"McCain talking points"

I'm sick of hearing the phrase, but I have a feeling it's only going to get louder and shriller in the next few weeks.

No I don't mean the talking points themselves (whatever they are). I'm not a McCain supporter, although I would certainly vote for him over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Rather, I am hearing the "McCain Talking Points" charge (and other similar charges) being used as a cudgel to impugn the motivations people who are not all that enthusiastic about McCain, but are realists who've seen the various polls and have concluded that he's the best chance the GOP has to defeat the Democrats.

I'm seeing this ugliness emerging in the blogosphere, and I hear it on talk radio. Earlier I heard Bill Bennett (and if he's not a conservative who is?) being lambasted by an irate listener who considers his preference of McCain to Romney some form of treason, and who accused him of being a McCain shill, whose views are not his, but are instead "McCain Talking Points."

There's a lot of screaming going on, and this election is causing turmoil on talk radio:

conservative talk radio and blogger colleagues are beside themselves at the prospect that one of the Republican contenders they deemed to be "not conservative" might be nominated. As Mike Huckabee won Iowa, John McCain took South Carolina and Fred Thompson bestirred himself to draft a note withdrawing from the race, the fretting has intensified. How could the voters reject their advice?
I don't agree with all of the analysis, as I think a growing number of Republicans are realizing that if it is possible for McCain to actually beat Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama), then the Republican Party will have won in spite of itself, because the consensus for months has been that the party was in hopeless disarray and incapable of victory. If the GOP can pull off a victory after a two-term, unpopular president, an unpopular war, and scandal after scandal, it will seem a little bit like winning the lottery. So my theory is that a number of GOP voters are a bit more cynical than they're commonly given credit for being, and they're fully capable of thinking along the lines of, "Hell, even if I can't stand McCain, if he can win this one for the dysfunctional GOP, let him try!"

That comes pretty close to my thinking, and I hardly think it's fair to call it "McCain Talking Points."

I will say a few kind words about McCain though. He's not Satan. He's not Hitler. And while numerous netizens disagree, he's also not a "traitor."

I am still extremely sore over McCain-Feingold. I don't like his obvious sympathy for illegal alien amnesty, and I don't care what he calls it. But I do think that overall he's been more honest than Romney, and as I said before, I prefer McCain slightly. The main reason is that I am vehemently anti-Clinton, and I think the Clintons would clearly prefer to run against Romney.

It's not an endorsement, and these observations are hardly "McCain talking points." I can hold my nose in the same Machiavellian manner I've been holding it all these years, and vote for him.

I'm also a bit of a contrarian with a long memory, and the more McCain is subjected to paranoid attacks, the more I'm reminded of what was done to him in the 2000 campaign.

Here's what arch liberal Jonah Goldberg said at the time:

I have not been terribly supportive of the McCain campaign. National Review magazine has been positively brutal. But the sort of moronic, venal, cowardly, and immoral stuff being thrown at McCain from certain segments of the loony Right is sending me his way. At the risk of e-mail-box overflow, I think these people are revealing themselves as fools and they are hurting the conservative movement.
I remember it well -- the Manchurian candidate smear, the "Vietnamese agent" charge, cries of "traitor" and (my personal favorite) the "fag candidate." I didn't like it, and it was one of the reasons I had to hold my nose to vote for Bush -- the man who has done so much for the "conservative movement" that it's almost impossible to define what it is anymore. For now at least, McCain's opponents are more civil than they were in 2000, and of course there are many things wrong with McCain, so I can't fault them for speaking up.

I just wish they'd be more polite. Not everyone who thinks McCain might be able to beat the Clintons is a sellout or a shill.

EDITORIAL NOTICE: This post (and many like it) was edited in my typical "20 minute" manner. As I don't have WYSIWYG capacity, I really can't see what my posts look like until they're published and I can view them in the blog. It is at that point that I proofread and edit them. So, please bear in mind that I typically change and rearrange words any way I see fit -- and I try to adhere to a twenty minute rule. What that means that for the first twenty minutes after a post is up, my spelling, grammar, word choice, and ways of phrasing things are all fair game and subject to my revision without any notice. This can even extend to factual data I get wrong; for example if I say "Iraq" and I meant "Iran," if I say "Bush" reflexively when I meant to type "Bubba," if I omit words that should have been there (such as "not" which can convey the complete opposite meaning), I'll change them to conform to what I meant to say.

What I do not revise -- even in the first twenty minutes -- are my opinions. If I change my mind, or if it turns out that I was factually wrong about a topic of importance, I'll admit my mistake in an update. But once the dust has settled and post has been up there, the only errors I correct are obvious spelling errors. With maybe two exceptions in four years, I almost never delete posts, and I only very, very rarely delete comments, or names of people. (Although I have on a couple of occasions deleted things which were specifically requested by people who wanted to preserve their privacy.) On such rare occasions, there will be an explanation in an update or a new post.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Roger L. Simon has a great post about "McCain Derangement Syndrome."

