McCain: "a lifelong gambler"?
Yesterday, I characterized John McCain as a gambler, giving as evidence the three Hail Mary passes of his that Charles Krauthammer identified in a recent Washington Post column. But I had other reasons for calling him that, for I had read an article by Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr., "McCain wagers on gaming industry," pubished in the International Herald Tribune on September 28, 2008, nearly one week ago, so the issue was already on my mind:
Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.Is this a problem? It used to be one for the evangelicals that the Republican Party has depended upon, but Sarah Palin has shored up that base for him, at least among older evangelicals. His gambling interests had hurt him back in 2000:
A lifelong gambler, McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party's evangelical base, opponents of gambling.But the evangelicals now seem to have accepted this aspect of McCain's character, so it doesn't appear to be an issue that will hurt him with those voters this time. Does his love for gambling pose unacceptable risks for his decision-making? Not so long as he's winning like he was at the Foxwoods Resort Casino that night:
McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of McCain.I can't help but wonder, given the lobbying connections, if losing at the tables were even a possibility that night, but I make no accusations. McCain was winning, and so long as a man is winning, we don't ask too many questions.
The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to McCain's campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world's second-largest casino.
Joining them was Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just McCain's affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.
Personally, I dislike gambling, and I tend to agree with George Will and William Safire, among others, that gambling teaches people the wrong lesson on how to go about obtaining wealth, but let that argument be. The bigger issue right now, since McCain is a gambler, is this: Can John McCain walk away from the table at the right moment? Winning or losing, a gambler needs to know when to stop. Does McCain know? We've seen that Krauthammer would probably think not.
A lot of people don't know when the moment to stop has come, as we've perhaps seen in the excessive risks that a lot of distinguished executives in the financial sector have taken over the past several years. The resulting financial crisis has made them look like inveterate gamblers.
Whether or not McCain knows when walk away, even to be known as a risk-taker during this time of financial uncertainty might work to his disadvantage on November 4, when people are likely to pull the lever for the candidate who seems less likely to gamble with their future.
But we'll just have to wait and see what happens about one month from now.