Idle thought about a McCain v. Obama race

John McWhorter, who supports Obama, has pointed out what he sees as a profound problem with the Obama campaign, which is the way identity politics has made it impossible to treat Obama as an adult, rather than a child, for fear of being called “racist”:

Yet there is an element of surprise, a tincture of dismay, in how many view the sliming of Mr. Obama. If Grover Cleveland or John Kerry got slimed, what do you expect? But if Mr. Obama gets slimed, well.

There is a tacit sense that decent people would make an exception for him. Otherwise, why would so many think of it as news that the Clintons or anyone else would get nasty in trying to push past him?

Let’s face facts: People see this commonplace phenomenon as news because of a tacit idea that as a black man, Mr. Obama should be treated with kid gloves.

Lawrence Bobo, professor of sociology at Harvard, gives it away comparing the Clintons’ attacks on Mr. Obama to, specifically, the Willie Horton ad and the 2000 vote count. That is, events traditionally classified as “racist” — as if Republicans have not sought to best Democrats in ways disconnected to race. Upon which the Swift-boat thing is germane. Mr. Bobo appends that to his list, too — but misses that the guiding theme is not racism but hardball.

Welcome to reality: being judged by the content of our character means that we black people will not be exempt from hardball. We should not be seduced by the fantasy that we must pretend to be fragile.

Well, yes. This is what I’ve been saying all along. I recently wrote a post saying that one of my fears about Obama as a candidate is that it would be impossible to run against him in the ordinary rough and tumble way we’ve come to expect in a Democracy. Any negative comment would be deemed “racist,” and the Republican candidates, all carefully groomed and controlled by their handlers, wouldn’t even want to get near that.

It did occur to me, though, that McCain might be the candidate who would stand up to Obama, who would not fear being called a racist. He is a man confident and feisty enough to get into a fight on its merits, and not pull his punches for fear of collateral damage. I don’t know how well those qualities would serve in the increasingly surreal world of the White House, but it might be just what is needed to level the playing field against America’s first black presidential candidate (something that would be more fair to Obama, too, since it would treat him like an adult and not a child or a half wit).

UPDATE: I’ve switched to a new server, so you can feel free to look around here or check out my new site, which not only has the old stuff, but also will move forward into the future with all my new material.

Are McCain and Hillary/Obama really the same?

I do wonder if my ability to accept McCain is fairly easy because I’m a pragmatist, a neocon or a simplistic thinker. The first is the argument I make: McCain’s not perfect, but he’s better than the Democratic candidates. The second argument is that, because I’m a neophyte conservative, I’m more easily able to back away from core conservative matters and contemplate a more liberal conservative (if that last isn’t an oxymoron). Maybe so. And finally, one could argue that I’ve just got a fairly primitive brain that can’t handle too many complex ideas.

For example, in comments to my posts about McCain, Earl has taken a very interesting, thoughtful and nuanced position. As I understand it, he feels that, if Hillary is in the White House, the Republicans in Congress will act as a strong bulwark against her more liberal policies. However, if McCain is in the White House, he’s inevitably going to drag these same Republicans to the Left, because they won’t be able to form a strong opposition — he is, after all, of their party — and there will be an inevitable drift into the Democratic camp. As for me, probably because I’m not a very nuanced thinker, while I can understand what Earl is saying, I just have a hard time envisioning it actually happening. I think that’s more a limitation in my thinking than a practical statement about the realities that we may face in 2009 if McCain is President. Nevertheless, for every person who thinks in the complex, strategic way that Earl does, I suspect that there are at least two blockheads like me who will be voting in the Fall.

Because Earl is looking beyond McCain and examining McCain’s interaction with Congress, I thought that William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn had a very interesting point about Congress’s impact, not on McCain, but on Hillary, who has suddenly become the candidate of choice for conservatives worried about McCain:

There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama), and those records become important as we recognize a few simple facts: We are in an existential war against Islamic terrorists throughout the world. This very week, Senator Clinton was asked what her first act in office would be. She stated that first act would be the beginning of the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq within 60 days. Her first act. That is a surrender to the enemy — there is no other way to portray such a withdrawal and there is no other way it will be portrayed by our enemies and other observers around the world.

Some will say, “She can’t mean it, she’s stronger and more sensible than that.” Caution: Recall that Senator Clinton will be our commander-in-chief from a party that also runs the Senate and House — and the leadership in the Senate and House, not to mention the most active members in them, want us out of Iraq. Even on her most “sensible” day do we think she can be relieved of that pressure? The Democrats on the Hill have been chomping at the bit to make good on their 2006 promises; will she really turn on them? Can she?

