A reader writes:

McCain was so angry Wednesday night, he looked unhinged at times.

The question is: Why? Clearly, this is nothing new. But last night was nearly over the top. What is seething down underneath there?

You know I'm all for Freudian, Shakespearean and Jungian analysis (with a large dash of Orwell thrown in for good measure) - and god knows McCain has plenty to analyze - but I woke up this morning with this simple thought:

McCain is just indignant. To his mind, Obama has given him his personal word on several matters - public financing, town hall meetings, and of course the infamous lobbying reform bill - and in each case, Obama has broken his word. His personal word. His man-to-man word. Or so McCain sees it.

To McCain, Obama has proven himself to be nothing more than a slick, "eloquent" liar, a man of little or no character, a snake-oil salesman. McCain's problem is that in the debate context, he can't just say out loud what he really thinks, or rather, what he really feels - he has to bottle it up, and that's why he looks ready to blow. He is. Read his 2006 letter to Obama over Barack's withdrawal from the lobbying reform bill, below. McCain is livid - he cannot accept what he understands as personal "betrayal". And to his mind, Obama has done this to him over and over again, as I noted.

Now, we might look at this syndrome, and feel reinforced in our opinion that McCain is far too volcanic, far too temperamental, far too emotionally immature to sit in the Oval Office. At least, I do. But as with all things, there's almost always a grain of truth on both sides, and given that this country, left and right, has a very bad habit of choosing to deny the shadow side of it's own actions, and ignore the clay feet of it's chosen heroes, I have to ask myself: to what extent is there some grain of truth in McCain's indignation? Maybe in the end I'll conclude that it all says much more about McCain than it does about Obama - but I will remain a liberal of doubt, and watch Obama carefully. However much I admire him, however much I hope from him, he gets no free passes - and the McCain asterisk goes in the book. That is the only way to keep this process honest.

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