Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain: The Worst Panderer?

I recently read a piece by the NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof about the pandering abilities of John McCain. The soft-sell and false narrative of John McCain continues to be pursued by writers and pundits and pushed out to unsuspecting readers and listeners. According to Mr. Kristof, because John McCain has so much integrity and honesty he is incapable of pandering with any degree of dexterity in comparison to other politicians. It seems the Straight-Talk- Express has run over another pedestrian on the road to the White House. The truth is that Senator McCain has spoken against his Party on some issues, but let’s not get carried away these were not issues of visionary proportions. Let’s examine the issues that Mr. Kristof believes Senator McCain deserves special merit for disagreeing with his Party for.

The issues that Mr. Kristof mentions in his piece are the following: whether we should
torture prisoners, lynch immigrants, and racism. The fact that Senator McCain would choose to disagree with his Party on these issues says as much about “his Party” as it does about Senator McCain. Are we now to applaud a member of the Klan who refused to take part in a lynching but continues his membership in the organization? To consider Senator McCain a maverick for choosing to take such enlightened stances on these issues in and of itself is remarkable, but in order to shore up his cred with the less enlightened of his Party and of the human race, he has now fudged on his torture and immigration stances. So I am left to wonder where is this man of honor and integrity?

His most famous pander came in 2000, when, after earlier denouncing the Confederate flag as a “symbol of racism,” he embraced it as “a symbol of heritage.” To his credit, Mr. McCain later acknowledged, “I feared that if I answered honestly I could not win the South Carolina primary, so I chose to compromise my principles.”

In short, Mr. McCain truly has principles that he bends or breaks out of desperation and with distaste. That’s preferable to politicians who are congenital invertebrates.

I disagree with Mr. McCain on Iraq, taxes, abortion and almost every other major issue. He has a nasty temper, which isn’t ideal for the hand holding a nuclear trigger. For a man running partly on biography, he treated his first wife, Carol, poorly. And one of the meanest put-downs in modern political history was a savage joke that Mr. McCain publicly related about Chelsea Clinton when she was 18 years old; it was inexcusable.

So according to Mr. Kristof, because Senator McCain compromises his principles with such great agony he should be exalted over other compromisers. Have we gotten to the place where we expect so little of our elected officials? Today we don’t expect them to stand on their principles, we only expect them to surrender them with anguish. What ever happened to expecting and electing leaders who refuse to surrender their principles? I’m sorry, I am all for compromise and the art of the deal, I am not so idealistic to believe that in politics one agenda will be completely accepted at the exclusion of all others. But in my opinion there are some principles that are non-negotiable; torture is not an option, racial intolerance and bigotry the same. The strange thing about this piece is that Mr. Kristof himself seems to defeat the purpose of it being written and yet as with the myth of McCain he continues to a conclusion that does not merit the facts. How can one man be seen by so many in such disregard to the facts?

The fact is that John McCain is a panderer and as he attempts to increase his support among the social conservatives it will become more obvious. No matter how odious it may appear to the casual observer pandering is still pandering and in the case of Senator McCain it is even worse because of the issues involved and his own history. It will be extremely difficult to pander to a Party base that is filled with intolerance and yet present yourself as being something different. There are those in the Democratic Party who fear McCain, I don’t see it. Senator McCain represents all that this election is revolting against. He represents the Party of old white men and the continuation of Bush policies, if we choose that then I guess we are not the country we thought we were. I believe that the American public is looking for a change and no amount of political hyperbole is going to stop it. Senator McCain represents the past and no matter how hard they try to present him as the future, it can’t be done. There is not enough makeup left in the case to make this a silk purse.


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