Monday, August 18, 2008

GOP's Low Standards for McCain

GOP spinmeisters are humping the heck out of how great John McCain did at the Saddleback forum on Saturday night. Actually, I also think McCain did well because he hit his usual talking points and stump anecdotes in an effective manner.

But it's not like hitting your talking points is THAT big of a deal for a candidate like John McCain who's been running for president for the last twenty months.

But here's National Review editor Rich Lowry salivating in the New York Sun:
Within the first 15 minutes, McCain had established a moral seriousness stemming from his long experience as a national leader and his conduct in Vietnam as a POW that Obama simply couldn't match. Throughout the night, McCain brought up Iraq, al Qaeda and the Georgia crisis, while Obama was determinedly inward-looking. Asked whether he thinks evil exists, Obama cited Darfur, then street crime in the United States. McCain invoked Osama bin Laden.
Lowry's comments are fundamentally a reflection of the low standards that the right has for presidents. In the 2000 and 2004 campaigns, George Bush was given considerable credit for "beating expectations" any time he got his facts straight and worked his way though his talking points. The media liked Bush even though they didn't think he was knowledgeable and gave him points for showing almost any kind of knowledge.

The same was the case here.

The idea behind the Saddleback forum was for the religious public to get a better idea of how Barack Obama and John McCain what kind of persons they were apart from their talking points and how they thought about issues. That's a lot of what Obama did. He talked about himself as a person, his religious faith, his big controversial decisions, and his weaknesses as a human being. People who listened to Obama came away with a better idea of Obama's capacity for dispassionate evaluation of himself, the people around him, and various kinds of issues. They also came away with a sense of the kind of president he would be.

But McCain changed the game and used the Saddleback forum as a way to present his standard talking points and anecdotes to a national audience. Unless McCain has morphed into a version of his talking points, he didn't give any indication of what kind of person he is or how he thinks about any kinds of issues. McCain toed the conservative party line on every point and expressed no self-doubt about doing so even though he has recently changed his positions on a variety of issues like Bush's tax cuts and immigration.

For a conservative like Rich Lowry, stating the right-wing party line is the most important qualification that anyone could have for president.

But its a very low standard.

To the contrary, Obama showed himself as a whole person rather than an extension of his talking points. That's what gives Obama a chance to serve effectively as president of the whole country instead of just being president of his party.

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