John McCain

Silence of the Wolves

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A trivial yet telling anecdote from the Sarah Palin Wars that have riven this country asunder: My wife updated her Facebook status with a throwaway line about how stay-at-home First Dude Todd Palin is a "dreamboat," and immediately multiple friends jumped down her throat, because that just ain't funny.

Here's one thing to remember during this made-for-Camille-Paglia and largely substance-free news cycle, aside from the fact that it cements Tim Cavanaugh as a seer for his December 2002 reason piece about "the long, happy life of America's anti-defamation industry": Every minute spent on debating Sarah Palin's feminist cred (and/or sexist treatment by evil liberals and the MSM) is a minute that A) reinforces her ability to woo sexism-despising ex-Hillary Clinton voters, as strange as that may sound to us non-Hillary supporters; and B) allows John McCain the luxury of not having to talk about his policies. Because if there's one minefield even bigger than Palin's unvetted record in the North to the Future State, it's McCain's many smoking-hot policy disagreements with whole chunks of the fragile coalition he requires to become the nation's 44th president.

On the last night of the Republican Convention, the night that was supposed to be about the top of the ticket, multiple speakers (many of them female) said a version of "I was here to talk about John McCain, but instead let's just talk some more about that Sarah Palin kid!" Sure, that was a sensible response to a crowd more synched with the Barracuda than with Bully Boy II, but it also made it that much easier to fall back on the Great Man (plus Great Woman) value-proposition of McCain's candidacy. Focus on the James Stockdale-like storyline, and you don't even have to utter the words "campaign finance reform," a once-"transcendent" issue that in 2001 McCain said "affects everything: the tax code, the military, Medicare, Social Security, gambling–you name it," yet by 2008 his own party platform, as Jacob Sullum flagged this morning, now opposes.

You didn't have to go looking in St. Paul to find Republicans who claimed that McCain-Feingold would have been a dealbreaker, if it wasn't for X (War on Terror, Supreme Court appointments, etc.). Ditto for immigration restrictionists, T.R.-ophobes, Gang of 14-haters, and probably any number of Republican subspecies. McCain's challenge with them is to just not talk about this stuff very much, then change the subject. He's a Great Man! And look–some MSNBC arugula-muncher just dissed our Small Town Values!

And with that, McCain will largely try to run out the clock, and hold onto the Palin bounce. But lest ye despair over the Shallowness of Our Politics or whatnot, remember this: There still is one very significant difference between the two candidates (meaning: not just energy policy, where both candidates will magically wean us off furriner-oil while creating X million "green jobs" by 2025) that McCain still wants to talk about, even if there, too, he has some constituents to not offend. That issue is Iraq, and the broader questions of the Middle East, the War on Terror, and foreign policy overall. We will yet get an election on substance before the gong strikes midnight.

NEXT: Large Hadron Collider Live — Presidential Campaign Drones On

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  1. If only they would lay out a substantive difference on Iraq! Will O say he’ll get us completely out by the end of four years? Doubtful.

  2. We will yet get an election on substance before the gong strikes midnight

    Good one, Welch. You even used a fairy-tale metaphor. Appropriate, given your comment.

    … substance-based election … hilarious.

  3. Substance? Detail?

    Come on, Matt- snap out of it!

  4. We will yet get an election on substance

    If the substance is the one that comes out of your ass, then yes.

  5. That issue is Iraq… There still is one very significant difference between the two candidates

    What? What difference? They both agree we’re going to keep troops there.

    Have you fallen into the tank with Weigel? There are huge actual differences on other issues:

    Obama is for protectionism, McCain for free trade.

    Obama is for massive government spending hikes, McCain isn’t.

    Obama is for higher taxes, McCain for lower.

    I guess if you’re still determined to damn the Iraqis to some of civil war hell, despite the progress that has them enjoying basic civil rights (remember when libertarians cared about those?) and a doubling of most basic services like sewage, potable water, and electricity, then you could see the election through the prism of Iraq, but for most people it’s a no-brainer that we support stability there.

