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Stop Whining About Not Being 'Allowed' to Criticize John McCain

Your unfettered expression is only one click away, and the late senator himself engaged in ritual self-criticism, Matt Welch argues on Bloggingheads.

New York newsstand after John McCain's death. ||| Richard B. Levine/NewscomRichard B. Levine/NewscomOne disagrees with the great Politico media critic Jack Shafer at one's professional peril, but his Monday piece, headlined "Are Journalists Allowed to Criticize John McCain?," was an uncharacteristic bug-splat. Taking the headline both literally and seriously, the answer to the question is not Shafer's "Not as far as I can tell," but rather something closer to: "Obviously, as evidenced by the existence of this very article, and roughly 5,000 sulky like-minded tweets."

Shafer claims that "Those who offered a dissenting or realistic view on McCain were rewarded with abuse," and uses as evidence for this blanket assertion the negative reaction Vox's Laura McGann received after tweeting, even more bug-splattingly, "Today, I'm told, we should pretend John McCain didn't pick Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008."

No, actually nobody told McGann that; plenty of us have been able to offer dissenting/realistic views on McCain without being over-burdened with abuse, and since when are journalists supposed to be cowed by people being all mean on Twitter? Jesus Christ, people, go ahead and criticize away—after all, the old man did it to himself, and even his closest friends are including among their grieving remembrances phrase like, "He could be impetuous and cantankerous."

I discussed these subjects and many more—above all, McCain's radically interventionist yet perpetually under-critiqued foreign policy—in a Bloggingheads conversation yesterday with Robert Wright. You can watch the whole thing, and make sport of my fuzzy-looking baseball-book collection, here:

Reason on John McCain here.

Photo Credit: Richard B. Levine/Newscom

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  • Uncle Adolf's Gas and Grill||

  • Tony||

    Is this the same Tulpa famed in these parts for being a grating, unpleasant psychopath?

  • Mickey Rat||

    When the biggest thing you can criticize McCain about is picking Palin, rather than his attacks on political free speech, economic freedom (the tobacco "deal"), you are not that serious a critic. Picking Palin actually motivated his voters during a lackluster campaign. Perhaps that was the problem for McGann, presenting a credible threat to Obama's apotheosis.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    This was exactly my first reaction. Of all things that John McCain did in his political career, picking Sarah Palin as his running mate has had very little impact. She's not even relevant a mere 10 years later.

    Nobody can take the left seriously because of stupid stuff like this.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I'm not even sure why the left hates Palin so much. She is run-of-the-mill Republican, basically. Is it because she's a woman and not pro-choice like Murkowski and Collins?

  • sarcasmic||

    They hate her because she's not a snob. The left likes rulers who treat the people with disdain. That's why they love Hillary and Obama so much. They exude contempt towards the peasant class, and the left loves it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The Left could not stand to have the first woman VP be a Republican. It would have blown their identity politics out of the water.

    I still think Trump should dump Pence and find a nice conservative black woman to be his VP in 2020. The Lefties would be committing Hari-Kari in the streets.

  • sarcasmic||

    The Lefties would be committing Hari-Kari in the streets.

    What are you talking about? The left would be dancing in the streets. If the Republican base couldn't bring themselves to elect a white woman for VP, do you honestly believe they could elect a black woman to that position? Even if only five percent of Republican voters stayed home, that would likely be enough for the Democrats to win.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    McCain lost. Palin didnt lose.

  • sarcasmic||

    McCain lost. Palin didnt lose.

    "You betcha!"

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    After checking the election results, the record as governor, the graduations-to-unplanned-pregnancies ratio among her children, the criminal records of her family, the prefer-Tina-Fey-to-Sarah-Palin polling, and any standard English dictionary, 'Palin loses' seems a reliable conclusion.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    After checking the election results, the record as governor, the graduations-to-unplanned-pregnancies ratio among her children, the criminal records of her family, the prefer-Tina-Fey-to-Sarah-Palin polling, and any standard English dictionary, 'Palin loses' seems a reliable conclusion.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Palin was popular among the Republican base, McCain was not.