....Welcome to McCain Derangement Syndrome - it's happening before he's even elected!

I heard two examples of it this evening - one from my friend Hugh Hewitt, whose rage against McCain today on Wolf Blitzer's CNN show made the hair curl on my bald head and later, on the Larry Elder Show, I listened in as a woman caller excoriated McCain as no war hero even though she knew the Senator had spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, was tortured, had his bones broken yet stayed with the other troops when offered a chance to leave, etc. Even Elder was appalled at the woman, though Larry is no McCain supporter.

Noting that Romney's years of being to McCain's left while McCain was a centrist, Roger finds himself unable to explain MDS:
I am amazed by all these conservatives who totally and almost slavishly believe this is the real Romney yet equally assuredly distrust McCain when he repeatedly says he would build a security fence. It reminds me of that old shrink's thing about the "need to be right," how it always trips us up. I have seen it happen to me a lot. Anyway, I'm not sure McCain Derangement Syndrome has a cure. People love their anger. It's a security blanket.
A pity, really. Especially for those in love with their anger.

And, yes, even their hatred.

Aren't they're forgetting that they have a traditional outlet?

(This really should have been an update to my previous post on McCain Derangement Syndrome, but few people read updates to old posts, so it goes here.)

posted by Eric on 01.30.08 at 09:12 AM


Eric, Eric, Eric,
As a Conservative, I haven't felt so condescended to since John McCain called be a racist and a bigot because I wouldn't support his AMNESTY plan. You'll forgive me if I tune you out for the duration of the election cycle - I can't bear to watch Republicans go weak in the knees ( don't worry , you can just go on telling yourself that we Conservatives are irrational , instead of the truth , which is that we are principled ).

William and Meleva   ·  January 30, 2008 1:53 PM

Condescended to? Huh?

I said I wished people could be more polite, and that "not everyone who thinks McCain might be able to beat the Clintons is a sellout or a shill." How is that condescending?

I didn't support the amnesty plan either, so am I a bigot too?

I don't understand your meaning.

Eric Scheie   ·  January 30, 2008 2:30 PM

Don't forget, I'm a libertarian, and I've been holding my nose and voting for whoever the GOP dishes out for years.

As I see it, I have a choice between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, and I feel that the former is generally closer to my way of thinking than the latter.

So, if I won't put my definition of libertarianism ahead of winning, why would I put others' definitions of conservatism ahead of winning?

Eric Scheie   ·  January 30, 2008 2:55 PM


Any one who believes for a second that any politician is principled is de facto delusional. Some are more principled than others. Which is a damning by faint praise.

It happens every election season. As soon as the nominee is chosen it will pass (on the R side at least). I'd prefer McCain over Romney (what do I know - so far, like you I'm batting 1.000). But either one would be OK. McCain is stronger on the war. Romney might do better on the economy.

I did ask the Maker to eliminate the Huckster because I would have had to held more than my nose to vote for him. So who ever remains will have to do.

Who knows what either stands for? I hope we find out. Because if H or O get in we are well and truly ......

M. Simon   ·  January 30, 2008 5:16 PM

MDS does look strange from the other side, where McCain looks like a pro-life, pro-big-business, pro-war conservative. The idea that being realistic about the prospect of deporting 12 million immigrants, caring about deficits, and opposing torture makes someone a liberal is a nice compliment to liberals, but it makes conservatives look deranged.

Mike   ·  January 30, 2008 8:08 PM

I had listed my preferences about 6 weeks ago, of the top eight candidates of either party and it was Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, Hillary, McCain, Edwards, and bringing up the rear Huckabee. I'm a small government, small 'l' libertarian who is uncomfortable with a lot of the social conservative movement.

It was McCain's record in the Senate, and his support of amnesty that had me ranking him behind Hillary. Plus Hillary seemed like she might not turn out to go too lefty, and she might keep her husband out of the way.

My new ranking of the four candidates standing (Huckabee is no longer a credible threat, thankfully) I now have McCain, Romney, Obama and trailing badly Billary.

Over the past few weeks, Hillary has transformed into Billary, and the very concept of him (and his cronies) being active in another administration is enough to reject Hillary. On top of that, she has veered pretty far left over these past few weeks. If we must suffer a Democratic president, Obama would be better, he may end up being a disaster, but Hillary would be a disaster, and she would tear apart the country. Romney has slid a bit behind McCain, only because his record is iffy, it is hard to know who he will be in the White House, but he'd make a fine president. That leaves McCain as my top choice, or least bad choice, anyway. Shamnesty is still a sham, but it seems that if McCain-Kennedy is ever reintroduced, it will be much more enforcement heavy. He will appoint solid justices, and he'd probably put together a very solid cabinet. As a legislator he's a "Maverick", but I think as an executive, those tendencies would work better, and as the person who sets the agenda for the rest of the GOP, he'll be more conservative, and the party will be more moderate, and that will help both.

