Saturday, September 13, 2008


Of course I'm voting for Obama, and I hope he wins, but to be honest I don't think the country will be too terribly off if he loses. There are things about John McCain that I like, and even as a liberal, I'm not ashamed to admit it. (But note how I don't go so far as to say I'm proud to admit it.)

Many claim that McCain, at age 72, is too old to be President. That may be true. On the other hand, nobody is claiming that John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg (all of whom are at least McCain's age if not older) are too old to continue serving on the Supreme Court. If the founding fathers had concerns about the influence of age on public service, they wouldn't have allowed those to be lifetime appointments.

A decade ago, liberals loved McCain. We're the ones responsible for creating his much-ballyhooed "maverick" image, not him, and certainly not the Republican Party (who probably spent his entire Senate career prefacing any mention of his name with the honorific "that cocksucker"). He earned that reputation through real bipartisan efforts -- McCain-Feingold, siding with the Clinton Administration in taking on Big Tobacco (to Republican chagrin), voting against the Bush tax cuts in May 2001, being the first high-profile Republican to check himself into rehab for his addiction to global warming denial. He's not perfect, but he's done good things, and he's exhibited willingness to break from his party to do what he thinks is right.

Now that he's earned the nomination of his party, though, liberals are demonizing him full-force. I find this unfortunate, but understandable. It is true that he has changed his position on a number of issues with apparently purely political motives. He suddenly claims to care strongly about things that there was little evidence he gave a shit about before, like abortion, nuclear energy, continuation of the Bush tax cuts, etc.

This could indicate one of two things:
(1) He fought the machine and lost. The Republican establishment crushed his mavericky spirit and transformed him into just another Bible-thumping, bombing-brown-people-is-fun, free-market-uber-alles fuckwit.
(2) He's swindling the machine. He has his own ideas about how to govern, a portfolio of positions that lines up 100% with neither party, and he's recognized the need to pander to certain voting blocs just to get himself elected. Once he's in office, he'll tell those blocs to go fuck themselves (postmaritally, of course) and set about governing his own way.

Many on the left have dubbed a McCain presidency "Bush's third term," and if option (1) above turns out to be true, then they'll be right. That would suck. The fact that I'm not willing to risk that outcome is why, despite my overall positive impression of the man, I just can't bring myself to vote for him.

However, there is one good indication that option (2) could occur -- one critical factor separating McCain from Bush. It has nothing to do with policy positions or even temperament. It has to do with the fact that Bush, from birth, has allowed others to manage his career. His abortive foray into the oil business, his stint as Texas governor, his bumbling, monosyllabic presidency -- all of it was coordinated, shepherded, guided, orchestrated by others. If there's one thing that even the fiercest McCain detractor has to give the man, it's that he's always been at the helm of his own career. He may make mistakes, or hold foolish positions, but it's always him at the wheel.

Any Republican willing to give Karl Rove the finger can't be all bad.

P.S. Prediction: if option (2) does in fact take place, that will seal McCain's fate as a one-term president. That would create a fascinating race in 2012: Clinton vs. Palin!


Right'sRight said...

McCain was nicknamed the Marverick in the 80's. He has always been a maverick and hasn't really changed even to get the Republican nomination. He's always been pro-life. He is a strict constitutionalist and thinks Roe Vs Wade was legislation from the bench. If Roe Vs Wade is overturned, all that means is that the states would decide. He would never nominate a judge who wants to overturn it nor would he succeed in getting him through the hearings. Of course there could be a constitutional amendment to put this baby to bed! He changed on off-shore drilling but not until we hit $4/gallon. Nothing wrong with making decisions that are right for the time. He never backed down on McCain/Feingold. He never changed his stance on global warming even though Republicans disagree with him. His main concern about Bush tax cuts was that they didn't help enough people at lower income levels and there were no spending cuts. Now, he said to over-turn them would essencially be a tax increase which would not be good. That's very consistent with his long record. He has proven experience of successful bi-partisanship. He even tried to work with Obama, but Obama backed out after a day and had the nerve to use this experience as evidence of his reaching across the aisle during the Saddleback Forum. Here's a great article about McCain's bipartisanship routes
Even Joe Biden said he'd be proud to be on the ticket with McCain. What a fool. He can't put his foot in his mouth often enough. Your candidate was also a fool to pick him. While Governor Palin got 60K at her event this weekend, Biden couldn't get 16 people. He understands war. He will not recklessly commit us to a war. If he does decide it's necessary, we'll do it right and get out fast. Don't forget he has two kids over there also. We need a leader. I think the American voters will vote for the safe choice. He will be a one-term president by his choice. He will not have to think about the next step in his career so he and the governor will kick butt! We will all be happy. Except for Obama's bitter half! Imagine his Presidential library!

Owen T. Cunningham said...


I don't dispute any of what you've said about McCain. In some cases (i.e. McCain-Feingold) you've actually restated points that I made in the original post. I agree that John McCain is a good man and a qualified candidate for President. If he is elected, I will be cautiously optimistic.

I would be curious to know your feelings with respect to George W. Bush. I know that his popularity has fallen even within his own party; are you one of those conservatives who looks back on his presidency with regret, saying "he wasn't conservative enough," or do you still support him fully?

I ask about Bush because I believe there is a chance that John McCain will do little to differentiate his policies from those of Bush, and that chance scares me. The fact that that chance is nonzero is the only reason I'm unwilling to consider voting for him.

It's interesting that you conclude your comment with "I think the American voters will vote for the safe choice." The word "safe" is the key. Safety is being protected from what you fear. There are a great number of voters who fear the things that John McCain is promising to protect them from, so they'll vote for him. But there are also a great number of voters who fear, even more, the prospect of another four years of Bush-like policies and behavior. I am one of those, so for me, Obama is "the safe choice," even if he does carry other risks, which I agree he does. Those are risks I'm willing to take.

Right'sRight said...

By "safe", I didn't have safety in mind. I actually meant the person Americans consider to have proven leadership and experience to make the best decisions. I didn't vote for George Bush in 2000. I wrote in McCain! I reluctantly voted for Bush in 2004 because I didn't think he would win. George Bush had a very weak first term because he didn't have the necessary experience and was faced with the biggest attack on American soil that also had a huge economic impact. I agree with his decision to go into Iraq. He didn't understand war and the military so he made a mess of it. By the second term, he was experienced and it showed. That's when he took control (fired Rumsfeld) and ordered the surge which is what McCain had been saying all along. He had the internal fortitude to do what was right even with so much opposition. He kept us safe with many of the tactics people have protested. Up until 9/11, our embassies and military were being attacked every few years. Going into the 2000 election, national security wasn't even an issue even though the USS Cole was attacked a few months before the election. He must have been hit with the worst 8 years of any president, especially considering he was taken by surprise. I truly think history will regard George Bush as a class with Truman. John McCain has a very differnet approach and will be a different president from George Bush.

Owen T. Cunningham said...

The fact that you wrote in McCain in 2000 says a lot. I respect that a great deal. It means that McCain is really your man; you aren't just doing what so many conservatives are doing, saying "I don't really like McCain, but I'd rather tear off my fingernails than vote for a Democrat." I thought McCain made some good points in last night's debate. I particularly liked it (both the sentiment and the phrasing) when he said (paraphrasing) "Eight years ago we Republicans took power with the intention of changing government, but instead, government changed us."