  • Tony||

    And what does that tell us about the Republican base?

  • Tony||

    And they express this superior judgment by electing a guy whose qualifications are... what exactly? Being a reality TV host in the early to mid stages of dementia?

  • sarcasmic||

    Being a reality TV host in the early to mid stages of dementia?

    Reagan got two terms...

  • Tony||

    She's not a criminal except to cousinfucking goobers who think Alex Jones is a philosopher of ages, and she was a senator and secretary of state, and while being first lady is not sufficient, it's not nothing either, so why do you bother with this stupidity?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump proves that not having government service can be a plus.

    Trump's the best president in over 100 years and never served in government before being elected president.

  • Tony||

    We are comparing her to Donald fucking Trump, you understand? Do only Democrats have to have qualifications to be president?

    People get ot be senator by all sorts of means. Only idiot goobers thought she was particularly incompetent at that job or as SoS. Stop being an idiot goober, it's boring.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Shhh, Tony. I told you this before. The consanguineous marriage belt runs from Morocco to Iran. Expect an intersectionality officer to knock on your door tonight.

  • Fats of Fury||

    I take it you mean former President Obama's Asshole.

  • Tony||

    Obviously if you think Trump is qualified to be there, so is HRC. Even if you think she's a child-eating socialist, she's objectively more qualified than the actual occupant, so I don't even know what you're trying to say here.

  • Kivlor||

    let's be honest, this is a stupid idea. What marginal portion of the negro vote would Trump get from it? None. It might make a lot of Rs think he is cucking to leftist ID politics though, and encourage them to stay home. No one is going to be swayed positively by choosing an Affirmative Action VP. That is suicide.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump has spun the identity politics around on the Lefties.

    I am saying pick a qualified black woman not an affirmative action choice.

  • sarcasmic||

    Shut the fuck up Mary.

  • sarcasmic||

    C'mon Mary. You really need to do more with your life than catalog personal information of strangers so you can harass them on internet forums. Seriously. And if you are going to keep up your pathetic hobby, you should make sure your information is accurate and up to date.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It is normal to remember anything that one expects to be useful. Tulpa obviously have a good memory for people. How do you suppose he intends to use them?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I still think Trump should dump Pence and find a nice conservative black woman to be his VP in 2020.

    I hear Omarosa is looking for a job...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I said "nice".

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The thread of reasoning seems to be that Palin is the direct antecedent to Trump. That her attention normalized the tactics that would later define the MAGA movement.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Palin was a D.C. outsider and did very well for Alaska as Governor.

    I didnt think she was the best but I can see why she was popular. The Left did too which is why they attacked her, including her intelligence.

    Imagine if you attacked a Lefty woman's intelligence- the media would ruthlessly attack you.

    I suspect that the Washington Correspondent's dinner was when Trump decided to run again in 2016. Obama acted like the smug piece of shit that he is. I bet Obama regrets egging Trump on.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I think it's a strange comparison anyway. I don't know why Palin was given special hate status, but I think the reality is she's not particularly comparable to Trump nor particularly notable.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I would agree.

  • Fats of Fury||

    McCain wanted to pick Lieberman. If they had won we'd be opening fronts on all the Mideast and Poland too.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Don't forget about the South China Sea and North Korea. You also left out the fronts that would be opened in Africa and South America. They'd probably want to get involved in Tibet, Xinjiang, and the India-Pakistan conflicts for good measure. The only place that would be safe from US military kinetic operations would be Haiti.

  • SIV||

    Never forget McCain tried to get a federal ban on MMA, or "human cockfighting" as he called it. I'm still pissed that gook didn't bayonet him twice when they dragged his ass from Truc Bach Lake.

  • sarcasmic||

  • sharmota4zeb||

    or "human cockfighting" as he called it.

    I would go with this video clip.

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    I'm sure his first wife didn't think picking Palin was his worst deed ever.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    If you're universally beloved then people wont tend to talk shit about you when you die.

    McCain was the opposite of that. He was almost universally despised.

