Wednesday, July 09, 2008



Courtesy of DailyKos

Last night I was driving to meet a friend and Johnny Wendell was subbing for Mike Malloy on NovaM radio. I didn't hear his whole show, just a part about how McCain seems to have a gambling addiction problem-- and possibly a criminal problem to go along with it. We'll get to that in a moment. Ironically, the friend I was going to meet is the only person I ever knew who had a gambling problem. I wished I could ask him about it but I think he's in denial and I didn't feel comfortable bringing it up. His life is a wreck and his ex-wife told me he had gambled away the family's savings, and even lost their home briefly. The gambling addiction almost completely destroyed his life, his wife's lives and any semblance of normalcy for their young children. Yeah... I didn't bring up McCain.

Instead I drove home and googled up Time Magazine's story about how Obama plays a little low-stakes polka to relax and socialize while McCain loses control and becomes a scary monster/super creep. For McCain it's like being a hot dog flyer again, only not pulling stunts that kill 134 U.S. navy men and destroying tens of millions of dollars worth of planes and nearly sinking an aircraft carrier. That's good ole John McCain.
For McCain, jaunts to the craps table helped burnish his image as a political hot dog who relished the thrill of a good fight, even if the risk of failure was high.

McCain's passion for gambling and taking other risks has never been a secret. He was a Navy flyer, trained in the art of controlled crash landings on aircraft carriers. He spent his youth sneaking booze behind the backs of his schoolmasters and reveling in his stack of demerits. He came of age on shore leave in the casinos of Monte Carlo, in a Navy culture that had long embraced dice in the officers' clubs.

The moral code of McCain's youth always distinguished between sins of honor and sins of pleasure. "Don't lie, cheat or steal-- anything else is fair game," McCain told his son Jack when the boy left for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. In his memoir, McCain recalls that by his mid-20s, he "had begun to aspire to a reputation for more commendable achievements than long nights of drinking and gambling."

Over time he gave up the drinking bouts, but he never quite kicked the periodic yen for dice. In the past decade, he has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request. "Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life," says John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. "Taking a chance, playing against the odds." Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. "He never, ever plays on the house," says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.

Of course when you marry a rich heiress, you don't have to worry much about a few thousand here and a few thousand there. Why just today, McCain-- away from the Strip-- mentioned that he "imagines" we may be in a recession. I'm sure he could never imagine the policies he's been mindlessly voting for are at the base of the recession. And remember, he's bored and disinterested in economics and claims he needs to learn something about them "some time." What time? He's getting really old and maybe he should have learned this stuff when he was a young guy in his 50s or even his 60s. Lately his aides have tried to keep him away from the craps tables. It could be embarrassing.

It could also be illegal. Not the gambling. That's legal. But McCain doesn't report his winnings. He gambles thousands of dollars with the roll of the dice and has never filed a W-2G form and never filed anything at all about winnings or losings on his IRS 1040. Is he as unlucky as Bill Bennett?



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