Thursday, 31 July 2008

Rants

Why John McCain is “stupid”


Daniel Henninger gropes for an explanation:

On Sunday, [John McCain] said on national television that to solve Social Security “everything’s on the table,” which of course means raising payroll taxes. On July 7 in Denver he said: “Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won’t.”

This isn't a flip-flop. It's a sex-change operation...

The one thing -- arguably the only thing -- the McCain candidacy has going for it is a sense among voters that they don't know what Barack Obama stands for or believes. Why then would Mr. McCain give voters reason to wonder the same thing about himself?
Henninger is amazed that McCain called Nancy Pelosi (who “heads a House with a 9% approval”) an “inspiration to millions of Americans.” And, says Henninger, “Sen. McCain saying off-handedly that it [Al Gore’s “preposterous free-of-oil-in-10-years whopper”] is ‘doable’ is, in a word, thoughtless.”[1]

How could anyone with the least amount of political sense allow himself to make such “loopy” unforced errors?  Henninger says it’s because of McCain’s “famously undisciplined” political style, and the Senatorial culture of “compulsive compromise.”  Maybe so, but I believe it goes deeper.

Put someone in an unstructured situation, and the real person is revealed. Anyone who has interviewed job candidates knows that it’s the off-the-wall, out-of-nowhere question that drags the candidate out from behind his resumé.  And trial lawyers know that the truth comes out once you get the witness off balance.  What of McCain?  Are his gaffes just gaffes, or do they reveal something more?

Get Obama off his talking points, and he’s an empty suit who says things that would have embarrassed Dan Quayle.[2]  There’s no “there” there.

But when McCain gets away from his prepared script, he reveals a man who I really don’t like very much.  He exhibits all the faults of our entrenched political class: He doesn’t respect average citizens, having no problem stealing their money in the name of the greater good, or their liberties in the name of political expediency.  He doesn’t trust their judgment: He says he “learned a lesson” from citizen opposion to immigration amnesty, while repeatedly signalling that he hasn’t really changed his mind.[3]

The people he does trust are– other politicians!  Could anyone outside of the beltway call Nancy Pelosi as an “inspiration” while keeping a straight face?  Would anyone (except an entrenched U.S. Senator) want to share billing with the odious Ted Kennedy?

And McCain sees his role as ruler, not as representative. Which explains a lot of his record: Everything from McCain-Feingold to the Gang of 14 is informed by an underlying “John McCain knows better than you.”

Henninger says that if McCain wants to win he must get serious about monitoring himself and run a more disciplined (more Machiavellian, if you will) campaign:  Specifically, he must weigh his words, concentrate on consistency, and, most of all, stop creating obvious openings for the Democrats to beat him over the head.

But suppose McCain is already doing this?  Suppose that his whole campaign so far has been a tight-lipped effort to stop the real McCain from getting out?  Then what?

In any election we can expect a certain amount of pandering and evasiveness.  But “tailoring your message to suit your audience” is still different from “saying whatever it takes to get elected.”  The difference comes when the candidate has principles (beyond “I should be in charge because I’m better than everyone else”) and is not trying to fool the public about what they are.

We should have taken warning back a year ago, when a large part of the debate on the Republican side was over whether we could actually believe what the candidates were saying.  Quoting Henninger: “...the American people... believe most senators, adept at compulsive compromise, have no political compass and will sell them out.”  In McCain’s case, the “American people” are right.

o-o-0-o-o

This morning Glenn Reynolds linked a Roger Kimball essay “Can Britain Survive multiculturalism?” with the comment
British multiculturalism is symptomatic of a governing class that doesn't really believe in the nation it governs.
Seems to me we’re seeing the same thing here, with a  political class that views the process as corrupt, the government as semi-legitimate, and the electorate as a body to be bullied, bribed, or bamboozled into giving them power.

Related:
Daily Pundit:  John McCain: The list of infamy
Matthew Yglesias:  McCain the sellout
Real Clear Politics:  McCain Talks Energy

-------
[1] Fair’s fair: McCain did backpedal, when asked about specifics.  From the Chronicle article:
John McCain in his own words

On former Vice President Al Gore's contention that America can be energy independent in 10 years: “I don’t think it’s doable without nuclear power.  I do believe we can become energy independent, but I think it will (involve) nuclear power, wind, solar. ... It requires all those things, including offshore drilling.”

[2] Which are, of course, ignored by our in-the-tank press corps.

[3] Dave Kopel, in the Rocky Mountain News:
The shot [in a McCain campaign commercial] is what's known as a “dog whistle” - a political term of art first used in the 1990s in Australia. It means using a phrase (or a picture) that may have little significance to the general audience, but which appeals to a select group which knows the special meaning...

...McCain is dog- whistling pro-illegal alien supporters, who believe [former candidate Tom] Tancredo is the devil incarnate.  McCain does not use words to tell the broader audience about his long record of opposition to cracking down on illegal immigration; rather he quietly conveys that position via the Tancredo dog whistle.

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