Monday, June 18, 2007

McCain: Good, Great, Bad, and Awful

If one person could ever be described in such a way it is John McCain. After reading government documents all weekend, I have decided to assign McCain an acronym: GGBA. Maybe BAGG. Yea thats better; McCain is a BAGG.

He confounds me. I would love to support him. He is truly a great war hero. It is impossible for any of us living our comfortable American lives to imagine what he went through. After being shot down over North Vietnam he was held prisoner for almost a decade (which must have seemed like centuries). His captivity began with him in a body cast lying in the mud being fed essentially flavored water. This would have been bad enough for anyone, but it was worse for him because his father was chief of all Naval operations in the pacific or CINCPAC for you acronym freaks. His father's position heightened his importance and intensified his cruel treatment. If McCain's story interests you then I highly suggest reading Faith of My Fathers. It is a truly inspirational book.

The good is commendable also. He has been a critic of Bush's handling of the war since before it was cool. Although his criticisms of the war were not heeded, it was the right thing to do. On earmarks and spending in general McCain is a hawk. Again here too he took a stance when it wasn't cool. Republicans were enjoying their raid on the bank while McCain was of the remaining fiscal conservatives left standing. Going against the popular political grain is tough enough, but it was his stance against the military industrial complex that is exemplary.

"Military industry lobbyists say they have long dreaded the prospect that Mr. McCain might ascend to the chairmanship of the committee, much less the presidency. He is the Senate’s most outspoken critic of military procurement policies, big Pentagon contracts, and especially earmarks — the Congressional add-ons to military spending bills that contractors crave.

“McCain has been a one-man wrecking crew,” said a prominent military lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity because he lobbies the committee." says the NYT

He has eschewed political expediency and fund raising (which may in the end sink his presidential campaign) for principle. I'm not sure there is a higher attainment for a politician than this.

The problem is when his stubbornness and political will is pointed in the wrong direction. This is where the ugly comes in. After the issues mentioned above, I can't think of a single issue that I agree with him. Not only has he been on the wrong side of many issue, but he has been the leader. He was not a sponsor for campaign finance; he did not simply vote for it; he is it. McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform is an abomination. Beyond being merely ineffective and reorganizing political campaigns (by shifting money towards independent 527's), it has pushed the constitution aside. Political speech is the target of the first amendment, not pornography or hate speech. That doesn't mean that I don't think that non-political speech shouldn't be protected. I do. But squelching political speech is in direct contradiction to what the founders intended. McCain should realize that all speech is equal. It is of no consequence if the person speaking has the opportunity and ability to speak more, i.e. rich.

Even his stance against earmarks and government spending is sometimes perplexing. The purpose of cutting spending should be to shrink the government. McCain has no desire to shrink the government. In fact he has seemed to support a larger government role in people's lives. At times he has even hinted at some sort of compulsory service requirement for all Americans. When he talks about service to country i sometimes can't hear what he is actually saying but instead hear the slight whisper of draft...draft...draft.

For these reasons, I cannot support him. For some odd reason though I still hate reading about his political downfall (the article cited above, and his recent poll numbers). Perplexing.

1 comment:

BillT said...

I don't mind his political downfall so much, it's only politics. But I can't stand the ad hominem stuff coming from bloggers like Dean Barnett.

The guy's a great warrior and poor politician. Wonder how we'd have done if the first six years of the Bush presidency had benefitted from McCain as Secretary of Defense?

You also left out the "Gang of 14" ruination of the nomination (and confirmation) process.

Yep, I love Lt. Commander John McCain III, but Senator McCain makes me angrier than pretty much anyone, excepting Senator Kennedy.