Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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McCain on The Roots

From George Will:

Palin may be an inveterate simplifier; McCain has a history of reducing controversies to cartoons. A Republican financial expert recalls attending a dinner with McCain for the purpose of discussing with him domestic and international financial complexities that clearly did not fascinate the senator. As the dinner ended, McCain’s question for his briefer was: “So, who is the villain?”

McCain revived a familiar villain—“huge amounts” of political money—when Barack Obama announced that he had received contributions of $150 million in September. “The dam is broken,” said McCain, whose constitutional carelessness involves wanting to multiply impediments to people who want to participate in politics by contributing to candidates—people such as the 632,000 first-time givers to Obama in September.

Why is it virtuous to erect a dam of laws to impede the flow of contributions by which citizens exercise their First Amendment right to political expression? “We’re now going to see,” McCain warned, “huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal.” The supposedly inevitable scandal, which supposedly justifies preemptive government restrictions on Americans’ freedom to fund the dissemination of political ideas they favor, presumably is that Obama will be pressured to give favors to his September givers. The contributions by the new givers that month averaged $86.

Here’s the thing.  One of McCain’s signature accomplishments was the Incumbent Re-Election Act McCain–Feingold Act.  We were told that we had to give up our right to, for example, run issues ads within 60 days of an election in order to clean up the political process.

How’d that work out?  Politics is clean now, right?  No scandals or corruption?  Nothing like, say, the most senior Republican senator in history going to prison?  The special interests have been completely neutered, no?

Right?!

Well, in his defense, it did get a lot of media plaudits.  To the GOP these days, that’s about as successful as policy gets.

I was a big supporter of McCain earlier this year because I liked his judgement on foreign policy and saw him as a true fiscal conservative.  But it’s becoming clearer and clearer that McCain’s positions, while overlapping with many of my own, are not the product of careful thought.  They’re reactions, gut instincts.  Whatever you think of Barack Obama (or Ron Paul), it’s remarkable that he’s raising so much money from such a broad base of small contributors.  I don’t like it, per se.  I worry that this is going to simply lead to even more populist pandering.  But it’s certainly not something I believe in cracking down on.

But here is McCain’s thinking:  Money!  Scandal!  Off with their heads!  We saw the same thing with his VP pick: woman, social conservative, bulldog—how about that chick from Alaska I met once?  We saw it with his reaction to the financial crisis:  Ban short selling!  Fire Cox!  Throw money at it!  And before that in the Russia-Georgia situation.

Instinct is a dangerous way of governing, as we’ve discovered over the last eight years.  We have no idea what dangers are going to confront this country in the future.  We do know they will require someone who approaches them thoughtfully, not instinctively.  I’m not saying that Barack Obama is that person—his careful deliberate thought seems to always end up in the same far left place.  But I’m increasingly convinced that McCain is the wrong person for this, that his instinctive need to find a simple solution and identify easy villains is a poor way for country to proceed—and an even worse way for the GOP to build a future.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 10/30/08 at 09:57 AM (Discuss this in the forums)

Comments


Posted by Ed Kline on 10/30/08 at 12:48 PM from United States

Well written Hal. I have similar concerns about McCain even though I just voted for him this morning.

Posted by on 10/30/08 at 03:08 PM from United States

instinctive need to find a simple solution and identify easy villains

This has been my problem with politicians in general for a long time. I thought it went without saying for all politicians regardless of their leanings. You are what, mid-30’s, Hal? It is a surprise to me that you have only discovered this over the past eight years and you see this as a major problem with McCain (as opposed to ALL of the others).

If you watch closely, you will find that, for the most part, the only products of careful (or thoughtful even) thought that politicians produce are their campaign schemes, and even then, those are often half-assed.

The time that politicians spend in office between campaigns is more of the same...."The natives are restless! Let’s hurry up and give/say/do something so they will shut up! If that doesn’t work, let’s cook up a way to blame someone else! We have an election coming up in 2 or 4 years!”

Instinct is not the correct word. It should be “reaction.”

Politicians remind me of the people I encountered while working at the welfare office. My clients would work their asses off to scheme and cheat and lie so that they could continue to receive welfare. The way I looked at it, they could have had a decent income doing a job that took the same amount of work as not working did.

Politicians are the same. Given any situation, they spend small amounts of time on quick fixes over and over and over again, doing just enough to get those that scream the loudest to shut up. With the same amount of time and/or effort, they could have just taken care of the problem.

It’s not just McCain, it’s not just the GOP, and it’s been going on for a very long time. I would guess that you would run into the same problems with a government made up of a majority of libertarians. It’s just the nature of the game....affecting your life....using your money.

Posted by on 10/30/08 at 06:22 PM from Japan

Let’s hurry up and give/say/do something so they will shut up!

Right. Politicians don’t want democracy, just the illusion of democracy. Why promote democracy when you consensus is so much better? Genuine democracy is waaaaaaay too messy to actually dirty their hands with.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 10/30/08 at 07:34 PM from United States

The time that politicians spend in office between campaigns is more of the same...."The natives are restless! Let’s hurry up and give/say/do something so they will shut up! If that doesn’t work, let’s cook up a way to blame someone else! We have an election coming up in 2 or 4 years!”

Instinct is not the correct word. It should be “reaction.”

Or, as McArdle likes to say:

1. We must do something
2. THis is something
3. Lets do it.

Posted by on 10/30/08 at 07:50 PM from United States

Genuine democracy is waaaaaaay too messy to actually dirty their hands with.

I don’t disagree with that. The problems that existed with genuine democracy in the minds of our nation’s founding fathers still exist. That’s why they rigged our system the way they did. The only problem is that they cared so much for their country that they overlooked all of the people to come who wouldn’t.

I have a lot of trouble paying attention when McCain, Obama, or any other politicians speak, especially in times of crisis, such as our current economic one. That’s because, no matter what they are actually saying, all I hear is this: 

“We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”

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