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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The McCain Mutiny

In case not enough bloggers have piled on Senator McCain in the past month or so, let me join the crowd.

This editorial nails it perfectly.

His arrogance may be wrapped in a congenial and patriotic package, but don't be fooled. Once you remove that wrapper, he's just another example of how the Republican party has gone from "In his heart you know he's right," to "In his heart he knows what's right for you," from "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," to "I would rather have a clean government than one where, quote, First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt."

McCain has always been the most dangerous kind of demagogue. Some politicians with delusions of grandeur can't hide their lust for power and control over your life, but McCain has for the most part managed to outwardly contain his. Because of this, he's been able to pull the wool over the eyes of an adoring media so blinded by his background and - more importantly - his flattery that they swallow his shtick without pausing to chew it over.

Luckily, McCain's recent lurch to the right - whether real or perceived - seems to have woken up at least some members of the fourth estate. (Nothing displeases a journalist more than a social conservative.) And when that free ride comes to an end you often find you've run up quite a tab.

Virginia Postrel, as she is with so many things, was among the first to put the emperor's new clothes on McCain, in an April, 2000 article in Reason magazine:
McCain draws support from a bizarre cross-section of the ideological spectrum because he has a winning personality. Policy has nothing to do with his success. He barely understands his own tax plan.

The appeal of voting on personality is that character doesn't change much after middle age, and it's harder to fake than policy positions. What you see on the campaign trail is probably what you'll get in office, which is more than we can say for most platforms. The danger is that merely promising to do the right thing or, as McCain likes to say, "to lead," can mean just about anything.

And:
<
Relying on instincts is dangerous, however, especially when something new appears. Teddy Roosevelt's civilization-planning model encourages presidents and legislators to regulate first and ask questions later. It encourages "bold action" that can stifle the decentralized ideas and individual choices from which true "national greatness" springs. McCain's litanies about an "iron triangle" of "big money and lobbyists and legislation" are not reassuring, since he always omits the actual third side of the proverbial triangle: the regulators. ("Big money and lobbyists" are the same team.) And regulators are the ones, some of them anyway, under the president's control.
There have always been two competing strains of populism coursing through America's veins. One is the "live free or die," "don't tread on me" virus, which seeks to keep government small, manageable, and off the backs of the American people. The other is the "father knows best," "this is for your own good" bug, which attempts to put limits on Americans' often unwieldy and potentially chaotic personal freedoms, all in the service of a benevolent government that will fix all our problems if we'll just let it. It's no accident that McCain and Barry Goldwater both hail from the populist western state of Arizona: each of them is an exemplar of one of these strains.

McCain's claims of small-government conservatism notwithstanding, he is in his soul an instinctive regulator, confident that if only the right laws were passed and the right person were in charge, all America's problems would melt away. And if you don't agree with him, you're corrupt. Which, as we know, is just further evidence we should throw out the First Amendment.

Update: Commenter Anonymous (if that is his real name) thinks McCain's statemtent about the First Amendment is being taken out of context:

My take is that McCain was talking about the "First Amendment right" that somehow equates unrestricted campaign contributions with free speech. That's why he put the "quote" in front of it, because he's not convinced that limits on campaign money actually violate the First Amendment.

Let's have a good old fashioned Emily Latella "nevermind" here...

How 'bout this? I don't think I'm taking McCain out of context, and I agree that McCain was talking about disagreeing with unrestricted campaign contributions being free speech. I think what you do with your own money is your choice, even when you're using it for the un-American purpose of expressing your political views by supporting a candidate for public office. Further, I think that campaign finance "reform" has had the effect of making it more difficult to run a campaign against an incumbent. In my more cynical moments, I wonder whether this consequence was unintended.

Anyone else want a piece of me?!?

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah...

Is it possible that his quote has been totally misinterpreted?

My take is that McCain was talking about the "First Amendment right" that somehow equates unrestricted campaign contributions with free speech. That's why he put the "quote" in front of it, because he's not convinced that limits on campaign money actually violate the First Amendment.

Let's have a good old fashioned Emily Latella "nevermind" here...

13:58  
Blogger The Cranky Insomniac said...

Addressed in an update to the original post.

-Cranky

14:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanna a piece of that!

20:32  

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