In other words, tell Rush Limbaugh, and those other whiners to shut up, you didn't get the candidate you want, but McCain has earned the support of the entire GOP, of conservatives in general, and even independent voters who know that The Obama (Vote for The Obama and he will wash away your sins) is pure vaporware and another 4-8 years of Billary would be disastrous.

I still wish Fred Thompson had a campaign to match his ideas, though. I would have voted enthusiastically for Fred, now I'll vote enthusiastically against Obama or Clinton, but I'll definitely vote.

xwl   ·  January 30, 2008 8:13 PM

Tag me as someone with McCain Derangement Syndrome if you will, but as someone who traces my conservative pedigree back to Barry Goldwater, I'd rather have Hillary Clinton as president than John McCain. McCain is not a conservative in any reliable sense. He would betray conservatives on a regular basis, doing so with glee, and the Republicans in Congress would be hard-pressed to oppose him because of misguided notions of party loyalty.

If we are to have a president who promotes open borders, restrictions on political speech, and the like, let it be a Democrat. Under the scenario of a Hillary presidency, at least the GOP could present a unified opposition. Furthermore, a 52% to 48% Hillary victory would allow Republicans to scoff at the idea of a mandate for her proposals, in all likelihood resulting in gridlock. That may be the best that conservatives can hope for until we can fight another day.

Edmund Burke   ·  January 30, 2008 10:05 PM

M. Simon -
It's safe to say that you are as condescending as Eric ; if you're referring to me, I never said that I was looking for a principled candidate but that I believe it imperative to vote , or not vote, based on principles. Your smug assertion that the grumblings over McCain will pass as they do every election proves to me that you are as out of touch with the conservative base of the Party as Eric.
If you're a Libertarian, Eric, why not vote like one, just once, just to shake things up - it's better than holding your nose.

William and Meleva   ·  January 30, 2008 10:06 PM

WM --

Shake things up by voting for the anti-war Libertarian Party? The only thing I'd shake up is myself, I'm afraid.

I wish you'd explain what I said that you think is condescending. Is it expressing my preference for McCain over Hillary? I don't think I told anyone how to vote. If you can't stand McCain, then don't vote for him.

If McCain wins, and this means the Republican Party has ceased to be conservative, then welcome to the club. (For years I have thought it had ceased to be libertarian, and I don't like it -- as if anyone gives a shit what I like.) I guess disgruntled conservatives could start a new party, and I say this as someone who supported Fred Thompson with blog posts and money -- right up until he quit the race. But if conservatives can't win in their own party, how are they going to win a national election?

I've often felt condescended to by the conservative base, but right now I'm having trouble understanding just what they think and what they want. Or am I missing something? Is immigration now the defining issue of conservatism, and the "base"?

(FWIW, I've opposed the open border, and written posts in support of the fence, etc. But the immigration debate didn't really get going the way it is now until 2004. If it is so central that it should define the GOP, then what about Bush? Has he "betrayed the base" for having the same position since 2000?)

Eric Scheie   ·  January 31, 2008 7:53 AM

I'm only an amateur classicist, but here's my two cents': Anyone calling, or even quoting someone calling, John McCain a traitor needs to be tied to a rock on a crag above Sparta and left to die of exposure while vultures peck your eyes out. You are sick, broken people. Not even epigones. Barbarians in togas. Pthoooey!

elle loco   ·  January 31, 2008 9:50 AM

Eric -
I really do appreciate your response and patience with my attacks - I'm clearly not making my point clearly enough. What I find condescending is your discusion of the "McCain Derangement Syndrome" because I believe that it implies a lack of thoughtfulness and consideration on the part of Conservatives who oppose the senator. what I find sad and disappointing is your willingness to "support" ( for lack of a better term ) someone so far left that he really should be running as a Democrat. AMNESTY is not the lytmus test, it is just another plank in the liberal platform of Mr. McCain;
close Guantanimo but keep the borders open
don't drill in Anwar
don't cut taxes
promote global warming hysteria
don't reconsider CAFE standards
undermine conservative judges
undermine freedom of speech
etc. , etc.
I simply don't see a great deal of difference between McCain and Hillary. Even Hillary, on every odd wednesday, says she won't pull out of Iraq but will have to assess the situation on the ground.
Is it really worth establishing the precedent that Republicans and Conservatives will take whatever they're given, even a liberal who undermines thier values at every turn, just to avoid another liberal who happens to label themselves a Democrat?
As for Bush, I believe that he has betrayed the base on many issues, not just the border. Does it help the situation to get behind someone far more liberal than Bush? Or could we use this opportunity to send a message to the GOP that Bush was a disappointment and that we expect better.
( I'm very sorry that more of us couldn't get behind Thompson in time - then we could have avoided this whole conversation...)
Thanks for listening.

William and Meleva   ·  January 31, 2008 3:32 PM

Post a comment

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits