I, Robot: As of this writing (2/11/08), it appears that John McCain will be the Republican candidate for president. He is a complicated man who has made mistakes and that seems to greatly trouble many conservatives. Nevertheless, his ACU (American Conservative Union) ratings are good and his ADA (Americans For Democratic Action) and ACLU scores are terrible - pretty much the opposite of those for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
And yet, there is copious weeping and gnashing of teeth across The Land because McCain isn't Reagan. Not the real Ronald Reagan, of course, but the mythical Perfect Reagan Robot, programmed with folksy quotations and quips. Ronnie The Robot is presented as the True Conservative. This must truly piss-off the shade of Barry Goldwater, who blazed the trail for The Gipper. But Barry failed to win the presidency because he was lazy and irascible. When they finally perform The Goldwater Story on radio, his part will be performed ably by Fred Thompson.
Now, I greatly admired Ronald Reagan and voted for him both times. But he made mistakes. As any human does.
Of course, the Reagan Robot had to be developed to counteract the Perfect JFK Robot trotted out oh-so-frequently by liberals. The one with great hair and teeth who rides a white stallion while singing (in Richard Burton's voice), "There's simply not, a more congenial spot, for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot." Meanwhile, Queen Jackie rides sidesaddle on a white filly while, further back in the procession, Marilyn Monroe is secretly transported in a well-upholstered trunk equipped with breathing holes. And a vial of Nembutal.
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder how the hell Jimmy Carter ever got elected. Then I remember: JFK hair, JFK teeth. (And maybe, Betty Davis eyes.)
I admired John F. Kennedy, despite his human failings. There is a particular irony about the JFK myth. Even though he is revered by lefties, Kennedy was - in fact - a centrist. Some folks get confused about this because they think that white-haired, pale Teddy Kennedy is JFK's ghost, prowling the Senate chambers as night falls. Nope. Ol' Ted's waaaay too liberal. And too fat. (Good swimmer, though.)
There is no McCain Robot. John is human. He has made mistakes - as an elected representative and as a person. But he acknowledges them and seems to learn from them. At heart, McCain is a patriot, a war hero, a man who sees the danger in today's world and a politician with conservative leanings. His views are, interestingly, a blend of the real Reagan and the real JFK.
John McCain appeared at CPAC (an ACU sponsored event) last Thursday and gave a stirring speech. Excerpts:
"I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you that most basic of conservative principles: that liberty is a right conferred by our Creator, not by governments, and that the proper object of justice and the rule of law in our country is not to aggregate power to the state but to protect the liberty and property of its citizens."
"I believe today, as I believed twenty-five years ago, in small government; fiscal discipline; low taxes; a strong defense, judges who enforce, and not make, our laws; the social values that are the true source of our strength; and, generally, the steadfast defense of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which I have defended my entire career as God-given to the born and unborn."
McCain also "pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a way that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration."
"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama want to increase the size of the federal government. I intend to reduce it. I will not sign a bill with earmarks in it, any earmarks in it. I will fight for the line item veto, and I will not permit any expansion whatsoever of the entitlement programs that are bankrupting us. On the contrary, I intend to reform those programs so that government is no longer in that habit of making promises to Americans it does not have the means to keep."
"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I intend to cut them. I will start by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. I will cut corporate tax rates from 35 to 25% to keep industries and jobs in this country."
"I will not sign a bill that has earmarks in it. Any earmarks."
"I will make the Bush tax cuts permanent."
Considering the alternative on the Democratic side, John McCain is good enough for me. I selected him on my mail-in ballot for the state primary and plan to vote for him again in November. (And I did.)
Update: By 2018, Senator John McCain was suffering from terminal brain cancer and seemed to be in the business of Settling Scores, dissing his former running mate, Sarah Palin, delivering the decisive and ostentatiously-choreographed vote to kill the Senate Obamacare-repeal bill and doing his best to undermine President Trump, a man McCain obviously despises. As Steven Hayward wrote, "McCain's extreme vanity gets in the way of putting the public interest ahead of his towering ego."
On the other hand, it must be remembered that chemotherapy can affect the brain in strange ways. Patients say odd things, forget important items and mis-remember events. Or, maybe John is just a Bitter Old Man. Or mentally impaired by the brain cancer itself. Only God knows.