Monday, September 10, 2007


McCain's, Petraeus, and GOP 'Daddy' Figures

by: Matt Stoller

Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 10:09:33 AM EDT

Relatively speaking, there's not a lot of press coverage of Republican Presidential candidates, though there is tremendous parsing of misquotes of Obama's wife's statements about which bed she sleeps in, Oprah's questionably relevant endorsement, or the Clinton campaign's tangential relationship to one donor out of thousands.

But it really is a good question as to why the Beltway establishment isn't pointing out that John McCain regularly says things that are, simply put, crazy.

Today, leading Democratic presidential candidates vote against funding for our troops engaged in war in Afghanistan and Iraq," McCain said in a speech to the California Republican Party convention. "Today, leading Democratic presidential candidates question whether there is a war on terror, offer to enter into unconditional negotiations with our worst enemies, and talk about countering the forces of radicalism by advocating surrender to them in Iraq.

First of all, McCain's accusation, that Democrats want to 'surrender' to the forces of radicalism, is remarkable for its sheer extremist bent. The only possible meaning is that a policy change in which the US forces no longer occupy Iraq indefinitely is somehow treasonous. The vast majority of the US public disagrees with this assessment, which is increasingly part of a fringe corner of a lunatic right-wing world. The Beltway world isn't bothering to incorporate this stunning assertion, repeated endlessly by various right-wing bloggers, into their narrative. John McCain, far from a fringe candidate who rhetorically associates with some of the most extreme elements of American culture and seeks an indefinite occupation of a foreign country, is a mainstream Presidential candidate, perhaps a reformer, a maverick, a straight-shooter, but always an honorable guy.

I don't know why this is, but I was having a rather depressing conversation yesterday with a few Hill staffers, and we talked about our mutual frustration with Democrats who believe in 'adults' like McCain, Mike McConnell, Colin Powell, and the latest showhorse, David Petraeus. They just need to trust someone, anyone, in the administration, to give them facts, even if there is no one trustworthy in the entire operation. I think this is generational, and is bound up in our entire think tank and media culture. Let's go back to the penultimate 'liberal hawk', to Tom Friedman, who wrote the following in November, 2002.

With the Dems out of business, the real opposition party on foreign policy will now be the ''De Facto Democrats'': Colin Powell, John McCain and the British prime minister, Tony Blair. They are the only voices that, if raised in opposition to any Bush foreign policy initiative, could restrain the president and sway the public. That is not true of any Democrat today.

What the last election showed us is what a deep trauma of vulnerability 9/11 etched on the American psyche. ''While the Democrats failed to articulate a broad range of policy differences with President Bush,'' said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute, ''their key failure was their inability to persuade Americans -- in their guts -- that they were prepared to deal with the world as it really is now.'' That is a world full of terrorists and rogue regimes dedicated to our destruction and not responsive to therapy or social work.

...The reason the De Facto Democrats are so important, and have a future, is that people trust that they see the world as it is -- but also aspire to make it a better place. That is where the soul of America is.

This misjudgment is unbelievably profound. John McCain was a 'de facto' Democrat, though now he's practically accusing leading Democrats of treason, and that's not even speaking to the error of considering Colin Powell or Tony Blair meaningful opposition figures to Bush. Tony Blair.

Anyway, this desperation that baby boomer establishment figures have to believe in someone, anyone, leads them to fall in love with the latest assuring Republican Daddy figure, like that ole' maverick John McCain in 2002. And then when these people unmask themselves as extremist right-wing fringe elements of society, the establishment simply cannot cope, and so ignores their turn.

Fortunately, the public has learned to ignore the establishment.

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