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John McMentum

Why is John McCain attractive?

Sometimes, I think that centrist Democrats, so-called independents, and Times columnists toy with voting for him—“He would make a great president,” they say—because they believe he is secretly more reasonable than he acts, that his pandering to the base of the GOP is meaningless because it will put a Very Good Man in the White House.

Is that true? If so, how did it come to pass that John McCain continues to be a Very Good Man in spite of his money, his wars, and his compromises?



I see what you’re saying. All of us sometimes fall prey to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” fallacy from time to time. Still, of all the GOP contenders, I think he’s the guy most likely to send R. Limbaugh into a tailspin, so that’s why I’m rooting for him on their side. I don’t sense he’s an ideologue by any measure, and so he doesn’t scare me as much as someone who toes the party line nearly 100% of the time.

There you are!

That argument is counterintuitive to me. A candidate who plays ball with the party—say, for example, Huckabee’s declaration this week that he would ship all illegal immigrants out of the country within his first 100 days—is generally harmless, with some exceptions. He is harmless because there is no way that GOP agenda would ever come to pass. The exception is in trickle-down economic policy, nefarious because it affects the very rich directly and is therefore easier to push as a closet agenda. However, it indirectly affects everyone else in really abominable ways. So, while Romney or Huckabee may sound strident and dangerous, they’re being strident and dangerous in areas that are generally harmless. That’s good.

On the other hand, candidates like McCain or Guiliani are strident in areas of policy that are most definitely NOT harmless. Guiliani is a pre-Lapsarian brute, so everything that comes out of his mouth is expected. McCain is not a brute, but he is an imperialist who will militarize against the Islamofascists or, if that plays out, militarize against the Chinese, because militarization is what he does. He talks about fighting for something bigger than ourselves, but a) he’s still fighting and b) he’s using the very vagueness of being “bigger than ourselves” as its own justification for fighting some more. McCain sounds reasonable, such as when he talks about immigration, but it’s not the things he’s reasonable about that matter. It’s the things he takes for granted, and those things are fearsome.

They’re fearsome moreover because they are the things that any opposition party believe themselves weakest about.

Essentially I think it comes down to the fact that John McCain charmed a whole bunch of people in the national/D.C. media establishment somewhere down the line. Once that happened, the actual man behind the mask became irrelevant. John McCain is a Noble, High-Minded Man who Speaks Truth to his Narrow-Minded Base. He Could Lead This Country to Bipartisan Greatness.

I hate the national/D.C. media.

Media determinist.

I see what you’re saying.

How much do you know about John McCain that you didn’t learn through the media?

5: But have I disabused you of your hope that McCain offers hope? Because that is what I’m aiming for!

6: George Bush told me he fathered a black baby.

Mostly to make your day worse.

The only case I can make for McCain as the least of all evils that make up the Republican candidates (with the possible exception of the panderific Romney) is that he might successfully blow up the conservative voting block, that much-balleyhooed Reagan coalition, that has made them so powerful over the years. But this only happens if he wins. If he loses, his agenda and legacy are repudiated for the conservative base.

But, if he wins, he might so confuse the various conservative constituencies that they can no longer work effectively together. Or, and I find this more likely, he musters just enough nationalist militarism to call the social conservatives and the economic conservatives “pansies” for not doing more to fight for that vague something beyond themselves, and thus called out, they fall in line.

Either way, it’s not worth 4 more years of neocon imperialism to find out.

Oh, and does McCain even have a domestic policy?

I thought his domestic policy was to muster up the fight for more than ourselves so that we would all work harder for our new (old) Lockheed Martin overlords.

But… maybe that’s not all of it?

FWIW, in the last 48 hours I’ve begun to lean in the direction of thinking Romney may win the GOP nomination, anyway. If it’s a race between HRC and MR, I’ll turn off the tv for the next year.

No, that’s all of it. But isn’t that just support for his foreign policy? I don’t get any sense that the guy has any actual domestic plans.

