George Will Endorsing Barack Obama?

It appears that George Will has had enough of John McCain.  Like myself, he’s long been a bitter opponent of McCain-Feingold and thought Sarah Palin an unimpressive — if thus far politically shrewd — choice for vice president.  McCain’s odd reaction to the recent bad news from Wall Street, though, has apparently been the last straw.

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.”

[…]

On “60 Minutes” Sunday evening, McCain, saying “this may sound a little unusual,” said that he would like to replace Cox with Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic attorney general of New York who is the son of former governor Mario Cuomo. McCain explained that Cuomo has “respect” and “prestige” and could “lend some bipartisanship.” Conservatives have been warned.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

It’s a valid question. McCain has indeed been horridly disappointing on the financial crisis. While Obama has looked unprepared by not having an instant response to the unfolding crisis — which was also the case with the Russian invasion of Georgia — McCain has perhaps gone too far in the other direction.

George Patton famously said that, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” He offered no advice, however, on what to do with a bad plan.

McCain remains my choice for November, for a host of reasons, but my enthusiasm lessens by the day, largely for the reasons Will outlines so forcefully in this column. McCain has staked much of his campaign on how he would rather lose an election than lose a war. The message is that he’s a man who puts principle above party and personal gain.     Indeed, that’s a large measure of why I preferred McCain to the Republican primary alternatives.

Unfortunately, the war represents one of the few areas where he seems to actually have principles.

I’m in the minority in thinking that anointing the Treasury Secretary as the unalloyed czar of the economy is a bad idea. So, the fact that McCain is backing the bailout and the biggest socialization of the American economy since the New Deal — if not in history — is forgivable. That he seems not even to be giving it a second thought, though, is much less so.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I’m in the minority in thinking that anointing the Treasury Secretary as the unalloyed czar of the economy is a bad idea.

    I don’t think that’s a minority opinion.




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  2. Alex Knapp says:

    My support for Obama has been largely on the same grounds as Will’s: for all my disagreements with him, Obama seems to be composed, levelheaded, and thoughtful. He is a ruthless pragmatist, but rarely compromises anything without a thoughtful gain. (No, he’s not perfect, but he’s better than most politicians.)

    And as someone who thinks that the best response to the financial crisis is to take a step back and absorb some information before we go charging in throwing money around, the lack of an “instant response” from Obama is a feature, not a bug. Indeed, most crises would benefit from government taking a step back and using some time to figure things out willy-nilly instead of charging in to “do something.”

    One other note here, by the way, is on this:

    Unfortunately, the war represents one of the few areas where he seems to actually have principles.

    This is my biggest problem with McCain. His principle on war, throughout his legislative history, has been, “more, please.” That’s my primary problem with him.




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  3. I think I’m going to start a write in campaign for Sarah Palin. There are reasons a lot of people on the right have never felt very good about John McCain.

    Alex, I tend to agree that Senator Obama is composed, levelheaded, and thoughtful. Unfortunately, his desire to use those admirable traits to advance the cause of an ever larger and more intrusive government and “living constitution” jurists is a dealbreaker for me. Hubris is what comes to mind whenever I hear a speech about hope and change. Just imagine what a triumvirate of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi can do!

    And to head off the usual retorts from the peanut gallery, yes the Bush administration and the McCain campaign seem to favor an ever larger and more intrusive government as well, which is why I don’t say many nice things about either of them.




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  4. Michael says:

    I think I’m going to start a write in campaign for Sarah Palin. There are reasons a lot of people on the right have never felt very good about John McCain.

    If you start acting like a Paul-bot, I reserve the right to call you a Palin-drone.




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  5. Michael says:

    Just imagine what a triumvirate of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi can do!

    Which Democrats would you rather have in charge of the House and Senate?




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  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    Alex, I tend to agree that Senator Obama is composed, levelheaded, and thoughtful. Unfortunately, his desire to use those admirable traits to advance the cause of an ever larger and more intrusive government and “living constitution” jurists is a dealbreaker for me.

    Yeah, but even with a Democratic majority, the GOP can still be a useful brake on the excesses of domestic policy. But on the foreign policy front, I want someone levelheaded whose first instinct isn’t “let’s go fight!” We don’t have a lot of checks on the President’s command of foreign policy, and this is a time where temperment becomes a vital part of who we choose for President.




