The Nominee


Three interesting bits from GOP nominee John McCain's speech tonight:

1) No really, I'm not a Calvinist.

I have never believed I was destined be President. I don't believe anyone is pre-destined to lead America. But I do believe we are born with responsibilities to the country that has protected our God-given rights, and the opportunities they afford us. I did not grow up with the expectation that my country owed me more than the rights owed every American. On the contrary, I owe my country every opportunity I have ever had. I owe her the meaning that service to America has given my life, and the sense that I am part of something greater than myself, part of a kinship of ideals that have always represented the last, best hope of mankind.

I talk about this in my book, and maybe it's most convincing there (if at all), but do me a favor for the next eight months: when McCain says a variation on "I have never"—especially when it's volunteered, as opposed to being hissed as a defensive response to an inquiry—take special note of what comes after, because it's usually a decent insight into what he actually is. There is plenty of evidence (a scrap presented here) that McCain does feel his coronation is a matter of destiny, and that furthermore he will wrap his sense of entitlement in the pillow-soft robes of sacrificing to "something greater than" himself. Your task, whether you choose to accept it, is to decide whether his definition of that "something" jibes with your own, and whether you want as president someone who holds the essentially militaristic conception of citizenship that flows from the source of shared sacrifice in a common war.

2) The decision to go to war is even more passe than heroin.

America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past. I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country's interests secure and our honor intact. But Americans know that the next President doesn't get to re-make that decision. We are in Iraq and our most vital security interests are clearly involved there. The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide; destabilizing the entire Middle East; enabling our adversaries in the region to extend their influence and undermine our security there; and emboldening terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess.

Italics mine, because that's a whale of a sentence, and also because John Sidney McCain III does not so much as acknowledge the relationship between deciding to go to war and having to cope with war's shitty consequences. In fact, the whole question of whether going into controversial wars in the first place is appropriate or not doesn't seem to interest him at all. As I've said before, it's heartening to have a stark choice in this election on this crucial question.

3) The free-trading, pro-globalist candidate in this campaign is not Barack Hussein Obama.

I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global economy will go away and Americans can secure our future by trading and investing only among ourselves. We will campaign in favor of seizing the opportunities presented by the growth of free markets throughout the world

Since around South Carolina, John McCain—always a free trader—has articulated a concrete vision of why Americans, left to themselves, will provide a prosperous and interesting future. He has hit those notes harder in the last month than he has in the last 10 years. (For a great breakdown of McCain's economics schizophrenia, check out Andrew Ferguson's terrific recent piece in the Weekly Standard.) Regardless of how candidates get there, their platform once a nomination is secure does have pretty strong relevance to a potential presidency. With the competitive Democrats lurching noticeably to the economic left, McCain is becoming more of a free-market Republican (at least on non-regulatory issues) than he has been throughout the course of his political career. We are living in interesting times.