Politics & Policy

Hey John: Here’s How Ya Do It

Your outrage seems to be backfiring.

John McCain seems frustrated that more people aren’t outraged by the assault on Warren Rudman. He couldn’t get off of the topic in his conversation with radio host Michael Reagan yesterday. There is a very simple answer.

McCain is of course right. Warren Rudman is not a “vicious bigot.” He is an overly virtuous buffoon. Few in the conservative movement like him, because he is a sanctimonious, dull dinosaur from the Nelson Rockefeller days of the Republican Party. Free- marketers don’t like him because he thinks that if all the beads don’t add up on the abacus, it ain’t good economics. Social conservatives don’t like him because he is a squishy Planned Parenthood kind of guy. I don’t like him because during the 1980s he was the whiny mother-in-law in the back of the Reagan wagon train who kept complaining about every little thing. “How are you going to pay for that? Hmmm,” “Do you really think that’s such a good idea?” “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”

Still, people are reluctant to defend him because it’s annoying to defend someone so annoying. It’s sort of like someone calling Alec Baldwin too didactic or the French too eager to rush off into battle half-cocked. Warren Rudman is the Mrs. Grundy of the Republican Party.

Indeed, McCain’s outrage seems to be backfiring more generally, and for similar reasons. Yesterday, McCain alluded to the “evil” influence of Robertson and Falwell. Now, most conservatives I know don’t really like Robertson and Falwell that much. Obviously, these two can be sanctimonious, hard-edged and all that. But that is all counterbalanced by the fact that Robertson is so damned sexy.

Just kidding. Actually, there is plenty of room to ridicule Robertson. His books refer to the pernicious influence of the “Illuminati,” “European bankers,” and Masons. As of yet he has not written that the Pope, the Rothschilds, and the Queen of England conspired to put that chemical in Kentucky Fried Chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly. But one can only assume he will soon speak truth to that power.

Both Falwell and Robertson speak to a wing of the party that I don’t normally invite to my keggers and who don’t appreciate my appreciation for women’s-prison cinema. But that doesn’t make them the monsters the liberal press thinks they are. And their “followers” (a pretty bigoted liberal code word) are often the salt of the earth. As I always like to say to my liberal friends, a member of the Christian Coalition would be far more likely to pull over on a highway at night and help you change a tire than pretty much anybody with a “Visualize World Peace” bumper sticker.

Meanwhile, Farrakhan is an awful man — which is why George Bush shouldn’t be in favor of giving him tax dollars for his “faith-based” numerology clinics (“boys and girls remember: we do not believe in the number six. Six is the dirty Jew number. If you have to refer to it call it five plus one. Or, you can say something like twelve divided by two equals two descendents of Shem.”). Farrakhan is virulently anti-American and he is, in my humble opinion, a complete loon — unless the number nine can tell me differently.

As for Sharpton, he is, literally, the biggest demagogue in America. He is a windbag, whose hot, stinky breath carries with it more than the greasy smell of buffalo wings with extra ranch dressing; it carries lies, slander and racial violence worse than anything uttered by Father Coughlin.

Falwell and Robertson do not condone racial violence. They do not applaud store-owners having their shops burned down. They do not praise Hitler, nor do they call for the withdrawal of “their people” to separate nations. Robertson’s comments about the anti-Christ being one of my people notwithstanding, they have not done anything to encourage anti-Semitism remotely on par with Farrakhan. As far as Robertson’s role in the party goes, in 1996, as the Wall Street Journal points out today, he helped rally Republicans for Bob Dole — hardly evidence of an “evil” influence on the party.

Putting the substance of the attacks aside, McCain’s assault is bad politics. He reinforces the idea that McCain is willing to attack loyal Republicans in an effort to please the media and advance his own fortunes at the expense of the party. He has wildly overplayed the anti-Catholic card against Bush, and this is apparently already hurting him in New York among conservative Catholics. What McCain fails to grasp is that even if a lot of Republicans don’t love the Robertson types, they do not cotton to the idea that religious conviction equals bigotry. Conservatives have been defending the religious right for too long to appreciate McCain pulling the rug out from under them, to the applause of the liberal press. We prefer these kinds of fights to be held in private.

McCain needs to demonstrate that he cares about the Republican party, and that he is running as a Republican. That should be an extremely easy case to make, which is why I am so perplexed at his difficulty or refusal to make it.

My fellow McCain boosters say that he is bringing new people into the party as part of his McCain majority. Maybe so. But he is simultaneously trying to kick out a lot of people Republicans need and want in order to win the fight against Al Gore. I still think John McCain is the best candidate for the Republican Party in November, but not if he’s going to be campaigning on its ashes.


Many readers, outraged by my apostasy, have pointed out that my long-promised retort to those who would refuse to vote for McCain in the Fall has yet to surface. Some think it is because McCain’s recent statements have made it difficult for me to continue endorsing the Senator from Arizona. Others, knowing me well, assume it is because I got drunk on cheap wine and have spent the last three days wandering the streets dragging a shower curtain behind me and speaking in tongues. And still others really don’t care.

Well, the truth is I simply never got around to finishing it. And then McCain went and made my argument more difficult. And then I thought I could fly if I just used the shower curtain as a cape. And then.. oh never mind. I’m working on it. Leave me alone.

Yesterday, as many of you probably noticed, we at National Review Online decided to run the exit poll results as we got them (unfortunately the much-appreciated link from the Drudge Report had the equivalent effect of putting five hundred pounds of shinola in a fifty pound bag, and our server crashed). Now there has been some hand-wringing out there about the appropriateness of this. Our view was pretty straightforward: News is news.

But the internal arguments are pretty interesting. Is it elitist, as Jack Shafer of Slate magazine argues, for the press to know what’s going on but keep it a secret from the masses? Or does the press have an obligation not to interfere with the internal functions and procedures of a democracy? After all, one could argue that we discouraged some number of voters from heading to the polls.

I’ve been pondering it a bit and I must say I am torn. Expect a column about it in the future. In the meantime, it’s our poll question for today. Do you think NR should publish exit polls? Click here [Link defunct].  


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