Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The VP Pick

When I first started supporting Barack Obama on this blog (and say what you will, I really think that turned the tide for him), there was some talk in the comments about Obama being “just a politician,” as if I had been under the mistaken impression that he was an alchemist or a defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers. Well, John McCain the courageous, heroic prisoner of war, is also, in his civilian life, “just a politician,” so let’s treat him as one. Obama, at least, has backed up some of his high-road talk. During his speech last week at the DNC, he went out of his way to differentiate between McCain the patriot and McCain the opposing candidate. And when the news of Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter broke, Obama sounded to me very sincere when he said the story shouldn’t be “part of our politics.”

On the other side, McCain loves to claim his maverick status, and his very short list of possible vice presidents included Joe Lieberman, a Democrat who’s hawkish but still quite liberal on social issues, including abortion. Instead, McCain went with a staunchly pro-life candidate who’s on record as being fine with the teaching of creationism in schools. Where’s the coherency in choosing between people with such different baseline beliefs? Palin’s presence on the ticket is obviously meant to fire up the Christian base, when McCain scored so many of his maverick points in 2000 by confronting the Christian base. How do you get more cynical or more self-cancelling than this? How could you possibly get less maverick than this? (I guess once strongly identified as a maverick, then it becomes maverick to not be maverick? Maybe.)

I think there’s enough discontent in the country right now -- and enough centrist people who will decide this election -- that McCain hurts himself more than helps by choosing someone who only appeals to the Kool-Aid drinkers. But of course, this was always going to be his dilemma as a presidential nominee -- maintain his integrity, lose the Christian base, and become unelectable; or secure the Christian base, piss off the moderates who brought him to the dance, and become unelectable. It seems he’s choosing the latter path. That dilemma follows from the fact that McCain, on his best day, is so much more worthy than the current incarnation of the party he represents. It seems there are three types of Republicans at the moment: Party hacks who defend the GOP's every move; those who are willing to distance themselves from the worst trends in the party and admit that maybe a loss could do them good; and otherwise intelligent people who talk about George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as if they’re consciously carrying on the work of Friedrich Hayek. Needless to say, only the middle group is making much sense to me these days.

Aside from her general lack of experience, her clear lack of a first thought about foreign policy, and allegations of cronyism and worse in Alaska, Palin seems personable. I mean that. I think she’ll motivate many people to vote for McCain. I also think she’ll motivate many more to not vote for him. As Andrew Sullivan wrote:
To my mind, this pick is not about Palin's unreadiness to be president. It's about McCain's unreadiness to be president. This act of judgment - a blend of ignorance, gut, cynicism, and pure egotism - makes him seem like a worse potential president than even George W. Bush. This is McCain's first real executive decision. And it is unbelievably shallow, incompetent and reckless.
We all know how much Republicans love Jesus, so let’s go to a source who was born roughly 60 years before Him. The Roman historian Livy wrote, “Being a general calls for different talents from being a soldier.”


Blogger Unknown said...

I do like me some Kool-Aid!

11:14 AM  

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