. Greg Hlatky says:

    Some years ago a magazine had a periodic feature "America's House of Lords", for those who had consistently failed in every public office they occupied, yet continued to rise in the esteem of the media. Senator McCain would be an excellent entry.

  44. Bill says:

    I didn't catch on until the ex-wife stuff. I saw it again, we need to get a kickstarter going so you guys can quit your day jobs and post full time ;-)

  45. Bill says:

    I meant to write "say it again" not 'saw' it again.

  46. Bill says:

    @Hazard: So cherry picking three specific instances validates your point when the sample is far from random or representative? In Sanford's case, he was a Congressman, Governor and Chair of the Governor's Assc. Afterward, he won a special election for Congress. Failing sideways perhaps but hardly failing up. Additionally, he was extremely popular in each of his offices and his transgression is a joke. Whatever your opinions of Sanford are though, the examples you cite are pretty lame on both sides. One could play this game all day using, what happened to Bob Packwood compared to Teddy or Patrick Kennedy would result in the exact opposite conclusion from the one you drew. Marion Barry could be used as a data point, as could countless others. I'm not a Team Red or Team Blue cheerleader and I'd posit that both sides cover the wagons for their own – that members of both sides get treated much differently than your run of the mill citizen and that both sides have more falling upwards than you could shake a stick at. If you want to believe it's a R/D issue, knock yourself out but unless you rely on cherry picked datapoints, you won't fair well in any serious argument peddling your premise.

  47. Bill says:


    Not being a McCain fan, I never really knew about most of this. You seem knowledgeable about the subject so may I ask – how do you lose even one plane (from what I just read, Lose means they were destroyed) due to hotdogging and get away with it? I have heard many say he got the kid glove treatment in the military b/c of who's son he was, but it would seem to me that you could get the benefit of the doubt on one incident. Three though seems pretty egregious as those things aren't cheap. Is it a case that "hotdogging' has an eye of the beholder element to it, or is it pretty much widely accepted (like speeding in a car – 5mph over the speed limit is one thing, 50 mph is clearly hotdogging)? Just for the record, I'm a big fan of the "There's enough real stuff to point out that there's no need to take cheap shots" approach – I don't know enough about McCain to say anything about it – but admire that perspective as a general note – not that my validation means anything ;-)

  48. Bill says:

    @Greg – Hear hear. Reading Hazards comments, calling a politician cheating on his wife or DC establishment bootlicker padding a resume, a spectacular failure seems a little naive. It's so bad I think such things are the rule more than the exception and in most cases, it only matters if the timing is really bad or you have stepped on the wrong toes. Failing upward is the order of the day. It's a shame, and it's sad how low the bar has been set, but it's still true. Do you remember the reference though – was it the post on Balloon Juice or a book by any chance? I'm trying to look for it as it sounds interesting – figured I'd ask before shelling out the money for the book (well, that and you mentioned a magazine so I figured I may have the wrong reference)

  49. AlphaCentauri says:

    McCain seems like a pretty complicated person. He took massive personal risks to support fellow sailors, but was a douche not only to his first wife but also to all the other women he openly had affairs with.

    Is he showing loyalty to a person who has backed up his agenda in Syria? Is he trying to play the hero with another younger woman? Is he just out of touch and too old to care about re-election? Who knows.

  50. Basil Forthrightly says:


    McCain's grandfather was a 4-star admiral who literally worked himself to death in WWII; McCain's father was a WWII submarine captain and minor war hero who also became a 4-star admiral and assumed command of all combined forces in the Pacific theater (CINCPAC), including Vietnam, in 1968, shortly after his son was captured.

    "Lost 3 planes to hotdogging" is a rhetorical flourish. He flew a trainer into the water (but claimed engine failure in the inquiry), clipped power lines but managed to land the wreck, and bailed out of a 3rd plane after its engine apparently stopped. In the 3rd case, he was landing to refuel and certain speculators (like me) think he ran it out of gas but have no evidence; the inquiry at first found no engine fault but the final report was changed after it was issued, to undetermined engine fault. McCain asserted the engine exploded. He would've needed to refuel somewhere on the trip, and the Naval Air Station at Norfolk where he was attempting to land was the logical choice.

    I think McCain's connections explain his career's survival, though he was also well liked, considered a good pilot, and the Vietnam war was underway and heating up, not to mention the Cold War.

  51. Leif Sawyer says:

    Bravo, bravo!

    Only a bit of a nit to pick, but as it's near and dear to my heart, I felt I must.

    Wasilla, Alaska- It's not an overgrown mining village, and never was. The mining town is Knik, which is nearby. Wasilla is a town situated at the "forks in the road" but really just a bit away from the fork by the lake, because "isn't the view over here so much better?"

    It's the sixth largest city in Alaska, and yes, they've got a Wal*Mart and Walgreens to prove it.

    Eek, Alaska, on the gripping hand…

  52. Earle says:

    Thanks Leif, I raised an eyebrow at the Wasilla reference too. I've heard it called a lot of things and none of them were 'mining town'.

  53. My apologies to our friends in Alaska.

    In my defense, the closest I've ever been to Alaska (morally and metaphysically, not geographically) was a visit to Archangelsk, which is pretty far from Wasilla, but closer in some ways than Los Angeles.

  54. Ken White says:

    I can see your failure from my house.

  55. Anony Mouse says:

    I can see Tiny Fey creating memes from my house.

  56. Ed says:

    Let's not forget that McCain was the sole Republican in the Keating 5. Though his culpability was probably the least of the 5, he acknowledged his part in it was wrong.

  1. September 28, 2013

    […] our friend Ken White from Popehat Law Blog has an excellent parody of a John McCain speech with a cameo appearance from Senator Kelly Ayotte […]