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  7. Rick DeMent says:

    “…We’re all socialists now … “




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  8. Michael says:

    Yeah, but even with a Democratic majority, the GOP can still be a useful brake on the excesses of domestic policy.

    That’s like the people who claimed GW Bush was acceptable because he would surround himself with smart people. It looks good on paper, but what happens when it doesn’t actually turn out that way?




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  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Michael,

    If there’s one thing that I am sure of in this world, it’s that a GOP Congressional minority can be obstructionist.




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  10. Fence says:

    I’m with Alex. McCain’s “bottomless reservoir of certitudes” is on the short list of what is keeping me from voting for him, and Exhibit A is Iraq. Let’s even concede for argument that the Democrats’ plan in 2004 or 2006 would have caused us to “lose” Iraq, and let’s concede that we have now “won.” (Both debatable, especially the latter.) But what is it behind door #2 that we have “won,” besides a paper certificate saying “Woo-hoo, we didn’t Lose”?

    Perhaps because McCain sank so much into the meaningless war in Vietnam, it is impossible for him to come to terms with the idea that some wars cannot be won because they are the wrong war, and other wars should not be won because to do so is more costly than they are worth? That’s not an area where I admire him for sticking to his “principles.”




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  11. Michael says:

    If there’s one thing that I am sure of in this world, it’s that a GOP Congressional minority can be obstructionist.

    Oh I’m sure they will when they want to. The question is, does the current and near-future GOP minority want to put the brakes on spending, or do they just want to campaign against it?




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  12. Thomas Smith says:

    George Will is simply using his conservative platform to send a message to Senator McCain. He is not, nor would he, support a Socialist candidate like Obama for president. If he did, his own brand as a conservative voice would be severely damaged. Suggesting that a canned and tightly scripted candidate’s non-response to a crisis is reason to elect him President is absurd on its face.




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  13. Michael says:

    Suggesting that a canned and tightly scripted candidate’s non-response to a crisis is reason to elect him President is absurd on its face.

    How would it be possible for there to be a “canned” response to our current situation? Do all candidates have ready-made responses, just in case the Treasury Secretary asks the congress for a $700 billion bailout?

    Face it, both candidates were faced with an unprecedented situation here that neither one had prepared answers for. What you see is how they react, this is the 3am call as it were, and so far they’re following exactly what I predicted several weeks ago: Obama takes the slow and deliberative road to his decision, and McCain takes the quick reactionary road.




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  14. Crust says:

    If that’s an endorsement, it’s the most tepid one I’ve ever seen. Will is basically saying, sure, Obama is bad, but McCain is even worse. Maybe Will is supporting Bob Barr?




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  15. Bithead says:

    George Patton famously said that, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” He offered no advice, however, on what to do with a bad plan.

    Oh, yes he did. It’s just that Ike wasn’t too pleased with that particular bit of advice. (Snicker)

    It appears that George Will has had enough of John McCain.

    That’s OK, I’d had enough of George Will ages ago, as I said here last Januuary.




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  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Oh I’m sure they will when they want to. The question is, does the current and near-future GOP minority want to put the brakes on spending, or do they just want to campaign against it?

    Michael, which scenario do you find more plausible:

    (a) A GOP minority uses every procedural trick in the book to stop President Obama’s spending proposals or

    (b) A Democratic majority stops President McCain from invading Iran?

    I know which outcome I’d put my money on.




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  17. Rick Almeida says:

    “…support a Socialist candidate like Obama for president.”

    You keep on using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means.




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  18. Floyd says:

    George Will’s commentary here is a chastisement of McCain with an appropriate lateral comparison to Obama, not an endorsement of Obama.
    George Will is without doubt,one of the most intelligent and clear-minded men in America, certainly the smartest and clearest in journalism.[especially now that Buckley has passed]
    If this were an endorsement it would be unambiguous!




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  19. Steve Verdon says:

    That he seems not even to be giving it a second thought, though, is much less so.

    It all fits with McCain-Feingold though. McCain sees government as the answer to problems. He thinks that the government can do things better. Combine that with his creepy form of nationalism/country first views and it looks all rather distasteful to me. The U.S. is moving in the wrong direction and both McCain and possibly to a lesser extent Obama will continue taking us in.

    They both suck.




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  20. Michael says:

    Michael, which scenario do you find more plausible:

    Oh I agree with you completely on what is plausible, I was asking about what is possible. How often do we accuse the current administration of going into Iraq only planning for what they thought was plausible, while ignoring the implications for what was possible?

