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Posted by on Aug 9, 2008 in Politics | 15 comments

WSJ Market Watch Lists Reasons Why McCain Would Make a Mediocre President

The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch points out that the McCain meme “Is he ready to lead?” begs the question whether McCain is. Rex Nuttimg lists several reasons McCain would be a mediocre president. The quoted material which follows is all extracted from the Nutting piece, which provides quite the brutal reframing of McCain’s career. As Ron Beasley says at Newshoggers, it’s a sort of nutshell version of McCain. I’ve extracted the morsels that most interested me. Nutting’s conclusion:

His major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to survive…Just surviving doesn’t make you’re a hero, or a decent president. America needs to do more than survive the next four years.(MW)

His major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to survive…Just surviving doesn’t make you’re a hero, or a decent president. America needs to do more than survive the next four years.(MW)

Mark Kleiman points out that this isn’t quite fair. “[Nutting] neglects McCain’s really heroic work with John Kerry in bringing about reconciliation with Vietnam (taking on the powerful POW/MIA racket in the process).” I definitely agree with this—it’s one of the reasons I used to think I might be able to stomach a McCain presidency.

Nutting charges that McCain has accomplished comparatively little in the Senate given the length of his tenure—and the reason you don’t hear about the things he did accomplish is that those accomplishments angered Republicans. (Of course, those unmentionable accomplishments/endeavors are exactly the reasons I sort of liked him.)
There’s also the matter of missed votes.

Every senator who runs for president misses votes back in Washington, so it’s no surprise that McCain and all the others who ran in the primaries have missed a lot of votes in the past year. But between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2007, no senator missed more roll-call votes than McCain did, except Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.(MW)

The reason I used to think I could deal with a McCain presidency if I had to is that McCain used to seem rather a moderate Republican. Nutting criticizes McCain’s lack of any firm principle, including his changed stance on virtually every issue.(MW) As I commented elsewhere, he hasn’t just modified his positions; he’s changed his entire posture. Steve Benen lists reversals here and Bill W. has a concise summary here.

Arguing that McCain is shallow (or is running a shallow campaign), Nutting writes:

McCain has not articulated any lofty goals. So far, his campaign theme has mostly been “McCain: He’s None of the Above.”

In the primaries, he campaigned on “I’m not that robotic businessman, I’m not that sanctimonious hick, I’m not that crazy libertarian, I’m not that washed-up actor, I’m not that delusional 9/11 guy.” In the general election, he’s emphasized that he’s not that treasonous dreamer. (MW)

It’s true: there’s no real theme to his campaign. I thought—since moderates clearly selected him—he’d play to moderates, but so far the message (never clearly articulated) implied is that he intends to do what Bush did, only more so.

Nutting points out that even during McCain’s “maverick days” (which I personally lament), he’s simply not had the “leadership” to bring “more than a handful of Republicans along with him on issues such as campaign finance reform or immigration.”(MW) And Democrats have worked with him without ever “warming to him.”(MW)

Nutting also takes a hit at his much-touted military accomplishments:

[Despite poor performance at Annapolis], he was commissioned as a pilot, where he performed poorly, crashing three planes before he failed to evade a North Vietnamese missile that destroyed his plane. McCain spent more than five years in a prison camp. (MW)

Furthermore, Nutting charges that McCain didn’t actually learn the lessons of Vietnam:

McCain is fighting an imaginary Vietnam War, where a sure victory could have been achieved with just a little more bombing, just a little more “pacification,” just a little more will to win at home. This fantasy clouds McCain’s judgment on foreign policy. Most of the other high-profile politicians who fought in Vietnam — Colin Powell, Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, and Jim Webb — aren’t stuck in the past, and they don’t view the Iraq War as a chance to get Vietnam right.(MW)

As Bob Fertik says, it’s kind of “the ultimate McCain smackdown.”

Ron Beasley comments:

Remind me again – who isn’t fit to lead? A reporter working for Rupert Murdoch has come up with a better campaign ad than anyone in the Democratic Party. (emphasis added)

Kleiman says, “I think Nutting sees McCain more clearly than the worshippers on McCain’s press plane.”

Amen to that.

Nobody, including Nutting, ever mentions Keating 5. Why? I’ll mention it now: Keating 5. Why should it be off limits? It was a real, honest-to-God scandal and something that happened. Even if he redeemed himself (as some say), still: Keating 5. I know lots of people who haven’t forgotten it, starting with my mom, who—though she’s always voted Republican—says she can’t bring herself to vote for either candidate.

CROSS-POSTED AT BUCK NAKED POLITICS (slightly different form)

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