    Republicans hated McCain because he was a Democrat lover. Democrats hated McCain because he voted Republican when they really needed him. Libertarians hated McCain because he was a statist, neocon war starter, and refused to make major cuts to the federal budget.

    Its funny to see the Lefty hypocrisy, especially with the media, as they put John 'Songbird' 'Keating 5' McCain on a pedestal now that he is dead.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    He was also kind of a pathetic figure in that he still groveled for the attention and adulation even after the way they treated him in the '08 election. Any normal person with even a modicum of self-respect would have told them all to go get fucked after that.

    They now revoltingly pretend that they always loved him, but in reality they were laughing at him because they owned his sorry ass and they knew it.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Libertarians hated McCain because he was a statist, neocon war starter, and refused to make major cuts to the federal budget.


    Trump fans offering pointers on libertarianism is always useful.

    Carry on, clingers. More faux libertarianism to temper that bigotry!
  • Deep Lurker||

    I hated McCain because he was gung-ho for censoring political speech. Compared to that, the other reasons you give for libertarians hating him, while valid, are decidedly second-place.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I can't disagree much with your assessment that McCain-Feingold was the worst, but only because it was predicated by the Keating 5 scandal. M-F expanded the boundaries of outrageous political hypocrisy and voter gullibility beyond what was previously thought to be a theoretical limit.

    But M-F must be remembered in the context of the Keating/Lincoln S&L scandal. Keating ran the thoroughly crooked Phoenix S&L. I still remember a scathing analysis of Lincoln S&L and its affiliated real estate operation in Barrons that essentially alleged enormous banking and securities fraud about a year before the scandal. I don't recall whether the Barrons article pointed out the business and social relationships that McCain had with Keating, but it was later determined that Keating flew the McCains about on his jet at no charge, that Keating had set up Cindy McCain with a sweetheart real estate deal, and that the McCains vacationed at Keating's estate in the Bahamas. And, incidentally, Keating was both a major donor and fundraiser for McCain.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    The FHLBB had responsibility to audit and shut down Keating's scam at Lincoln S&L. McCain intervened with regulators on Keating's behalf, and delayed the inevitable by about two years. During those two years, Keating was able to sell millions of worthless bonds, mostly to local geezers who thought they were protected by FSLIC (they weren't.)

    Rather than resign, shave his head, and wear sackcloth and ashes in shame, McCain decided it would be advantageous to gut the 1st Amendment in the name of campaign finance reform. As the Phoenix New Times wrote at the time, "Those who survive will be the sociopaths who can tell a lie with the most sincere, straight face."

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Jennifer Rubin, one of the only conservative writers worth reading these days, had an excellent take in the Washington Post: The human rights community lost a champion.

    If the Republican Party was still controlled by people like McCain, this country would be much better off. True, I wouldn't have voted for him if I had been old enough in 2008. And there are those who argue he was too much of a hawk. But I'll gladly take the "neoconservative" GOP of 10 - 15 years ago over the alt-right white nationalist Putin Puppet GOP of today.

    #TrumpRussia
    #PaulRussia
    #LibertariansForMcCain
    #(ExceptWhenHeRanAgainstObama)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Shouldn't it be "Bloggerheads" as in being at loggerheads with someone?

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Are we allowed to quote the "he is a crazy warmongering Nazi" comments made about him from these same Democrats when he was running against Obama?

  • Fats of Fury||

    Read the comments in OBL's link to Rubin's column. They're still calling him a crazy warmongering Nazi.

  • prolefeed||

    Shafer claims that "Those who offered a dissenting or realistic view on McCain were rewarded with abuse,"

    Hunh. Who knew that offering a dissenting view might cause others to dissent from your dissent. It's like he doesn't get free speech.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Some of this is motivated by the idea of not speaking ill of the newly dead. Some of this is motivated by McCain being a foe of Trump, and criticizing McCain implies Trump may have reason to be opposed to him. It is a rather black and white viewpoint.

    Frankly, I see both of them as thin skinned, narcissistic, petty and unprincipled, with the difference that McCain acted like a more normal politician in that regard, being somewhat less open and more polite in his contempt for his opponents.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    If McCain had a shred of integrity, he would have resigned when his health made doing his job physically impossible.

