Question: You not only have had combat experience in Vietnam, but you were also a prisoner of war. When you look at terrorism right now, with people like Osama bin Laden, do you have any reservations about watching strikes like that?
Answer: You could say, Look, is this guy, Laden, really the bad guy that's depicted? Most of us have never heard of him before. And where there is a parallel with Vietnam is: What's plan B? What do we do next? We sent our troops into Vietnam to protect the bases. Lyndon Johnson said, Only to protect the bases. Next thing you know.... Well, we've declared to the terrorists that we're going to strike them wherever they live. That's fine. But what's next? That's where there might be some comparison.
Let's put aside the breathtakingly awful instincts about terrorism and national security in a post-Cold War world. McCain's rationale for not caring about bin Laden or even thinking he's a bad guy is that he'd never heard of him before. And that's basically how McCain thinks about the world, ignorant narcissist that he is. If McCain hasn't heard of it, it cannot possibly be relevant. And remember, this interview was published in November/December 1998, and the embassy bombings that killed hundreds of people and were pinned on Bin Laden happened in August, 1998.
In 1998, McCain wasn't sure that bin Laden was a bad guy, even though bin Laden had killed hundreds of people in high profile terrorist bombings and issued multiple fatwas against the United States. Today, McCain says he'll follow Bin Laden to the 'gates of hell'. That's just your standard McCain preening because today Osama bin Laden and terrorism allows him to play the heroic action figure, whereas in 1998 bin Laden wasn't the big bad villain he is today.
To some extent it's true all politicians are headline driven, and seek to position themselves in ways that take advantage of public interest. But the modern Republican party is the epitome of such politicking, so much so that reality is pretty much irrelevant. In that sense, McCain is just like Bush. Both of them are basically children who want to play with weapons, and they just don't care about or even believe in things that don't appeal to their own sense of heroic narcissism. It's who these people are, but it's also what the Republican party is about.