Wednesday, January 16

Spit Valve For A Rusty Trombone

Matt Bai, "McCain's Michigan Test." January 15
It’s too early, of course, to know who will win today’s primary in Michigan. What’s interesting about this one, though, is the extent to which it would seem to test one of the principal ideas underlying John McCain’s campaign—that Republicans will respond to difficult truths rather than the distant echoes of an old ideology.

DARN! If only Michigan Republicans had been smart enough to vote against their own interests!
A lot of liberals and independents who loved Mr. McCain back in 2000...

Name three who aren't "journalists".
have turned on him now, partly because of his passion for the war in Iraq and partly because he has embraced other positions to make himself palatable to conservatives. (The most obvious example may be the Bush tax cuts, which Mr. McCain voted against, but which he now supports; his justification for this is so tortured that even anti-tax conservatives don’t really seem to buy it.) It’s true that, compared to the “straight talk” version in 2000, today’s McCain looks and sounds as doctrinaire as Tom DeLay. But compared to Mitt Romney and his other rivals in the field, Mr. McCain is still something of an anomaly, a longtime Republican senator who is willing—or even determined—to tell Republican voters what they may not want to hear.

Let's put this another way: Senator John McCain, professional "maverick" and recipient of a campaign mania à la Paul in 2000 which was so mild that when he was slimed in South Carolina no one cared, adopted the Bush tax cuts he'd opposed in 2000 as part of his 2008 makeover scheme and now he can't change back.

In 2000 McCain objected to Bush's tax cuts on the grounds they "unfairly targeted the wealthy". This, it would seem, was the opportunity to test whether Republicans "will respond to difficult truths rather than distant ideological echoes" across the entire country, not simply in the Wolverine State. And the answer was a resounding "No".
Mr. McCain, for instance, is the only Republican candidate who advocates an aggressive strategy to combat global warming,

The beauty of this being that, as a Republican, the issue isn't all that likely to come up.
Mr. McCain is also the only candidate in either party whom I have heard tell a hall full of voters that a lot of manufacturing jobs just aren’t coming back, and that’s a fact we have to live with. (Sounding more like Bill Clinton than Ronald Reagan, he has proposed that community colleges be drafted to retrain displaced workers for other jobs.) This may be the simplest, most obvious economic truth in American life, and yet politicians continue to insist that somehow it isn’t so.

Really? I must have missed it when the other Republicans ganged up on McCain about this.

Look, Indiana has--or should I say, traditionally has had, a lot of auto industry jobs, and it's been badly mauled. It has a governor who got elected making amorphous claims about the lack of jobs creation by the previous administration (while he served as OMB director) compared to his own entrepreneurial competence. And when they closed Delco he first threw his flyweight behind cutting pay and benefits by 2/3, then touted replacement jobs at a new call center. You call that "straight talk," I call it "pandering to people who don't happen to be in the room at the time".
This all could make for a pretty substantive, forward-looking debate with a Democratic nominee in the fall.

What the hell, let's try something that's never been done before. I'm sure the Press will do its part, eh?
A lot of issues and personality factors will affect the results from that state, but one question would seem to be whether conservative-leaning autoworkers and other Republican voters can respect a man who tells them that their beleaguered industries have to figure out how to adapt, that it isn’t necessarily government’s fault, and that some of their jobs have disappeared for good. If John McCain can take that message to Michigan and emerge with a win, it may signal that industrial-state voters understand more about modern reality than most of their leaders tend to think.

Good Lord. The Press in general, and the Times and WaPo in particular, seem determined to prove their 2000 coverage was no fluke. People in Michigan understand as well as anyone. What's more, they've understood it for thirty-five years, or roughly since the days when someone set up Matt Bai's first trust fund.

I still say McCain is toast, and I like to think this sort of thing is partly to thank. He's an attractive enough guy (if you don't look too close), devoid of intellectual heft, who got this phony-baloney "maverick" and "straight-shooter" rep from a bunch of people who cover politics but would rather be working for Entertainment Tonight, and who can't conceive of, let alone remember, a Republican party that didn't march in lockstep. He's the longest-running Presidential campaigner since Reagan, but he never gets tagged for "ambition"; he's made every miscalculation a candidate could--if he's flopped his flips less dramatically than Romney, still his full embrace of the war at a time when it was still popular enough to keep Bush in office, but obviously deep and inextricably in shit, seriously calls his judgment into question; and his Reaganesque brain-bubble episodes are more than a little troubling in a man who'll be seventy-two freakin' years old come election day. He might have been the alternative to Giuliani, or Huckabee, but he can't be the alternative to Everybody. Mr. Campaign Finance Reform (void where inconvenient) is going to get hoist by his own canard. Maybe he can get Bob Dole's spot as a Viagra spokesman. 'Cause god knows the reacharounds don't show any sign of slowing down.

6 comments:

heydave said...

hoist by his own canard

*golf clap* I say, good one!

Brendan said...

Devastating closing! Excellent!

Glad to know I'm not the only one who loathes the press reverence for St. John.

Brendan said...

P.S. A bit of administrivia: I don't know if you care about such things, but I noticed that you have Tbogg in your blogroll, and the URL still points to his old blog. The new site, not that I like anything about it except the continued good content, is here.

Morgan P. said...

Apparently Michigan didn't like what they heard about manufacturing jobs, eh?

Julia said...

Actually, Romney did crawl up his ass about his "pessimism" and promised to bring back the jobs (although he could probably provide well-paying full employment if all the jobs he's made go away playing venture capital all miraculously reappeared in Michigan) and then (this is the beauty part) McCain backpedalled and said he was sunnily optimistic that the jobs would be back.

Houston said...

I now know what I want to call my autobiography: Spit Valve for a Rusty Trambone.

That's some good wordsmithing. The rest of the post is pretty good, too, but the title is brilliant.