  • sarcasmic||

    If he had a shred if integrity he wouldn't have gone into politics.

  • sarcasmic||

    Now that the bitch is out of my life I have no reason to drink, and my relationship with my child (who I never lost custody of) is better than it has ever been. Life is good. The initial depression was shitty, but I've been over it for a while. Thank you for your concern though. I do appreciate you obsessing over my personal life so much. You care more than I do sometimes.

  • sarcasmic||

    Maybe correlation isn't causation, but the result is the same. Sober as a church mouse. Thank you for your concern though. It's nice to know that you care.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Meh ... how do you feel about this movie, Tulpa? Valid social commentary or just women who should shut up and make a sandwich?

  • Agammamon||

    Don't engage with the idiot, man. You don't need to justify yourself.

  • sarcasmic||

    She never took the kid, dude. Like I said above, you need to make sure your information is accurate and up to date. Currently it is neither.

  • sarcasmic||

    Sorry to disappoint, but you haven't embarrassed me a bit. I'm afraid you'd have to be saying something factual to do that.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, Tulpa is acting a bit nosy. Perhaps he believes that every woman must be attached to a man, because he thinks women are incapable of surviving on their own.

  • sarcasmic||

    Nah, I just hate drunk deadbeat loser fathers who pick the sauce over their kids, like sarc admitted he did.

    Like I said before, your information is neither accurate nor up to date.

  • sarcasmic||

    No, that's not what I said. I can see how what happened could have been interpreted that way, but that's not an accurate representation. Anyone who knows me knows this. Might I suggest you obsess over someone different? A celebrity perhaps? I hear Ben Affleck is in and out of rehab, and Brad Pitt is a deadbeat dad.

  • sarcasmic||

    Might I suggest you stop obsessing over Mary, and confusing her with me?

    My mistake. I thought she was the only loser who catalogs personal details of people who comment on Reason and then goes into massive histrionics whenever their target is available.

    stop drinking so your memory recovers and you can possibly salvage a semblance of a life

    Already checked that off my list. Thanks again for your concern.

  • sarcasmic||

    it is easy when one is not a drunk who blames others for their personal weakness and the destruction of their family, like you did today.

    You got all of that out of "Now that the bitch is out of my life I have no reason to drink"?

    No wonder these things you "remember" are so off the wall.

    And I owe Mary an apology. At least she was accurate.

  • Agammamon||

    TuIpa|8.29.18 @ 10:03AM|#

    If you had a shred of decency you would have chosen your kids and marriage over booze.

    Well, we certainly know that you don't.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Someday has to be the politicians. Libertarians need to suck it up and run for office. The run that political office on a strict fiscally conservative and socially liberal platform, even if it means only a single term in office.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's the libertarian conundrum. Libertarians don't want to rule, so they don't seek positions of power. People who seek power do so to keep and expand it, not to dismantle it. How do you find people who will seek office for the purpose of dismantling power, and once you find them how do you get them elected?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You answered your own question. Libertarians.

    Libertarians who seek a few terms in office to rollback government and then leave. Most Libertarians dont want to have anything to do with corrupt politicians and that needs to change. You can deal with them and roll back government. Otherwise, we are hoping Republicans will roll back government and most republicans dont do that anymore.

  • sarcasmic||

    You answered the first part, but not the second.

    People tend to vote for someone who will do something for them, and that usually means something proactive. Like free shit or harming people they don't like. Libertarians only promise to leave everyone alone. Sadly, that's not what the average voter wants from a politician.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Classic Liberals ran the USA for decades in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Their main difference with Libertarians is slavery. Libertarians oppose slavery and classic liberals were okay with it for a while.

    Libertarians can change the political tone of America as Trump has changed the tone. Trump is a fighter and Libertarian-ish.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Libertarians despise Trump and his goober followers.

    That is why I oppose Trump and disdain the yahoos who support him.

  • sarcasmic||

    Classic Liberals ran the USA for decades in the 18th and early 19th Centuries.

