There’s really not much point in my writing about John McCain’s compulsive-gambler nature, both with dice and with his campaign. Plenty of others have done that much better than I will. But I’ll do it anyway, so that I can make a strained analogy and then stretch it even thinner. To wit, McCain seems to be using a vaguely martingale-like strategy with his campaign.
For those who are neither gamblers nor mathematicians (who talk about martingales in the context of probability theory), a martingale is a classic betting strategy that has the important property of sounding foolproof, while (like all betting strategies) eventually ruining those who use it. Suppose you’re playing roulette. Bet a dollar on “red.” If you win, you’re up a dollar; repeat as desired. If you lose, bet two dollars on red. If you win that second bet, you’re now up a dollar; if you lose double your bet again. Eventually you’ll win and be up dollar. You can’t lose!
Except of course you do lose. You can only double your bet and lose so many times before you go bankrupt. If you use the strategy repeatedly that will happen.
To make the strained analogy explicit with regard to recent events, McCain decided during the Democratic Convention that he was in trouble. So he gambled on his VP choice—I really do believe that he genuinely liked Sarah Palin and saw her as a kindred spirit and so on, but I also really do believe that he didn’t plan much in advance and did a lousy job with the vetting, and that he had very little rational reason to believe the choice would work out well. And at first it looked like a disaster, especially after the wild rumors and speculation that first weekend, culminating in the Bristol’s-pregnancy announcement.1 So, double down! Embrace Bristol’s Choice of Life! Blame the media! Let the Democrats underestimate Palin and lower expectations! And sure enough it seems to have worked.
I assume that McCain will continue his betting strategy for the rest of the campaign; he’ll certainly have more opportunities for desperate gambling before long. I really really hope he hits his limit before the election, because if he wins he’ll raise his stakes to the welfare of the entire country.
1. Sane reaction to which was expressed most succinctly at The Superficial (highly recommended for both celebrity gossip and bikini pictures):
The 17-year-old daughter of John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin (a.k.a. Governor MILFalicious) is reportedly five months pregnant. The McCain campaign revealed the news to rebut rampant rumors that Governor Palin’s infant son is actually her grandson and she faked her pregnancy to protect her daughter Bristol. You seriously just read all that, and I’m now 90% positive John McCain’s research involved picking this woman’s name out of of a hat.