  6. Has Welch been in a cave the last year? What difference is there on Iraq? We signed an agreement to leave in 2011. Obama will live by the agreement and take credit for getting us out of Iraq. Why wouldn’t he?

  7. Obama is for protectionism, McCain for free trade.

    republicans are for free trade?

    you should probably let them know this!

  8. TallDave,

    Obama is for higher taxes, McCain for lower.

    Are you really that gullible?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/09/ST2008060900950.html

    Or are you in the top 1% of income earners?

    There are about 150k people who should be worried about Obama’s tax plan. In a country of 350 million…

  9. What difference is there on Iraq? We signed an agreement to leave in 2011. Obama will live by the agreement and take credit for getting us out of Iraq. Why wouldn’t he?

    And unless I am wrong about this McCain has said he would not live by such an agreement.

    Has this changed?

    Serious question.

  10. Obama pledged to end the raids on dispensaries in California. Above all else, that’s why I must vote for him.

    As for substance – just wait for the debates. I’m sure they’ll be tripling the dose of McCook’s anti-senility drugs, but I still think it’s going to be downright comical.

  11. All — I’m talking less in this post about actual stated differences, of which there are many (including the important-to-me difference in free trade, which makes McCain look much more attractive), but rather those that McCain in particular will be campaigning on.

  12. With Obama trying to tie McCain to Bush, McCain will have to emphasize the differences – which may reveal to his base some of the policies on which the base and McCain disagree.
    Of course, by doing so, McCain may pick up some anti-Bush voters who aren’t yet aware of his differences with Bush.
    I think the Palin shock is beginning to wear thin (based on some conversations with female colleagues who intially loved it) and this race will go to the wire to be decided by pocket book issues.

  13. So they don’t think the First Dude is good looking?

  14. I think the real issue it that Welch’s wife is Facebook friends with a bunch of humorless jerks.

  15. Totally off-topic but I’m surprised by the number of people who talk about Palin’s positions on issues as if they matter, as if she’d have some sort of policy role in the administration.

    Unless McCook is suggesting that he WILL kick the bucket in office, and the election really IS between Obama and Palin…

  16. Obama is for higher taxes, McCain for lower. Are you really that gullible?

    Maybe you don’t make enough to get to the end of the payroll tax or have investments that receive dividends or sell stocks/bonds subject to capital gains, but lots of people do.

    There are about 150k people who should be worried about Obama’s tax plan. In a country of 350 million…

    Yeah, them and the millions who work for their businesses.

    Anyways, no one disputes Obama’s raises overall taxes.

  17. Obama pledged to end the raids on dispensaries in California. Above all else, that’s why I must vote for him.

    I have to admit, that is a plus.

  18. “Dreamboat Toddie?” “Barracuda?” I’m seeing a pattern here.

  19. Ya know, a post in another thread made me realize that a lot of us classical liberals seem to have forgotten the things that attracted us to Obama in the beginning.

    We seem to have forgotten about Guantanamo.

    We seem to have forgotten about the assault on habeus corpus.

    We seem to have forgotten about the warrantless wiretapping.

    We seem to have forgotten than the largest expansion in government bureaucracy, the TSA, was created under republican control.

    We seem to have forgotten that the one time in recent history that this country has had a positive budget deficit was under a democrat.

    I think for me, the choice is pretty damn clear.

  20. If we enact the Federal SAVE ACT (H.R.4088) enforcement only law. Millions of illegal aliens will leave by self-deportation. ATTRITION! No job, they will leave of their own accord. Only anti-American groups and Liberal-Democrat-Socialists are stopping this law. ASK THEM WHY?

    http://www.numbersusa.com have the uncensored truth? IT’S YOUR FAMILIES FUTURE. DEPORTATION OR OVERPOPULATION.
    IF WE DON’T STOP IT NOW, THEY WILL KEEP COMING..

