Digging Into McCain

DIGGING INTO McCAIN….The redoubtable Matt Welch does the unconscionable today: he writes an op-ed for the LA Times in which he examines John McCain’s actual views on the issues. He’s not impressed:

McCain, it turns out, wants to restore your faith in the U.S. government by any means necessary, even if that requires thousands of more military deaths, national service for civilians and federal micromanaging of innumerable private transactions. He’ll kick down the doors of boardroom and bedroom, mixing Democrats’ nanny-state regulations with the GOP’s red-meat paternalism in a dangerous brew of government activism.

….If his issues line up with yours, and if you’re not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he’ll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable. Nowhere is that more evident than in his ideas about the Iraq war.

McCain has been banging the drum from nearly Day One to put more boots on the ground in Iraq. “There are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this,” he said on “Meet the Press” on Nov. 12, “but they all require the presence of additional troops.” McCain is more inclined to start wars and increase troop levels than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. He has supported every U.S. military intervention of the last two decades, urged both presidents to rattle their sabers louder over North Korea and Iran, lamented the Pentagon’s failure to intervene in Darfur and Rwanda and supported a general policy of “rogue state rollback.”

Hear hear. This doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, but despite his soothing speaking style McCain may literally be in the 99% percentile of hawkishness. That is, he may be more hawkish than every single one of his fellow senators. Some “centrist.”

McCain has been the focus of some moderately bad press lately because of his notable lack of straight talk ever since he got serious about running for president in 2008: pandering to Jerry Falwell, switching his views on Roe v. Wade, caving in on the torture bill, and abandoning his long-held views on campaign finance reform. And that’s all well and good. He deserves to get beaten up for this stuff the same as ordinary mortals do.

But his flip-flops get a lot of attention mainly because they’re easy to find and satisfying to point out. Actually looking past his occasionally “maverick” views is far more important, and it reveals a man who has seemingly learned nothing from the Iraq debacle and who is decidedly out of step with the views of at least two-thirds of the country. I suspect that many people find him more palatable than George Bush because he has consistent principles and a working intellect, but those principles are consistently dangerous and misguided. He might not bumble into disasters the way Bush has, but a deliberate and well planned disaster is every bit as bad as the Bushian kind.

Bottom line: If you think Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer would make good foreign policy advisors, then McCain is your man. However, if you’re not insane, that prospect will scare the hell out of you. As it should.