In other words, if one assumes — as one must — that Congress will continue with a Democratic majority, even a small one, that majority will push the Commander in Chief — that is, Hillary — to exercise her unique prerogative to end the war. No Republican coalition, no matter how vocal and coordinated, can stop that from happening. Since I believe, as do Bennett and Leibsohn, that the War against Islamism is the most serious existential issue of our time, that’s kind of the end of the argument. Hillary = dangerous when it comes to Islamists; McCain = fairly solid when it comes to Islamists. (And maybe that’s the neocon in me speaking again.)

Bennett and Leibsohn are also more sanguine than are my “I’m an ardent conservative but will vote for Hillary” readers when it comes to the Supreme Court:

Second, we come to the realization that at least one Supreme Court justice is about to retire, and several others will be over age 70 come January 2009. Do we really think the nominees Senator McCain or Clinton (or Obama ) would appoint will be no different?

Let’s go to their records, to the very time-period opponents of Senator McCain cite in their indictment of him.

McCain voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year, Clinton didn’t and would likely expand Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding.

McCain voted to ban partial-birth abortion, Clinton didn’t and would likely reverse the partial-birth abortion ban.

McCain voted for Roberts and Alito and made the case for them in the media, Clinton didn’t.

And in recent spending votes, McCain is also distinguishable from the Democratic herd, even though he’s not as much as a hardliner as solid conservatives would wish:

McCain has never voted for a tax increase, Clinton will increase taxes.

McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, Clinton will end them.

McCain will end pork-barrel spending, Clinton supports the endowment of projects like the Woodstock Museum with taxpayer funding.

Even on free speech, as to which McCain bears the huge black mark of McCain-Feingold, it will still be worse under Hillary: “McCain sponsored legislation to keep the Fairness Doctrine from rearing its head again, Clinton has not and has signaled moves to revive it.”

The differences that Bennett and Leibsohn point out between the two candidates go on and on and on. It’s worthwhile to read these differences because I think McCain has become something of a bogey-man. He’s certainly not a conservative purist, but he’s no liberal.

Also, as you read the comparisons, it’s important to keep in mind that we internet geeks are the ones who care most strongly about politics, so we’re most likely to stake out carefully thought through ideological positions that are probably going to be more . . . extreme? pure? rigid? Pick your word or add one of your own. The same doesn’t hold true for the vast number of voters, people who want someone who is pretty much like them on most issues, and who isn’t planning on walking away from a war or turning our laws over to the sharia courts. As for all the other issues? Well, as far as those voters are concerned, the other issues are for the blogosphere to argue about.

And as I’ve said in other posts, there is a very good chance that people are clustering in the McCain center because they find almost impossible to contemplate another four years (or more) of the intense political hostility that characterized both the Clinton and Bush presidencies.

I’ll give Bennett and Leibsohn the last word, one that looks to the two alternatives of a McCain presidency and that opts for the more optimistic one:

Let’s admit the concern: Some people predict that a President McCain will open the borders, close Guantanamo, and tie our policies to some false premises related to global warming. We hope he doesn’t, but even critics must admit it is just as likely — if not more so — that his legacy will be the following: He pursued al-Qaeda to the ends of the Earth and vanquished them; he cut deficit spending and vetoed pork-barrel spending over and over again; he appointed four good justices to the Supreme Court; and he reinvigorated a sense of thoughtful patriotism, citizenship, and unselfish devotion to the Republic.

I knew I liked Romney *UPDATED*

Romney is as gracious in defeat as I’m sure he would have been in victory. Here’s Wizbang:

Mark Halperin at The Page says Romney will drop out of the race. His announcement could come at his CPAC speech at 12:30pm. This means that McCain is definitely the Republican nominee because Huckabee doesn’t have any chance sidetracking him. McCain speaks at 3:00pm today.

Update: Halperin is on Fox now and says three GOP sources have confirmed that Romney is dropping out. It’s disappointing to say the least, but I understand why he’s doing this. He may not make the announcement at this speech today, but at the very least he could make some strong signals of his plans.

Bill Kristol predicted that he would announce that he’s pulling out of the race at today’s speech.

Update II: Karl Rove is on the phone with Fox News and says that he’s hearing as well that those inside the Romney camp understand that he’s going to drop out.