Let’s see:

  • Stimulate the economy. It’s a press release, not a policy. Whatever proposals he makes here will be mostly irrelevant come 2009.
  • Hating on taxes. (Half of which is hating on Congress as a means of hating on taxes.)
  • Some actual proposals exist in his health care platform.
  • He says he’s pro-life, which I guess is a policy of judicial appointments.
  • Does reform campaign finances really count as a domestic policy? I say… Sort of.
  • School choice is pretty much all of his education platform.
  • Do something (though he doesn’t say what) about the environment.
  • Protect the 2nd Amendment. That’s more pander than policy methinks, especially since it isn’t in nearly as much danger as the NRA says.

Leave it to Greg to actually look stuff up.

Even still, of course he has a policy packet, I don’t see in these vague proposals any systematic or consistent vision of what McCain wants to do domestically. Most of these strike me, as you say, as press release fodder or strategic moves without a coherent objective. (Sound anything like Iraq?)

Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t think we need one. America is the greatest nation on earth after all. All we need to do is fine tune a few things—undermine our public schools, increase our national debt, keep the NRA happy—and then we can export this wonderful American democracy through military force throughout the world.

I don’t actually hold it entirely against him that his planks do not make a complete platform, or that some (most?) of his policy proposals are vague. He fired a good lot of his staff at the time it might have been inventing policy. What is worrying is that there is no real attempt to construct his planks and policy proposals into a coherent argument. Contrast that with HRC, whose own issues page is unified and argumentative, which one would think would be a relatively easy thing to do.

HG is just a Democrat ideologue and he hates that other people mightn’t‘ve drunk as much of the koolaid as he…

so, i got call from clinton last night… or, at least, a recorded call from a perky girl wanting me to vote for her.

and, all night last night obam-obama-rama ran ads. it’s weird. this is the first time something like this has happened. down here we only always get the local ads and never national ones.

When we had a phone number that the campaigns knew, we would get calls from John & Elizabeth Edwards and Hillary Clinton all the time—at least one per day. Lots of robocalls can make you feel like you’re more important than you are.

The endorsement of McCain by the Times is breathtaking.

First, the acknowledgment that he panders, excused as “tactical” because he actually has principles:

We have shuddered at Mr. McCain’s occasional, tactical pander to the right because he has demonstrated that he has the character to stand on principle.

It leaves open the question why they believe the pander is not the man.

Then there is the war. McCain is great because he could see that the war was “mismanaged,” as if seeing mismanagement were a viable substitute for judging the value of the war in the first place. The Times qualifies it with a hope that he might someday demonstrate similar foresight.

Mr. McCain was one of the first prominent Republicans to point out how badly the war in Iraq was being managed. We wish he could now see as clearly past the temporary victories produced by Mr. Bush’s unsustainable escalation, which have not led to any change in Iraq’s murderous political calculus. At the least, he owes Americans a real idea of how he would win this war, which he says he can do.

Finally, the kicker on torture:

Mr. McCain stood up for the humane treatment of prisoners and for a ban on torture. We said then that he was being conned by Mr. Bush, who had no intention of following the rules.

In sum, the Times has endorsed a candidate because 1) he has principles that he compromises for tactical reasons; 2) he might be able to wage war more competently than George W. Bush, though he neither demonstrates better judgment for getting into war in the first place nor reveals a sound plan for getting out of the war the U.S. is currently in; and 3) he was easily conned into allowing the Bush administration to continue its human rights abuses.

John McCain sounds like a winner!

The least of all evils, in their estimation, sounds like…

They did put some hate on all the GOP candidates…

The McCain endorsement was half-hearted, indeed. What do you make of the HRC endorsement? Is it just New York ties? They seem to give Obama some pretty short schrift on the policy front and give quite the benefit of the doubt to Hillary for her positions on the war.

