I was just reading the Kerry Spot (not sure about that name) on the McCain-as-veep boomlet.
I’m sorry but I think it’s all very cynical and very sad. Kerry’s smart to name-drop McCain everywhere he goes because it’s a nice symbolic way of reaching out to pro-war and pro-McCain moderates and independents. I like McCain translates into “I’m not the soft-on-Communism, soft-on-defense, UN loving peacnick my voting record suggests I am.” Though I could see this hurting Kerry down the road when he ends up picking someone far more liberal and far less exciting.
But the idea that McCain could or would be Kerry’s Veep is so profoundly cynical it really bothers me. Andrew Sullivan, for example, is in full swoon over the idea because he thinks McCain’s right on defense and the war and all that. Fine, but McCain’s voting record is completely opposed to Kerry’s on defense. And McCain would be the Vice President, as in the one who normally has to shed all of his views in order to be in sync with the guy at the top of the ticket (remembeer Joe Lieberman’s Vice Presidential Fire Sale of Principles? Everything Must Go!). Sure, maybe Kerry would flip-flop again in order to tailor his views to McCain’s — but that would be a boon to Nader and an outrage to the base — or, more likely, McCain would have to change his views for political reasons which would undermine his over-hyped integrity.
The cynicism in all of this becomes even more apparent when you consider Kerry’s recent suggestion that both Carl Levin and McCain were on his short list for Secretary of Defense. This is like saying that Steve Forbes and Dennis Kucinich are on short list to run Treasury.
But forget about defense. What about abortion? McCain’s pro-life. He may not be adamantly so, but that’s the way he votes. A prolifer on the Democratic ticket? Please. As Kate O’Beirne noted during 2000 campaign, abortion is still the one untouchable issue among Democrats. If McCain stood his ground on the issue it would be a nightmare for Kerry. If McCain flip-flopped on such a bedrock moral issue, he would defenestrate even more of his integrity.
Ultimately, what I find so distasteful about all of this is the degree to which it reveals issues don’t matter. Popularity and personal relationships count more than beliefs. McCain’s popular and he gets along with Kerry and the press, so who cares that with the exception of campaign finance “reform” McCain’s a fairly conservative Republican and foreign policy hawk and Kerry’s a fairly liberal Democrat and foreign policy dove? The Kerry-McCain boosters say “that’s the genius of it! It would be a unity ticket!”
Fine, I just don’t believe that false unity is better than honest disagreement.