Update III: Fox has confirmed that Romney will suspend his campaign. Romney is taking the high road in order to protect the country from a Clinton or Obama administration which would really hurt the US. (Emphasis mine.)

Read the rest here.

Ann Coulter can become a shill for Hillary, but I’m hoping others recognize that, no matter that McCain is not a conservative purist, he is still better than Hillary would be or, God forbid, Obama. And as I’ve said before, for all that Obama presents himself as a “unifier,” his hard left politics preclude him from ever unifying anything. McCain, however, who is a true centrist, may be just the person to heal some of the wounds this country has been feeling following two extremely divisive presidencies. I say that being fully cognizant of his many failings, both personal and political, but I’m a pragmatist, and refuse to lose sight of the fact that McCain is not just a little better, but is far better than the alternative.

And if you have doubts, think “Supreme Court.” Even if he doesn’t appoint strict constructionist purists, as Bush was able to do with Alito and Roberts, even if he appoints softer constructionists, they will still be better than the hard left activists that Hillary or Obama would try appoint. Assuming a Democratic presidency, if Republicans are anything less than 51% of the Senate, especially since many are RINOs, even if they prevent a serious activist, they’ll still end up allowing a soft activist onto the Supreme Court. With McCain, the worst we’d get would be a soft strict constructionist.

UPDATE: Don Surber writes eloquently about Republicans’ need to get over it:

Much has been written about McCain-Feingold and illegal immigration.

At some point conservatives must stop the teeth gnashing — and that time may not arrive until August — and ask themselves what besides his Vietnam service has John McCain done for the country?

They will find that 82% of the time he has been there for the conservative movement.

He has been there 100% for the troops in Iraq. His support of the troops begins with a letter that says, “Dear son …”

UPDATE II: For reasons entirely unclear to me, I popped up in high standing on Patrick Ruffini’s Romney Wire with this post. If you think I deserve that position, please feel free to click here, an act that will perpetuate my standing.

McCain is okay *UPDATED*

Now that McCain looks inevitable, I’m becoming sanguine. More than that, I’m hunting for his good points, and they are many:

1. He’s a hawk.

2. He will almost certainly nominate strict constructionist Supreme Court justices — and certainly more conservative than anyone Hillary or Obama would nominate.

3. He’s a hawk.

4. He claims to support lower, not higher taxes — unlike Obama and Hillary, who explicitly support higher taxes.

5. He’s a hawk.

6. He supports the Second Amendment — which Hillary and Obama most emphatically will not support.

7. He’s a hawk.

8. He’s pro-life, which is not a huge issue to me, but which is for many others — and Hillary and Obama are not.

9. He’s a hawk.

I’m going to ignore, because the above strengths are so important, his bad history and bad advisors when it comes to border control (and you know that’s a problem for me), because he’ll still be better than Hillary and Obama; as well as his dismal history on free speech, because he’ll still be better than Hillary and Obama.

Most importantly, give his real strengths, I’m going to focus on the fact that McCain can win. I can’t find the link now, but I definitely recall reading a week or so ago that, if the Presidential election were held right now, McCain would win. Certainly I know that Mr. Bookworm, staunch liberal though he may be, would vote for McCain over Obama. He’s terrified of Obama and would cross the aisle to vote against him. And given Hillary’s negatives, a lot of people would also cross the aisle.

I refuse to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. McCain is very much not perfect, but the good of America will not be served by seeing conservatives get into a snit and turn their back on the un-Hillary or un-Obama candidate. After all, this is how democracy works. Unlike other countries, where candidates are selected, we have the luxury of joining with our fellow citizens to select our own candidates. And if our fellow citizens, in their collective wisdom, select a centrist Republican rather than a conservative Republican, that’s our blessing and we have to live with it and optimize it.

One last thing: if McCain is inevitable, it does not behoove conservatives to alienate him. If top conservatives are too terrible to him and if, God willing, he beats Hillary/Obama, he may ending up feeling so hostile to his fellow conservative that he gets his revenge by closing the doors on them and turning to liberals for succor and advice.

UPDATE:  Here’s a comment that Mike Devx left at another post on this blog, and I think he’s absolutely right:

The level of hatred and vituperation against McCain is simply astonishing to me.  Politics is a rough-and-tumble business, but this level of divisiveness seems profoundly harmful to me.  I’d be personally comfortable with any of McCain, Romney, or Huckabee as the candidate, so I’m perhaps a terrible judge of this.

