Why a Staunch Conservative Like Me Endorsed Obama October 26, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
Tags: abandon McCain, conservative voice against McCain, conservatives criticize McCain, conservatives reject McCain, John Mcain, Ken Adelman, McCain and Palin, McCain character, McCain lack of character, McCain personality, McCain temper, Republicans reject McCain, roger hollander
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Ken Adelman, Huffington Post, October 24, 2008
That’s what I wondered when George Packer (ace of the New Yorker) asked whether he could post my intention to vote for Obama on his blog.
So I duly ignored him. Only when he bugged me two days later did I say okay, and responded in quick, instinctive emails back.
Little did I know the splash this would make. Not until a day later, when my wife and I were up in Philadelphia to teach leadership via scenes from Shakespeare’s Henry V for the Wharton Business School. When friends joined us for dinner at UPenn, they said their taxi driver had talked about my “endorsement of Obama,” having read it online during a break.
What’s most fun about unexpectedly “breaking through” on an issue is not feeling powerful, that you’re molding minds out there. People make up their own minds, based on lots more information than my personal inclinations.
Okay, this type announcement can give (maybe a few) conservatives some cover — not publicly to use with others, but privately to assure themselves that it’s actually okay to break away. To break with the most conservative, or Republican, candidate and vote (in my case, the first time ever) for “the other guy.”
And it’s not most fun dealing with longtime friends, fellow conservatives. Most are polite and say they understand, and they’ll get over it. Yet a few do get heated, show their disappointment, and say they can’t understand my taking a public stance (even if I privately stray).
I don’t enjoy those discussions, since I’ve long prided myself in being a staunch conservative.
Not a neo-con, since I was never liberal along the way (having campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964, when at that hotbed of lefty politics, Grinnell College). I’m really a con-con.
And not a staunch Republican, as I’ve never been to a Republican rally or convention (I came closest in 1980, after writing Don Rumsfeld’s speech and after we drove there; but I left Detroit before the convention opened).
So I’ve considered myself less of a partisan than an ideologue. I cared about conservative principles, and still do, instead of caring about the GOP.
Granted, McCain’s views are closer to mine than Obama’s. But I’ve learned over this Bush era to value competence along with ideology. Otherwise, our ideology gets discredited, as it has so disastrously over the past eight years.
McCain’s temperament — leading him to bizarre behavior during the week the economic crisis broke — and his judgment — leading him to Wasilla — depressed me into thinking that “our guy” would be a(nother) lousy conservative president. Been there, done that.
I’d rather a competent moderate president. Even at a risk, since Obama lacks lots of executive experience displaying competence (though his presidential campaign has been spot-on). And since his Senate voting record is not moderate, but depressingly liberal. Looming in the background, Pelosi and Reid really scare me.
Nonetheless, I concluded that McCain would not — could not — be a good president. Obama just might be.
That’s become good enough for me — however much of a triumph (as Dr. Johnson said about second marriages) of hope over experience.
Now what’s most fun about the media breakthrough is hearing from gobs of people from previous lives. Many long forgotten, reminding me of long forgotten times together. People emerging suddenly, from the dark matter of time, into the recesses of the brain.
These folks were important at various stages of my life — grammar school playmates, Grinnell classmates, Indianapolis cousins, Dan Quayle, Dick Allen, colleagues from the Reagan arms control agency (chuckling over my quip to Packer that I wouldn’t have hired Sarah Palin to a mid-level job there).
A veritable stroll down memory lane, to see a line of people who have touched my life at various times, in its varied stages, reconnecting in a most unexpected (even bizarre) manner.
Now that’s fun.
Another McCainite Jumps Ship September 18, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain.
Tags: election 2008, John McCain, McCain Campaign, McCain Flip Flop, McCain Hypocrisy, McCain opportunism, McCain temper, roger hollander
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How John McCain Lost Me
Elizabeth Drew, Politico.com
I have been a longtime admirer of John McCain. During the 2000 Republican presidential primaries, I publicly defended McCain against the pro-Bush Republicans’ whisper campaign that he was too unstable to be president (aware though I was that he had a temper). Two years later I published a positive book about him, “Citizen McCain.”
