Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain Campaign: Schizophrenic?

David Brooks makes an interesting point in today's column, "Thinking about McCain." His previous op-ed, "Why Experience Matters," openly questioned Palin's qualifications for the vice-presidency. In that article, Brooks noted the similarity between Palin's willfulness and W's "anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice," which (as we know all too well) resulted in "ineptitude at governance."

"Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness."


Predictably, pundits on both sides of the divide endorsed and took umbrage at his comments. (My favorite response was that of Gail Collins, in a post to her excellent"Conversation" with Brooks on NYtimes.com.) Brooks's comments were also reminiscent of a recent column by Peggy Noonan (made in response to the "it's over" controversy where comments she made on B-Roll of MSNBC footage were misconstrued to imply that she believed an Obama victory is inevitable) . Noonan writes,

"Early this morning I saw Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and as we chatted about the McCain campaign (she thoughtfully and supportively) I looked into her eyes and thought, Why not her? Had she been vetted for the vice presidency, and how did it come about that it was the less experienced Mrs. Palin who was chosen?"

Back to Brooks. Today's follow-up, a rather oblique endorsement of McCain, expresses discontent not with the man, but with the muddled mixed messages of his campaign to-date:

"...what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument.I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different."

What I think is far more interesting is the
fundamental paradox Brooks identifies in McCain's ideology:

"McCain has never really resolved the contradiction between the Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt sides of his worldview. One day he’s a small-government Western conservative; the next he’s a Bull Moose progressive. The two don’t add up — as we’ve seen in his uneven reaction to the financial crisis."

(A member of my cohort at Annenberg amusingly describes conservatives' rabid belief in small-government as "Goldwater western lunacy." Needless to say, we have different ideas about the role of government.)

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