Excuses, Excuses

by hilzoy

Yesterday, Jonathan Chait (who I normally like) wrote a piece about John McCain in which he said:

"McCain is pretty easy to take. His demagoguery comes with an awkward forced smile, which doesn't make it more forgivable but does make it less irritating."

Call this the Chait/Cohen/Kristof line on McCain: yes, he's willing to throw his principles overboard, but the fact that he hates doing it (and we are supposed to take their word for that) makes it all rather endearing, somehow. I find this baffling: why the fact that John McCain knows that what he's doing is wrong makes it "less irritating" is a mystery to me.

Chait also says:

"The best aspect of a McCain presidency is that, while it would probably follow the policies of George W. Bush, it would put an end to the politics of Karl Rove."

Really? In that case, I'm at a loss to explain not just McCain's willingness to take Rove on as an informal advisor, and to staff his campaign with Rove proteges, but his willingness to say things like this (h/t):

"I had the courage and judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Sen. Obama would rather lose the war in order to win a political campaign."

I don't know what Chait et al mean by 'the politics of Karl Rove'. To me, it has always involved a willingness to do just about anything to win, and in particular to make deeply dishonorable attacks on one's opponent. Saying that one's opponent would lose a war on purpose, for political reasons strikes me as pretty deeply dishonorable. Duels have been fought for far less.

McCain does have an "awkward forced smile" at the end of the clip I posted, but while that might make it less irritating to Chait, it does not have the same effect on me. Likewise, I'm sure Senator McCain knows that what he's saying is not true. But, as I said, I have no idea why the fact that he's lying about his opponent's patriotism and honor on purpose is supposed to make me think better of him.

John McCain is an adult. No one is forcing him to say these things. It's time people stopped making excuses for him.