What happened to John McCain?

by havoc

McCain was always the respectable Republican, who opposed
tax cuts without spending cuts, did not deny environmental
threats, had a reasonable approach to immigration, and was against the
scorched-earth Rove-style politics. Somehow he has reversed himself on
all of these things while running for president. It’s not
even clear he still opposes torture (see this
vote,
for example).

I don’t consider flip-flopping in itself to be bad; the famous
Keynes
quote
is, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you
do, sir?“

But the facts haven’t changed, McCain has. Read this
interview with Time magazine
— cringe-inducing. I just feel bad
for him.

McCain 2008 is so unlike McCain 2000, it’s very hard to understand
what’s going on. I’m not willing to write this one off as “politics“
because it feels unusual and strange.

On top of McCain’s personality-ectomy, since just before the
convention, his campaign has kicked into a series of
frivolous distractions. The New York Times has an
article
and an
op-ed
about it, but if you’re a New York Times hater, factcheck.org is excellent and calls
both candidates on their inaccuracies. factcheck.org doesn’t try to
make a subjective judgment about which candidate distorts the most,
but read the last couple months of fact checks on each of them and see
what you think.

On at least two substantive policy matters, taxes and health care, the
candidates are failing to have a real discussion — McCain has been
repeating misleading talking points instead of engaging with and
debating the actual proposals.

And Sarah Palin — in her first interview, she says this with a
straight face:

What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia
from land here in Alaska. From an island in Alaska.

Come on. She’s applying for a serious job.

While a hollywood
actor mocking creationism
is not going to win over any swing
voters, I have to agree with the “Disney movie” part of the sentiment.

To combat this, before announcing Palin’s nomination, the McCain
campaign seems to have invented a narrative that “they” are attacking
her family, attacking her because she’s a woman, blah blah. Even
though Obama did
the opposite
and condemned attacking her family, McCain stuck to
the talking points. And though it took his campaign a couple weeks,
they found this “lipstick on a pig” comment they could use as
“evidence” for the talking points they’d already been pushing. Obama responded
very well
— emphasizing how ridiculous it is to play
games given the weight of the substantive issues at stake.

If your attention span is too short to watch Obama’s serious responses, Jon
Stewart takes apart the pundits on Palin
in a more humorous way.

It makes me sad. When McCain won the nomination, though I was not
going to vote for him, I was happy that we would have two people
running with competence and integrity well above the politician
average, and well above most of the others in the primaries. It felt
somewhat “can’t lose” — the upgrade from Bush would be significant
either way. McCain 2008 is still better than Bush (it’s not a high
bar). But “new McCain” has been very disappointing compared to McCain
2000.

Mike
Evans reposted
a nice case for
Obama from Marc Andreessen
. Unfortunately, where the majority of
young people and “knowledge workers” see competence, a lot of swing
voters seem to see something negative.

There are serious problems facing the United States, especially the US
economy, and the economic problems ripple through national security
and other issues. Our economic problems have some straightforward
answers: simplify the tax code, make it a bit more progressive so we
have a solid base of consumers to buy stuff, reduce lost productivity
and inflation caused by a broken approach to health care, and — the
big one — address the redistribution of wealth and power from the US
to other countries created by our oil dependency.

One of the presidential candidates wants to talk about credible
solutions
to these problems, and one of them wants to talk about
distractions.

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2008–09.html#13)