I admired John McCain as a man of principle and honor. He had become emblematic of someone who spoke his mind, voted his conscience, and demonstrated courage in bucking his own party and fighting for what he believed in. He gained a well-deserved reputation as a maverick. He was seen as taking principled positions on such issues as tax equity (opposing the newly elected Bush’s tax cut), fighting political corruption, and, later, taking on the Bush administration on torture. He came off as a man of decency. He took political risks.
Having emerged, ironically, from his bitter 2000 primary fight against Bush as an immensely popular figure, he set out to be a new force in American politics. He decided to form and lead a centrist movement, believing that that was where the country was and needed leadership. He went against the grain of his party on the environment, patients’ bill of rights, and, of course, campaign finance reform.
While McCain’s movement to the center was widely popular (if not on the right) – and he even flirted with becoming a Democrat – there’s now strong reason to question whether it was anything but a temporary, expedient tactic. (In his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For,” he wrote, revealingly, “I didn’t decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president…. In truth, I’d had the ambition for a long time.”)
When he decided to run for president in 2008, he felt he couldn’t win without the support of the right, so he adapted.
In retrospect, other once-hailed McCain efforts – his cultivation of the press (“my base”) and even his fight for campaign finance reform (launched in the wake of his embarrassment over the Keating Five scandal) now seem to have been simply maneuvers. The “Straight Talk Express” – a brilliant p.r. stroke in 2000 – has now been shut down.
When the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, widely opposed by Republicans, began to seem a liability during the 2008 primaries, his reforming zeal gave way to political exigencies, and he ceased mentioning his one-time triumph. Though in 2003 he had introduced a bill to fix some other problems with the campaign finance system, in later years his name was no longer on the bill.
When Bush, issued a “signing statement” in 2006 on McCain’s hard-fought legislation placing prohibitions on torture, saying he would interpret the measure as he chose, McCain barely uttered a peep. And then, in 2006, in one of his most disheartening acts, McCain supported a “compromise” with the administration on trials of Guantanamo detainees, yielding too much of what the administration wanted, and accepted provisions he had originally opposed on principle. Among other things, the bill sharply limited the rights of detainees in military trials, stripped habeas corpus rights from a broad swath of people “suspected” of cooperating with terrorists, and loosened restrictions on the administration’s use of torture. (The Supreme Court later ruled portions of this measure unconstitutional.)
McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.
Other aspects of McCain, including his temperament, began to trouble me. He seemed disturbingly bellicose. He gave the Iraq war unflagging support no matter the facts. He still talks about “winning” the war, though George W. Bush gave that up some time ago. As the war became increasingly unpopular, he employed the useful technique of blaming its execution rather than recognizing the misconceptions that had led him to be one of the most enthusiastic champions of the war in the first place.
Similarly, in making a big issue of having backed the surge (and simplifying the reasons for its apparent success), he preempts debate on the very idea of the war. He has talked (and sung) loosely about attacking Iran. More recently, he oversimplified this summer’s events in Georgia and made intemperate remarks about Russia, about which he’s been more belligerent than the administration for some time. (He has his own set of neocons.)
There’s an argument that all this compromise wasn’t necessary: some very smart political analysts believed from the outset that McCain could win the nomination by sticking with his old self. And they still believe that McCain won the nomination not because he gave himself over to the base but as a result of a process of elimination of inferior candidates who divided up the conservative vote, as these observers had predicted. (These people insisted on anonymity because McCain is known in Republican circles to have a long memory and a vindictive streak.)
By then I had already concluded that that there was a disturbingly erratic side of McCain’s nature. There’s a certain lack of seriousness in him. And he does not appear to be a reflective man, or very interested in domestic issues. One cannot imagine him ruminating late into the night about, say, how to educate and train Americans for the new global and technological challenges.
McCain’s making a big issue of “earmarks” and citing entertaining examples of ridiculous-sounding ones, circumvents discussion of the larger issues of the allocation of funds in the federal budget: according to the Office of Management and Budget, earmarks represent less than one percent of federal spending.
Now he’s back to declaring himself a maverick, but it’s not clear what that means. If he gains the presidency, is he going to rebel against the base he’s now depending on to get him elected? (Hence his selection of running mate Sarah Palin.) Campaigns matter. If he means “shaking up the system” (which is not the same thing), opposing earmarks doesn’t cut it.
McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man.
In fact, it’s not clear who he is.