Wednesday, September 24, 2008

George Will nails McCain's character...

...which is why there are only two reasons that I can stomach voting for McCain this election cycle, having, before stepping into the voting booth, quaffed a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in a forlorn attempt to preempt the inevitable nausea as I pull the lever:

1. Sarah Palin needs four years of Vice-Presidential experience before I can be truly happy voting for her for President.

2. Barack Obama...God help us all.

Here is Will on McCain. Money quotes:

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people.
I would argue that you can explain McCain's entire history in the Senate by postulating a single motive: the motive of assuring himself that he is morally superior to all his fellow Republicans, while always histrionically covering his eyes to the possibility that his disagreements with them arise not from his moral superiority, but from his intellectual inferiority. Being well aware of the fallacy of the affirmation of the consequent, I do not allege that his entire political career has in fact been driven by the desire to assure himself of moral superiority. I merely affirm that such a motive would explain pretty much everything the man has ever done since entering politics -- including (since this is the most Democratic of motivations) his flirtation with switching parties to the party whose entire raison d'ĂȘtre is assuring its members that by voting appropriately they prove their moral superiority to all Republicans. That's our boy John: the least repulsive Democrat running.

But here's my very favorite part, simply because Will has found the perfect wording, wording that absolutely captures what has always seemed to this cynic to be the essence of John McCain the politician (however much I admire and appreciate John McCain the military hero):
It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
How perfect is the bit about McCain's "bottomless reservoir of certitudes"? As Ambroce Bierce once said, "For every man, there is a tag that will stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to find it." "Boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes" probably isn't quite there. But it's getting close.

The only problem with Will's analysis in that last paragraph, is that the alternative before the American people is not one that pits a grotesquely inexperienced and ill-prepared but temperamentally sound candidate against a candidate who is crippled by boiling moralism, a bottomless reservoir of certitudes, and utter contempt for the morals and character of any person who presumes to disagree with him. No, alas, the American people must choose between two candidates whose wellsprings of repulsive self-righteousness are to all appearances bottomless, two candidates overflowing with boiling moralism, two candidates absolutely convinced that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who agree with them, and those who are evil (and furthermore that every public crisis is, of necessity, a result of evil people acting from malicious intentions, never the result of incompetent persons acting from disastrously ill-advised good intentions). The differences lie in the fact that one boilingly moralistic candidate does at least appear to attempt to live by the ethics he would propose for others, while the second preaches political moralism while practicing political prostitution; that one boilingly moralistic candidate has a sense of morality that is at least grounded in something resembling the natural moral law, while the other works from a sense of morality that resembles true morality about as much as Janet Reno resembles a supermodel; that one boiling moralist has been tested in the crucible of torture and proved to have a core of steel in times of crisis, while the other crumples into an incoherent "My Pet Goat"-style fetal ball of helplessness and confusion whenever he hits a rough spot in his Presidential campaign and it takes days for his teleprompter-armed advisors to prop him back up into a simulacrum of a leader...oh, and also, one boilingly moralistic candidate at least has a reasonable degree of preparation for the job, while the other is patently inexperienced and unprepared for the position's inherent burden of responsibility.

Other than that, there's nothing particularly invidious or irresponsible about Will's final compare-and-contrast paragraph.

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