Thursday, April 13, 2006

Eff John McCain (And Especially All His Friends) Pt. 314159

John McCain's appeal, much like his political conviction, has always been hard to pin down. When I've discussed it with people they normally describe it in terms of his "integrity", his "maverick nature", his slight occaisional willingness to "stand on principle" and his even more slight occaisional willingness to make decisions based on evidence rather than ideology. For me, it was his "straight talk" in 2000 that nearly won me over. It didn't take long to discover - despite his insistence, to this day, that he is the one and only straight talker in politics - that it's largely posture. Now Jacob Weisberg at Slate confirms this (link via BoP) in the form of yet another fawn-fest. Among other things, he writes:

But the literal-minded left has McCain all wrong. He's trying to win over enough of his party's conservative base to win, for sure. But this is a stratagem—the only one, in fact, that gives him a shot at surviving a Republican presidential primary. Discount his repositioning a bit, and McCain looks like the same unconventional character who emerged during the Clinton years: a social progressive, a fiscal conservative, and a military hawk. Should he triumph in the primaries, we can expect this more appealing John McCain to come roaring back.

Gotcha. When someone insists they give us the "straight talk", we're being too literal when we take them at their word. We're supposed to love Senator Straight Talk because he gives us the straight talk, except when he doesn't. Straight talk is just another tool in the box; convenient for appealing to those of us completely fed up with the political class, but easily dispensed with when it's time to make the base happy. Don't we keep hearing that Kerry lost because no one knew what he stood for? Wasn't one of the biggest epithets used on Clinton "Waffler in Chief"? (And when has McCain ever been a social progressive? In one of his most revealing statements - when it was rumored he was being courted for the VP slot on the Kerry ticket - he said something to the effect that he couldn't understand why a Democrat would want a vehemently pro-life anti-entitlement conservative on the ticket. And by the way, it's not just The American Prospect that thinks he's the heir to Goldwater. McCain has spent a large part of his career cultivating that image.)

Whatever. So McCain's just another hack who wants to be President; I can still understand the appeal, at least a little. Politicians in America are so corrupt and dishonest that it's almost a pleasure to hear one pretend to be honest about what they think and what they intend to do - even if such instances of near-honesty are rare. It's even more of a pleasure to see one gently mock himself for being power-hungry (another of McCain's favorite devices). And, as The Moose constantly reminds us, it's not what a politican does or says (or how they vote) that matters; it's what they appear to be. McCain can make a rare, public, violation of orthodoxy and thus is a Great Statesman and thus should be President. Case closed.

One thing we're seeing, though, is something a little more disturbing. McCain doesn't much like the people he presumes to eventually govern (link via My Left Wing). When, during a town-hall meeting, he is challenged on a position, he wishes the meeting were cut short. When, during a speech, he gets booed, he threatens to leave. Using the Moose Calculus of Political Judgements, what we see - which is what is most important - is a grouch who is afraid of being challenged by members of the general populace; he's far more comfortable being fawned over by millionaire pundits. Now I'm all for insisting that your audience act like adults. But it appears to me that someone who dislikes being challenged by memebers of the populace at large is someone who has mistaken the office of President for the office of El Presidente'. We've had 5 years of that and I think we've pretty much had enough.

Update: Whoo-hoo! Someone else (Brilliant at Breakfast) thinks like we do! (via skippy).
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