Whew, e-mail overload. I’ve heard from just about everybody.
McCain haters. Bush haters. Gore haters who think Bush can beat McCain. Gore haters who think McCain can beat Gore. Keyes lovers who think it’s still a three-man race. People who think Bush and McCain colluded to sink the Lusitania (there’s a lot of overlap between the last two).
My favorite criticism comes from those who chastise me for saying the campaign so far has been “fun.”
“Do you realize the stakes!?”, one asks me — as if I must be suffering from false consciousness. “I think it is immature of you to call the decision-making process of a free people ‘fun,’” says another.
Hold on, I’m about to sneeze…hold on…oh no wait. That was actually a huge yawn elicited from such mock piety. What’s wrong with you guys? Lighten up.
You know that old joke about academia, “the knives are so big because the stakes are so small”? Well, that applies to GOP primaries between two good candidates, too.
The future of the free world does not rest on what happens in the March 7 Republican primary. The future of a few hundred rent-seeking party hacks does weigh in the balance, but so what?
Either John McCain or George W. Bush will become the nominee. Truth be told, I’d prefer it if that nominee were Johnny Mac, mostly because — tighten your sphincters, you defenders of Western Civilization — because it would make politics more fun.
Why would a McCain administration be more fun? Well, there is the relative argument; he is simply more entertaining than the alternatives. Bradley is perhaps the biggest bore in modern political history. If I were handcuffed to a pole at a Bradley lecture, er, I mean “speech,” I’d chew off my own arm, not just so I could escape, mind you. I’d use the pain to remind myself I was still alive.
Gore, we are learning, isn’t really dull so much as a profane and remorseless liar. When speaking, he pushes his lies like a tugboat straining against the tide; slowly, unwaveringly, and with incredible determination. It’s not exciting to watch, but it gets the job done. Still, I’d rather eat my pants — while wearing them — than endure a Gore presidency.
And then there’s Bush. I’m sorry, he may be infinitely preferable to the Democratic nominee, but he is not an exciting figure in any way that I can tell. The way he talks annoys the hell out of me, and it’s not just because he can’t stop putting a “the” in front of words that don’t require one — “it is good to cut the taxes,” he says all the time. It’s like Louis XIV translated into Texan.
He uses adjectives like “very” and “really” and “super” like an eighth grader giving an oral report. Can’t you see a young GW saying: “George Washington Carver invented the peanut; and that was super-significant, because without him we really wouldn’t have the peanut butter, which is super. And the fact that Carver was an African-American, the community is very important, is really, really, significant.”
Meanwhile, McCain calls Leonardo DiCaprio an “androgynous wimp.” He sarcastically points out on Meet the Press that the Cubans can’t make a toilet that flushes, but they can pull together a hell of a “spontaneous” protest. And perhaps most importantly, upon hearing about a minor diplomatic dust-up, he says “this is just another of the many reasons I hate the French.”
Veteran readers of this column know how that sort of thing is music to my ears. But it raises a super-significant, really important point, as George might say. McCain may indeed be wrong on a bunch of issues — campaign finance reform being the chief one — but he isn’t squishy about it. McCain talks like a fighter relatively unconcerned with other people’s feelings. And I, for one, am sick of hearing about people’s feelings.
Compassionate conservatism is not so much the Republican alternative to Clintonism as it is the Republican version of it. I’m sick of government trying to feel my pain. I’d like government to feel my boot in its ass. The other day I heard George Bush say that the message from his administration will be that parents should love their children. Excellent news! Maybe in his second term he’ll issue the executive orders that dogs should continue licking themselves.
Any parent who can be persuaded by the federal government to love his children shouldn’t have them.
Anyway, on to the second McCain argument. A lot of pro-Bush or Keyes people write me complaining that my “pro-McCain” arguments are all tactical. So far, this has largely been true. What’s funny about this is that other Bushies scream at me, with a hysteria better reserved for occasions when a boa constrictor is slithering up your pant leg, that my arguments are “monstrously liberal” or so much “hate-filled socialism!” Some people actually make both points, which is fascinating insofar as a purely tactical argument can’t be “straight out of the Communist Manifesto!”
Anyway, the criticism that I haven’t spent enough time on the substance is fair. This is partly because I’ve been lazy — my belly has a “Now Even Larger!” sign on it — and partly because I can’t find too much distance between the candidates. (Oops, I mean the “viable candidates”; Alan Keyes is still in the race, and his “abolish everything that passed Congress since 1870″ platform is distinct from his opponents’.)
McCain’s better than Bush on trial lawyers, internet taxes and defense reform. Bush is stronger on tax cuts (though let us not forget that McCain opposed papa Bush’s tax hike), faith-based programs and, until recently, campaign-finance “reform.” Now that he’s playing me-too on campaign finance, I don’t know. When it comes to defense and foreign policy it’s about a tie, on paper. In reality, though, the credibility goes to McCain, who clearly cares more about the military — enough to annoy some veterans groups, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
(Of course there is abortion. And I know this will anger some people, but guess what? I don’t want to talk about abortion right now. The people who write me saying McCain’s a baby-killer and favors abortion of demand cannot be persuaded otherwise anyway. But McCain’s long standing pro-life and high ACU ratings should speak for themselves.)
In short, I am for McCain because I can afford to be. His philosophy, such as it is, as well as his character and biography come from the stop-your-whining school of politics. To the extent that I can be inspired by anything other than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, saving little girls from wells, and exceptional pizza coupons, I find his campaign inspiring. And, more importantly, I find it fun.
I will be writing a separate response to the National Review Online poll in which a third of our readers said they’d rather stay home than vote for McCain in the fall. If you are one of these people, you will bang your high-chairs quite a bit when you read it. The piece will be posted tonight.
Yes, the piece I wrote in today’s Wall Street Journal identified me as a syndicated columnist. I will tell you all about that and what that means for all of us on Monday. I’ve got a big favor to ask, by the way.
In the meantime I have a small favor to ask. The fair Ms. Gavora and I are looking to procure a canine. Our first choice is a harrier, probably to be named “Jump Jet” (get it?). The harrier is a very noble beastie. Unfortunately, it is rare in the United States. If you’ve got pull with a breeder, drop me a line. Put the word “Harrier” in the subject header.
Okay, back to business. We are still looking for a new webmaster. We are not looking for: Consultants, free advice, free criticism, people who just want to hang out at National Review, or sickos who don’t know jack about HTML but are into the regular beatings that come with the job. Yes, I know moving to New York is a turnoff for some (though not for those in search of the beatings). We are willing to hire young and offer some on the job training, but you can’t be totally ignorant. You’ll need to know where the plutonium goes and all that.
Look for breaking news and analysis throughout the day, the weekend and all next week. We’ll be covering developments in Ohio, California, and NYC. We’re ready for the Diallo verdict. Also, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, me, and the gang are jumping in our paisley green van to solve ghost mysteries and look for adventure.