Commentary: Sam Donaldson on McCain's Tough Week

The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson. Click here to view a video version of his latest essay.

Many, many years ago there was a comic strip named "Li'l Abner" and one of the characters in it was named Joe Btfsplk, a forlorn little man in ragged clothes who walked around with a rain cloud hovering over his head. Joe's parade was never dry. Wherever he went it rained.

Hello, Joe Btfsplk McCain. A rain cloud hovers over Sen. John McCain's head. He was scheduled Thursday to helicopter out to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, a good visual to make his point about more oil drilling, which would not have eclipsed his rival's visual at the Victory Column in Berlin, but it would have been something. However, along came not just a rain cloud but a hurricane and blew the trip out of the water.


Consider also that as McCain kept pounding away this week at his rival's plan to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq on a timetable as dangerous and wrong, along came Iraq's prime minister to endorse the idea and, in the unkindest cut of all, even President Bush began talking about a "time horizon" for withdrawal.

Consider also that when McCain has been able to wedge into the media's celebratory coverage of his rival's overseas tour, more often that not it has been with stories of his gaffes – he speaks of Czechoslovakia (a country that no longer exists) – he talks of a Pakistani-Iraqi border (no such thing) – he says Iraq's Anbar Awakening followed the surge (no, it began before the surge, according to no less an authority than Gen. Petraeus).

And when the McCain camp floated the rumor to columnist Robert Novak that a running mate might be announced this week, it backfired. No running mate has been announced and now Novak is angry at being used and will carry no further water when it might be of more benefit.

But McCain can take heart that except for Joe Btfsplk in that old "Li'l Abner" comic strip, rain clouds don't last forever. To paraphrase an old song – "Don't know where, don't know when, but the sun will shine on John McCain again some day."

Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from January 1998 to August 1999 and from 1977-1989, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live," from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show, "Politics Live."