Tuesday, May 20, 2008

McCain Myth

The Greatest Threat to the Democrats Hope for the White House; OK, After Hillary

Much has been made about John McCain being some type of Republic Maverick. In a fantastic piece in the upcoming New York Review, Michael Tomasky writes about McCain and his myth:

Those few who bothered to try to lift the curtain noticed, especially as the Bush years progressed and he began to prepare for 2008, that there were aspects to McCain's personality and career that didn't quite fit the myth. There are three main ones...

First of all, we have the matter of his famous temper. This has received press attention from time to time. But it hasn't really hurt him, because it's so easy to spin "violent temper" into "passionate beliefs" and make it sound positive. In fact it's not too much to say that a trait that might have mortally wounded other politicians has been described as a strength: "The flip side of 'temper' is feistiness," The Economist explained in a typical assessment from 2007....

The second issue is more substantive and deals with McCain's policy record—both his votes as a senator and the positions he's taking as presidential candidate. In many matters, it is far from consistent. Schecter's The Real McCain chronicles, in fine-grain detail, McCain's votes and positions, showing that they often seem to reflect hypocrisy, flip-flopping, and pure expediency, rather than the political courage for which he is famous....

There is a final matter about McCain, the new and reinvented McCain, that the press hasn't quite taken in. The McCain of 1999 and 2000 was running a campaign that was also a movement. His most famous quote from those days, which he used repeatedly, invoked the idea of public service and usually went something like this, from a commencement speech at Boston College in 2006:

Those who claim their liberty but not their duty to the civilization that ensures it, live a half-life, having indulged their self-interest at the cost of their self-respect. But sacrifice for a cause greater than your self-interest, and you invest your lives with the eminence of that cause, your self-respect assured.

My view on McCain is that he would be a far better president for the U.S. than Bush has been. But that opinion is based on the old McCain, which if you read the criticism of today, is man who doesn't - or perhaps never did - exist.


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