[9:00 pm edit] Links in the first paragraph, despite the cleanest of coding, persistently led to a non-existent archive. Unable to fix them, I dumped them.
We can start with the temper issue: McCain is reputed to have a quick and sometimes nasty temper. In fact, it’s been a shadow issue with him for quite a while.
Is that what we want in a President? Hard to say. It’s certainly what we’ve had in Presidents, good and bad. Tempers flashed and flared with Truman and Eisenhower and Johnson and Nixon; things were more tranquil with Carter and Reagan.
Still, is it a good thing or a bad? Where would be be, say, if Gore or Kerry had shown a genuine temper? I suspect either of them could have won with a quicker and more credible display of guts. (I excuse Clinton from this discussion: his forte was gall, not guts. The chutzpah kid.)
Temper, then. Maybe good, maybe bad. Until we can put it in context, not a decisive or even a strongly persuasive issue.Next up, and this is a big one: Ethics. For all his talk of honesty in government, of bringing campaign finances under control, he’s a man with a strangely checkered past. In 1991, he was one of the Keating Five, senators who tried to kill a federal investigation into the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan. Charles Keating, who had donated heavily to the five senators, was blamed for the collapse. McCain was criticized by the Senate Ethics Committee for “questionable conduct.”
To many observers, McCain’s “questionable conduct” continues today, and has even increased. A recent article in The New York Times reported on his continuing support from lobbyists and large contributors. (The article diluted its force by leading with hints of an affair with an attractive woman lobbyist, a topic which seems to have lost its value as a crowd pleaser.)
Moreover, McCain is clearly depending on lobbyists to this degree: he’s hired a lot of them to run his campaign, and used his clout as the nominee-presumptive to bring in another lobbyist as Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
David Brooks, who never seems to veer from the GOP party line in his soft-ball opining at the New York Times, wrote that
[A]ny decent person who looks at the McCain record sees that while he has certainly faltered at times, he has also battled concentrated power more doggedly than any other legislator. If this is the record of a candidate with lobbyists on his campaign bus, then every candidate should have lobbyists on the bus.
George Will of the Washington Post, who plays hardball, no matter his conservative credentials, sees the situation differently.
Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers — still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.
To close, I’d be much more kindly disposed toward McCain if, over the past eight years, he had combined his lurking temper and his vaunted (though challenged) ethics to this extent: that instead of making nice with Bush and the Rovians who had smeared him in South Carolina, he had, if not renounced them, at least held them at arms length instead of embracing them.
His performance over the past eight years has been, in its way, just a slight modification of the Gore/Kerry strategy. It didn’t work for them; I hope it doesn’t work for him.