On Monday, Michael Moynihan blogged about an interview with John McCain that the New York Times published over the weekend. I thought there were a couple of exchanges* worth further note in these worrying times of Freddie/Fannie bailouts, loose talk about re-regulation, seemingly limitless imperial responsibilities, and libertarians tiring of being kicked to the curb by the Republican Party:
Q: How do you think of yourself as a conservative? Do you think of yourself more as a Goldwater conservative or Reagan conservative or George W. Bush conservative?
Senator John McCain: A Teddy Roosevelt conservative, I think. He's probably my major role model; we could go back to Lincoln, of course. In the 20th century Teddy Roosevelt. I think Teddy Roosevelt, he had a great vision of America's role in the 20th Century. He was a great environmentalist. He loved the country. He is the person who brought the government into a more modern − into the 20th century as well. He was probably engaged more in national security slash international affairs that any president ever been. [...]
Q: Roosevelt wasn't really a small government person. He saw an active role for government. What thing in your record would you say are in a similar vein of using government to do things that....
Mr. McCain: Campaign Finance reform − obviously he was a great reformer − is one of them. Climate change is another. He was a great environmentalist [...]
Q: Was it a good idea for the federal government to intervene in Bear Stearns?
Mr. McCain: I think we had to. American is in extremely difficult economic times. I agree with literally every expert on the economy: If Bear Stearns had collapsed it would have had a ripple effect in the market. And that's why this latest mortgage crisis with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, are − excuse me, with the home loan mortgage people − is that we worry of the ripple effect of their collapse. [...]
Q: Do you think the government is ultimately on the hook for Fannie and Freddie, if the worst-case scenario materializes?
Mr. McCain: I don't think the question is so much, is it on the hook, as much as it is, could we afford to have a collapse? And I keep being asked about a quote, government bailout. I don't know if a government, quote, bailout is necessary now. Because there are other courses of action that are being explored in order to ensure their survival. But I don't believe we can afford to have them fail − because of their impact on the overall economy, and the housing situation which we already know is in dire straits − and I've head that there is various options. I also note with sorrow that their stock continues to go down, and the situation becomes more and more severe.
People often ask me what kind of president I think McCain would make; what would be surprising, etc. With the important caveat that I don't really know, I think many would be startled by just how far (back) to the interventionist economic left McCain would be willing and eager to traverse with an emboldened Democratic majority attempting to "fix" a worsening economy. Yes, he would veto the crap out of some spending bills larded with earmarks; and yes, for my money he has a much more favorable posture toward both entitlement reform and international trade (at least, with those few countries he doesn't want to slap punitive economic sanctions on).
But on Democrat-friendly stuff like government bailouts, global warming legislation, and atrocious nanny-boo proposals to keep "predators" off that Internet thingie he's heard so much about, McCain's foundational and occasionally creepy T.R. crush would mean considerably more than just sticking the Great White Fleet 2.0 under the tent of every tinpot dictator able to photoshop missile-launch pictures. When even Barry Goldwater's own replacement turns down a softball opportunity to give cheap props to a guy so far removed from modern-day politics that the Democratic Party is happy to fertilize his grave with empty praise, it might just indicate something.
* I actually cleaned up some of the punctuation in the NYT transcript; stuff on the level of adding question marks and changing commas into semi-colons.