The Problems with John McCain
One of the most striking observations in reading comments by Obama partisans here on Anchor Rising is their utter unwillingness to engage in any debate about the substantive policy issues with people who oppose their viewpoints. Just like their candidate has raised the “racist” label when pushed to explain himself. Charles Krauthammer, who has previously praised Obama, offers an updated perspective.
But this is not new behavior by the Left; more on all that later. The point is that some of the rest of us have always been perfectly willing to criticize anybody in politics when we think they made bad decisions or said improper things – whether we generally support them or not.
At the macro level, I believe the national Republican Party is in a state of near-total disarray thanks to George W. Bush, with lots of support from Congressional Republicans. They have deserved to spend some time roaming the wilderness to rediscover its philosophical and policy bearings. To rediscover bearings, though, requires acknowledging being lost and it is far from clear they have had the courage to look in the mirror. It is not like they haven’t had opportunities as the Democratic Party in Washington, DC has looked like a bunch of buffoons since they regained the Congressional majorities in 2006.
Some personal history: I voted Libertarian in 1992. Why? Because George H. W. Bush broke his no-new-taxes pledge from 1988 and there was no way I was going to vote for either Bill Clinton or Ross Perot.
Fast forward to 2008: None of the Republican candidates in this election cycle excited me. I wanted to get enthused about Fred Thompson but was never convinced he had the requisite fire-in-the-belly. So I began the 2008 election deeply dissatisfied by all candidates in both parties. Like for many people, Obama was a blank slate with a troubling set of beliefs and associations. McCain was not a blank slate and that was the problem.
Until recent weeks, I fully expected either to vote Libertarian as I did in 1992 – although I don’t care for Bob Barr – or sit out the November election in protest like I did the 2006 RI Senate race. Rather unexpectedly for me along the way, though – as some of my rather humorless philosophical opponents have noted in the Comments sections to past posts – my concerns about Barack Obama’s beliefs have grown tremendously as more information about them has seeped into the public domain. Obama and his supporters have shown audacity along the way but it has no connection to hope.
But that doesn’t mean John McCain gets off easy and here is why:
I have written about how McCain’s campaign finance reform beliefs reflect a lack of commitment to free speech, a flawed approach when a more realistic view of incentives and human nature would lead to better public policies. George Will discusses the broader issues at stake in the never-ending debate about liberty.
I abhor McCain’s preferences for amnesty for illegal immigrants, which differs from my broader view of the strategic issues.
I thought McCain’s Gang of 14 approach to Senate ratification of judges reflected an unwillingness to address the deeper philosophical issues underlying the polarized public debate about our judiciary. That polarization will continue until some people show the courage necessary engage in a genuine public debate which tackles some of the hard issues. Sometimes more political and moral strength is gained by losing a political battle for strategic reasons and the judiciary issue was one of those issues.
I disagreed with his prior opposition to the Bush tax cuts, an opposition which is consistent with his self-professed ignorance about economic issues. His lack of fluidity in discussing economic issues is an ongoing concern.
McCain does deserve great respect for his support of the surge in Iraq. And I appreciate his ability to discuss foreign affairs with knowledge and the underlying recognition that there are evil people in the world who seek to destroy our country.
I also think his speech at the Al Smith dinner, noted in Marc’s earlier post, showed a commendable humor that Obama’s speech did not come close to matching. That matters.
All in all, though, I consider McCain to be effectively a Democrat except for some foreign policy differences, a man who has no strategic vision which integrates his various beliefs into a narrative to share with the American people. Peter Wehner describes it this way:
…It’s true that John McCain has never provided the country with a compelling economic vision and an overarching, easily accessible governing philosophy. That may be because McCain himself is a man animated not so much by ideas as a sense of “honor politics” and causes that catch his attention. Senator McCain is a man of unquestionable bravery and considerable talents, and the fact that as recently as mid-September he was tied with Senator Obama in the polls is remarkable, given the tremendous headwinds he has faced this year.
Unfortunately for Senator McCain, his limitations are being exposed at precisely the moment when they are costing him the most.
More thoughts here.
On a related note, I don’t understand why McCain lets Obama and Congressional Democrats off the hook so easily. Frank Warner writes about Why does John McCain avoid attacking Democrats’ abuses?
…McCain has made it clear he’s willing to take on the Republican Party when it’s wrong. Why McCain avoids attacking the disastrous Democratic Congress is beyond understanding.
Why McCain is so accommodating when there are such deep philosophical and political divides is simply beyond me and speaks to a weakness in both his vision and leadership skills.
So the choice this November 4 is a poor one where there is no compelling choice. But the fact pattern now does not justify sitting out the election. More thoughts on the latter in the coming days.