A little off the subject for sure, but as much as I’ve gotten tired of the Clinton machine’s switchblade tactics, if Romney gets their nomination…he’s got it coming. And that, after all, could be very, very fun to watch. (So maybe I’ll turn on the tv, after all.)

I just finished it. I think the New York ties are pretty strong. She really has been a good senator for New York, representing the entire state well. She campaigned hard to win over upstate, even convincing K’s (not of activist stock) parents. I suspect that Clinton power holds sway over the Times though, for several reasons.

  1. Her campaign has been primarily pragmatic. First, she says she can win, and she’s doing it at all costs. Second, she also foregrounds her policy experience and prefaces it with the notion that she is “ready” to lead.
  2. I’m sure there’s a calculus of access, too. The Clintons still have power—lots of it—and that’s gold to a newsroom. I do not know whether an editorial board’s endorsement would really affect individual reporters’ relationships with a campaign or a candidate, but then, who’s to say it wouldn’t? Can you imagine being the Times editorial board and trying to decide whether it is worth going against the Clintons (who now call NY home, btw) because Obama is great? Surely they debated, maybe not openly (it doesn’t take a direct threat, btw, or any threat at all, for this to be a calculation), whether there would be payback. Endorsing HRC is therefore a conservative bet for the Times.
  3. Obama has never wholly assuaged fears that he isn’t yet ready (or the corollary argument that comes complete with racists subtext, that “America isn’t ready for him”). It’s a campaign smear (though not really a smear) on him that the press has turned into a narrative shorthand, and the Times is clearly relying on it. Credit to the HRC campaign for pushing that characterization until it stuck.

But 2 is most compelling to me. If you’re a newspaper committed to being the Newspaper of Record, and you believe that you might standing (access) by getting an endorsement wrong, then you bet on the Clintons.

#2 seems about right to me as well.

It seems a bit strange to me, though, to admit that there is relatively little policy difference between the candidates, and then to fault Obama for not being substantive enough.

That said, I wish Obama would come out with some stronger policy distinctions (perhaps on balance of power issues, where HRC seems to be hoping to gain from GWB’s power grab) that would show us what exactly we’re supposed to be hoping for.

Gal Berckerman reads the Times endorsement of HRC differently. She’s right, too, which doesn’t really challenge anything we’ve said here.

She is right. I think that is part of what I was trying to get at in my last comment.

Nonetheless, I think I like Obama more than Hillary right now both in spite of and because of his “transcendence.” I do worry that he can’t keep it up after Super Tuesday. How long can you say the same thing, even when it sounds so good?

Crist said he would campaign for McCain in the coming days. “I just feel in my heart he’s the right man for the job at the right time,” he told reporters afterward.

I was really hoping that with the obvious failures of “gut-guidance” (as seen in the utter failure of most anything touched by our current president, the anti-midas, who, more than anyone, relied on nothing more than that feeling in his heart) we would begin to move away from bathetic rhetoric in our national discourse.

my theory regarding this is that mccain is part of the establishment and the new tactic is for limbaugh and coulter to vilify him so that the moderate/independents swing and give him a fighting chance out of pity. the republicans will still vote for him over barak or hillary… it’s reverse psychology on the part of the shrill right-wing puppet-buffoons to get people thinking that he is different and maverick and what the country needs. but, at the end of the day, he wears elephant underwear and is quite gopish.

so, on the whole, people think i’m crazy… that’s okay… just you wait henry higgins when all those moderates switch to mcain because they finally see him cry because limbaugh said something that cut him to the quick.

That’s because your theory is on crack. It makes so much more sense to say that they just hate him, and they’re conflicted about whether it is better to lose to the Really Bad party or to lose their party to the Really Bad Representative.

well, i know it’s on crack… what? once politics are on the table all of the sudden we have to be serious?

a) I’m a pragmatist; sue me. b) Thing is, there are people who are floating that argument in all seriousness.

re 33 b:

really? in all seriousness? i am glad that i don’t have the time to keep up…