Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Choice: Republicans

Continuing the cynical look at this election, here is the Republican ticket:

John McCain

What negative things can you say about John McCain that he hasn't said himself? By his own admission he was a poor student, (finishing 894 in a class of 899 at Annapolis), a sub-par flier that knocked out power lines over Spain and a lousy husband that cheated on and divorced his first wife. He also has a famous temper and a well-deserved reputation for being a media hound.

At age 72 and with over 25 years in Congress he bills himself as the breath of fresh air that is going to clean up Washington. McCain would know a thing or two about corruption, having become embroiled in the Keating Five scandal during the 1980s. He has spent much of his time in office since then trying to make amends, with his penance largely consisting of abridging free speech via the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, his signature accomplishment. In defense of the legislation he famously stated that:
“I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”
Confessing a lack of familiarity with economics (and thus perhaps committing the ultimate Washington gaffe by speaking the truth) McCain has alternately opposed and supported tax cuts. His response to the financial crisis has included much ranting and raving about greed and corruption, neither of which are new phenomena and the observation of which does not readily lend itself to a solution.

Playing the role of national father figure, McCain also excoriated tobacco companies -- a legitimate business -- forcing them to fund anti-smoking campaigns. Perhaps a perception by McCain of himself as someone who has to look after the voters like children is unsurprising given his stated admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. As George Will notes:
TR invested the materialist doctrine of evolutionary struggle with moral significance for the most manly "races." He wanted the state to rescue America from the danger, as he saw it, that a commercial republic breeds effeminacy. Government as moral tutor would pull chaotic individualists up from private preoccupations and put them in harness for redemptive collective action.

Such as war. TR's response to William James's idea of a "moral equivalent of war" could have been: Accept no substitutes. TR wanted the body politic to be one body, whose head was the president. He disregarded civil society -- the institutions that mediate between individuals and the state, insulating them from dependence and coercion. He had a Rousseauan notion that the individual could become free only through immersion in the collective.
Yikes. Libertarian this is not.

Sarah Palin

Been there, done that.

And that's the choice that faces us this November.

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