A few points:

McCain is staunchly pro-life and has promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court.  For abortion voters, what else could be more important?  Consider that Reagan had a less than stellar record on Supreme Court appointments.

McCain carried the water for George Bush on the Shamnesty bill.  This was George Bush’s baby too.  Yet all the criticism goes to McCain.  Hardly fair, and there is more than whiff of hypocrisy.  Bush was more than ready to sign the bill had it passed.  And Bush signed McCain-Feingold with nary a protest, too, of any sort.  And then there’s the Reagan Shamnesty…

McCain is NOT a higher-taxes politician.  He demands spending cuts in concert with tax cuts.  A tax cut without a spending cut amounts to little more than printing free money and saddling future generations with more debt.  Cuts in taxes do increase revenue, but there’s a limit.

The antagonism appears to be related entirely to the fact that he’s got no respect for the evangelical wing of the Republican party.  On all the issues themselves, it’s hardly clear to me that there’s a good reason for the level of hate when other Republicans, including President Bush, hardly come in for anything near that level of criticism.

If you want a Reaganism, here’s one: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”   The Slick Willie response to that is to declare the McCain is not a Republican.  I’m ashamed of that kind of facile, Clintonesque response at avoiding responsibility.

A distinction without a difference

I’ve noted before, based on instinct that, when it comes to substance, nothing distinguishes Obama and Clinton from each other, in that they’re each extremely liberal. That, I said, is why they’ve had to fall back so frantically on their racial and sexual identities. It’s not just the “identity politics” chickens coming home to roost; it’s also the only way you can tell the two apart. My instinct regarding this matter is right on the money: according to the National Journal’s nonpartisan rating of Congress people, both are to the far left politically.  In addition, “‘The policy differences between Clinton and Obama are so slight they are almost nonexistent to the average voter,’ said Richard Lau, a Rutgers University political scientist.”

Also according to the National Journal, McCain has a lifetime rating as a conservative, although he’s grown less conservative with the passage of time.  He is something of a centrist which means, ironically, that if he’s elected, he could be the uniter, which is the mantle Obama currently claims for himself.  That is, Obama speaks unity, but operates at the fringe.  McCain really does seem to function out of the center.

Hat tip: Captain’s Quarters

On McCain’s apparent front-runner status *UPDATED*

Compared to Romney, I don’t like McCain. Compared to Obama or Hillary, I adore McCain and would happily vote for him — heck, if I were voting in Chicago (home turf for both Obama and Hillary), I’d vote for him twice, and have my ancestors vote for him too. You dance with them whut brung ya’, and it looks as if McCain may be the Republican dance partner in the 2008 Presidential election.

So, if you’re one of those conservatives who who thinks McCain is too liberal (and, compared to your candidate of choice, whoever he is, I’m sure you’re right), or who worries about the Gang of 14 (although reading this may allay some of your concerns), or who hasn’t forgiven him for McCain-Feingold, or who just plain doesn’t like him — get over it! He may not be the perfect Republican candidate, but he’s so much better than either Hillary or Obama that it really doesn’t matter. If you believe in conservative principles and fear the fall-out from Democratic policies, you have what amounts to a moral obligation to get out there in November and vote for him. Do not, I repeat, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Also, if it makes you feel better about casting your vote, there are some indications that he is truly a winning candidate. That is, you won’t be compromising your principles with a vote that is ultimately wasted. A Rasmussen poll that the Captain discusses has him beating out both Obama and Hillary if an election were held today. Now, that may change when one of the Dems emerges victorious from the primary process, in which case more voters may coalesce around the winner, but it’s still good news for those who feel that it’s as important for a Democrat to lose as for a Republican to win.

And if you think I’m being exceptionally vindictive in devoutly wishing for a Democratic loss, here’s my defense: While I think we as a nation are a robust enough to fix any economic messes the Democrats may cause, I also think that we have a one shot deal to remain ascendant when it comes to the World War that the Islamists are waging against us. If we have a Democrat in the White House, especially Obama who can’t get out of Iraq fast enough, we’ll have wasted that shot.

(I have to admit I’m not pleased with Michelle Malkin for hinting that she’d rather see Hillary win than help out McCain. Hmmm….)

UPDATEBig Lizards has a very compelling post about McCain’s charisma — an important intangible we often overlook.  I have to say that, when I catch McCain’s speeches on the radio, I enjoy listening, which is not something I can say about any other politician’s speeches, including those of my man Romney.

Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.