    In the 18th and early 19th centuries, a president was judged on what they didn't do. The less a president did, the better they were remembered. A healthy skepticism of government was the hallmark of the average American. It's the total opposite now.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Thomas Jefferson got popular credit for fighting Hamilton.

    Sometimes you get more popular for fighting the unpopular. Trump gets credit for fighting unpopular media and unpopular government.

    Lefties tend to fight for causes that are not popular in the first place but they need to do SOMETHING.

    "A healthy skepticism of government was the hallmark of the average American. It's the total opposite now."

    I agree with you on that.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I turn 65 this year. You'll pry my social security and Medicare from my cold, dead fingers before I vote for a real libertarian. Actually, that's not true, but I represent about 0.001% of geezers.

    Same applies for parents with kids in government schools, ObamaCare subsidy recipients, people who live in fear of the enemies of various US wars (drugs, poverty, Islam, Mexicans, Russians, Chinese, etc.), various identity groups that enjoy special "protections", etc.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Maybe a guy who survived as a prisoner of war was more optimistic than a no-count, anti-social, intolerant right-winger would be.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    "Today, I'm told, we should pretend John McCain didn't pick Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008."

    So much for "I'm with her ->".

  • Cyto||

    You probably wouldn't have written this article if you had watched network news over the last couple of days.

    The love-fest over McCain is all about his feud with Trump. That is the beginning and end of it.

    Every interview with McCain's friends and colleagues is an exercise in getting them to weigh in on the Trump-McCain dislike and toss some shade in Trump's direction. John Sununu is the only one I've see with the appropriate response. He pushed back hard against CNN trying to steer his tribute to his friend into a political backbiting session about Trump.

    I've seen 4 interviews on NBC with republican lawmakers. in all 4 cases the interviews were explicitly about the death of John McCain, and in all 4 cases they spent the majority of the time asking for comments on Trump not liking McCain. They asked the majority of their questions about the supposedly withdrawn White House statement and the flag at half staff. Each of those issues was brought up at least twice, usually 3 or 4 times as the politicians dodged the question.

    I wish more politicians had Sununu's guts and would just tell them where to stick it when they play those political games.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Sununu can aggressively deny reality and be an obsequious Trump succor but no volume of right-wing crankiness changes reality.

  • Cyto||

    You probably wouldn't have written this article if you had watched network news over the last couple of days.

    The love-fest over McCain is all about his feud with Trump. That is the beginning and end of it.

    Every interview with McCain's friends and colleagues is an exercise in getting them to weigh in on the Trump-McCain dislike and toss some shade in Trump's direction. John Sununu is the only one I've see with the appropriate response. He pushed back hard against CNN trying to steer his tribute to his friend into a political backbiting session about Trump.

    I've seen 4 interviews on NBC with republican lawmakers. in all 4 cases the interviews were explicitly about the death of John McCain, and in all 4 cases they spent the majority of the time asking for comments on Trump not liking McCain. They asked the majority of their questions about the supposedly withdrawn White House statement and the flag at half staff. Each of those issues was brought up at least twice, usually 3 or 4 times as the politicians dodged the question.

    I wish more politicians had Sununu's guts and would just tell them where to stick it when they play those political games.

  • Libertymike||

    He was no war hero.

    He was, however, a war monger, and friend to the Neo-Cohen, PNAC, Wilsonian make the world safe for democracy, American exceptionalism, MIC, national security, national surveillance state.

    He murdered, with malice aforethought, numerous Vietnamese, including infants, toddlers, and teenagers.

    He did all he could to make sure the Pentagon did not release information regarding MIAs and POWs. He even pushed wheel-chair bound mothers pressing for the release of such information from the Pentagon.

    He is one of the most evil, vile of public men in my lifetime.

  • Agammamon||

    "Are Journalists Allowed to Criticize John McCain?,"

    *Now* you need to criticize him? Not during the decades he was in office? Now that he's dead and completely irrelevant, now you feel its important to list all the shitty things he's done in life?

    If these guys had criticisms to level against McCain, they've had plenty of opportunity to air them.

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