VF: McCain Is a Jerk Because He Refused to Support Draft-Dodging Barack Obama Help Us Heal the Wounds of Vietnam. Wait, What?



Vanity Fair has one of those maybe-John-McCain-really-wasn't-a-maverick thumbsuckers that you still see from time to time. It's not particularly interesting on the subject at hand, except as a window into what in the year of our Lord 2010 disqualifies a politician from media-certified maverickhood:

Indeed, on nearly every issue—not just his signature ones, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—McCain has been among Obama's most relentless critics. That approach stands in contrast to the kind of support McCain was once willing to offer another young president, Bill Clinton. In 1993, the newly elected Clinton faced a firestorm of criticism for proposing to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, in light of his own well-chronicled efforts to avoid the draft. McCain wrote the White House and volunteered to go with Clinton if it would help. McCain's distaste for Obama is deeply personal. "I think he thinks he's full of shit," one former McCain aide says of his boss's opinion of the president.

Such are the limitations of viewing policy positions via how sharp one's salutes are to the sitting president. Yes, McCain's a flip-flopper–this is not news–but there are only a handful of policy ideas he has cared about over the years, and two of them are Getting Vietnam Behind Us and enhancing the power of the Commander in Chief, regardless of who it is. McCain wasn't helping out Bill Clinton in the early '90s because he liked the guy or was himself more reasonable then, he was helping him out because it's almost impossible to conceive of an issue he would care about more than helping the nation get over Vietnam by reminding people to respect the president. Opposing Obamacare is just a totally different category of issue.

Oh–and McCain's distaste for George W. Bush was deeply personal. Until he got over it.

The other section of interest to me was writer Todd Purdum's fevered imagineering of what a McCain-Palin presidency would have looked like:

This has made me laugh out loud three times now. I think there's something wrong with me.

There would probably have been no stimulus bill, and the country's economic condition would be no better (and probably worse). General Motors and Chrysler would have been allowed to go bankrupt rather than helped to emerge into a state of healthiness, as they may well be doing. There would have been no significant new regulation of the financial industry. The Bush tax cuts for those Americans with the highest incomes—something McCain had opposed before reversing himself—would have been extended. There would have been only modest health-insurance reform, at best—McCain's proposals were Republican boilerplate and meant for use in the campaign, never a serious program. Perhaps there would have been greater progress on immigration, though McCain had already abandoned that issue, and it's easier to imagine his taking the more nativist stance he has since adopted. There would be no Supreme Court justices Kagan and Sotomayor, but there would likely be two more conservative justices, and the days of Roe v. Wade would be numbered.

It's totally true–there would be no Supreme Court justices Kagan and Sotomayor.

I wrote about McCain's bailout/regulation support back in February, and about his governing philosophy in this book.