Driving home today, I listened to Talk of the Nation, on which Bill Kristol urged John McCain to fire his campaign staff because it isn't working. Apart from the fact that I want McCain's campaign to fail, I was interested in one remark Kristol made. Loosely paraphrased, he said that McCain had some good ideas (choosing Palin as VP, suspending his campaign to go to Washington to create a miracle for the bailout), but they weren't followed up. They're all tactical, said Kristol; there's no strategic thinking.
No strategic thinking. Isn't that an interesting suggestion? McCain isn't a strategist; he's a tactician. Think about his military career - he flew ground-attack aircraft off carriers. You need tactics in that role; other people take care of strategy. McCain retired from the Navy in 1981 (after 23 years), as a captain, and went into politics, where issues of strategy versus tactics are somewhat diluted. A Navy captain is the equivalent of an Army or Air Force colonel, which I'd argue is the lowest possible command level at which you need to begin to think strategically. Below that level you're dealing with much more day-to-day stuff: tactics and logistics. McCain reached captain; then he retired.
This campaign is the most important operation of McCain's career, and he isn't thinking strategically. Why should we assume that he'll start thinking strategically if we elect him President? And what would be the implications of a President of the United States who is driven entirely by tactical considerations? I wasn't going to vote for him for a number of reasons, some making more sense than others; but frankly, this one seems to me to be quite potent.