  21. Oh god, please don’t feed the troll.

  22. Maybe i’m a dumbass about such things, but what is a “positive budget deficit?”

  23. Dammit.. broke my first rule of posting – never submit before coffee.

    Change that to ‘a budget surplus’.

  24. Maybe i’m a dumbass about such things, but what is a “positive budget deficit?”

    One that’s all cheerful and supportive?

  25. I don’t often say this — but Matt, I hope you’re right. I’ve been amazed at how little substance there’s been so far in this election season. I think a lot of it comes down to the debates — will they be about actual policies and issues, or who sighed and who got off a good zinger?

    Personally, I am laying in a stock of adult beverages to kill the pain, I suggest that you all do as well.

  26. Obama is for protectionism, McCain for free trade.

    McCain stands for free trade as much as Teddy Roosevelt stood for “unfettered capitalism”; both blame problems of the economy on the free market. Obama and McCain are protectionists, both support the Fannie/Freddie bailout, both think we need to “do something” about outsourced jobs. And that “something” isn’t decreasing government regulation, I’ll tell you that much.

    Obama is for massive government spending hikes, McCain isn’t.

    Oh please, if you don’t think McCain is going to kiss some Democrat butt (a long history of such) in order to get his own way you’ve got to be kidding. Massive government spending hikes often occur when one can’t but help oneself to heaping piles of war. Just as long as McCain doesn’t have to think of the heaping piles of dead bodies he’s a great candidate though. Obama and McCain are going to rape the pocketbooks right under our noses–Obama for his pet social projects; McCain for the pet social projects he’ll give Democrats in exchange for their compliance on his war spending.

    Obama is for higher taxes, McCain for lower.

    Oh good, another Bush who will spend as much money as possible without actually having any. These two are going to be like immature kids with credit cards–you don’t think McCain’s refusal to cut taxes on the basis of not cutting spending is going to fly? He’s going to be spending huge amounts of money in the first place–same thing as happened in ’02.

    I guess if you’re still determined to damn the Iraqis to some of civil war hell, despite the progress that has them enjoying basic civil rights (remember when libertarians cared about those?) and a doubling of most basic services like sewage, potable water, and electricity, then you could see the election through the prism of Iraq, but for most people it’s a no-brainer that we support stability there.

    At our expense, no-brainer.

  27. Nice to see Camille Paglia still kicking around–I thought she dropped off the face of the earth. Then again, I don’t read Salon any more. She was my first exposure to libertarian ideas–even if she has her own unique take on things that probably rubs a lot of you the wrong way.

  28. Camille used to rub me the right way, but my wife got pissed about it, so we had to stop.

  29. stay-at-home First Dude Todd Palin is a “dreamboat”

    He is! And I’m not even gay!
    Not that there’s, you know…
    Anything…you know…
    Wrong…

  30. Totally off-topic but I’m surprised by the number of people who talk about Palin’s positions on issues as if they matter, as if she’d have some sort of policy role in the administration.

    Unless McCook is suggesting that he WILL kick the bucket in office, and the election really IS between Obama and Palin…

    Well, McCain is 72 and a cancer survivor. Old men do haul off and die. Palin’s positions on the issues, if she has any, are probably as important as any vice-presidential nominee in history.

  31. Camille Paglia:

    One reason I live in the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia and have never moved to New York or Washington is that, as a cultural analyst, I want to remain in touch with the mainstream of American life. I frequent fast-food restaurants, shop at the mall, and periodically visit Wal-Mart (its bird-seed section is nonpareil).

    See, going to fast food joints and Wal Mart can make even a lesbian, feminist, PhD college professor just one of the folks. Old Camille’s not out of touch with those worker drones!

    This is what you would call a faux real person if you were one of those San Francisco elitists. If you’re one of those precious real Americans you’d call her a phony, then you’d make a crude joke about her being a dyke.

    Camille, get real. Sarah Palin doesn’t like you. She knows you are going to Hell.

  32. What is this “Hell” you speak of?

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