    All I’m saying is that it’s not good enough to expect the GOP to put the brakes on spending, we need to know what to do in case they don’t.




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  21. Hmm…, I don’t know whether being called a palindrone is an insult or a compliment. Right now of the four candidates on the two major tickets, she is the only one I trust with anything above the responsibility of dogcatcher. But perhaps I just need to know her better to lump her in with Barack, Joe, and John.

    George Will is a smart man, but one who has been drinking his own bathwater too long.




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  22. Michael says:

    George Will’s commentary here is a chastisement of McCain with an appropriate lateral comparison to Obama, not an endorsement of Obama.

    In such a strong two party system, an indictment of one candidate is effectively an endorsement of another. Unless you’re Ron Paul, in which case you’re town between to unknowns with a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected.

    They both suck.

    Yes, but given the information you have now, which sucks less?




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  23. Steve Verdon says:

    Yes, but given the information you have now, which sucks less?

    A bottle of Bowmore Darkest Sherry Finish?

    Start when the polls open and don’t stop till the bottle is gone or the polls close.

    I dunno really, I’m thinking Obama right now, but I don’t doubt he’ll say something idiotic that turns me to McCain, lather, rinse and repeat.




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  24. I think Steve exaggerates. One sucks and one blows, though I’m not sure which is which.




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  25. Steve Verdon says:

    I think Steve exaggerates. One sucks and one blows, though I’m not sure which is which.

    Depends on the time of day really.




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  26. Michael says:

    I don’t know whether being called a palindrone is an insult or a compliment. Right now of the four candidates on the two major tickets, she is the only one I trust with anything above the responsibility of dogcatcher.

    Why exactly is that?




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  27. Michael says:

    I think Steve exaggerates. One sucks and one blows, though I’m not sure which is which.

    They’re politicians, if they can talk out of both sides of their mouths, perhaps they can do both of these simultaneously.




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  28. Floyd says:

    “”an indictment of one candidate is effectively an endorsement of another”
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Your conclusion would have merit when dealing with a lesser writer, but Will should be taken to mean only what he says, since he is not a mincer.
    Still,by all means, take it as an endorsement, That path could lose Obama some votes[lol]




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  29. Michael, quick and dirty:

    Senator McCain: Creature of Washington, wierd populism, beginning to believe there’s just too much he doesn’t understand.

    Senator Obama: I’d say he is a creature of Washington, but to the extent he’s a creature of anything he’s more a creature of Chicago and progressive politics. Ultimately, he’s too much like a self-aware Chauncey Gardner. Who is he and what does he believe, beyond hope and change, of course? Can’t shake all the radical elements of his past (CAC, Ayers, Wright) or understand how they apply to who he is now. And, naturally, I don’t agree with his progressive, statist or transnational goals.

    Senator Biden: Creature of Washington, really does seem to believe he’s the smartest guy in the room AND that that is all that matters, and he’s a first class jerk. Joe has a few good points, but he steadfastly refuses to let them lead.

    I will finish by noting that Sarah Palin has been elected to several positions more responsible than dogcatcher and has seemingly done rather well in those jobs. She is grounded and still seems driven by an idealism that I can identify with in ways that the three gentlemen are not. Yes, the other gentlemen have all been elected to the US Senate, but watch some senatorial hearings and watch your respect for that institution shrivel up like, well, you know what I mean.




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  30. Michael says:

    Your conclusion would have merit when dealing with a lesser writer, but Will should be taken to mean only what he says, since he is not a mincer.

    Unfortunately the writer has very little control over how his writing will effect the situation.

    People know that Will is smart, now people know that Will specifically doesn’t like McCain, and that he doesn’t specifically dislike Obama. Now regardless of Will’s personal position, or the intent of his writing, how do you think that is going to play for the vast majority of people?




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  31. Michael says:

    Charles,
    So basically it’s more what you know about McCain, Obama and Biden makes you distrust them, than what you do know about Palin makes you trust her. You start off trusting a politician until you learn otherwise, you must be far less cynical than me.

    I will finish by noting that Sarah Palin has been elected to several positions more responsible than dogcatcher and has seemingly done rather well in those jobs.

    So have the other 3.

    Yes, the other gentlemen have all been elected to the US Senate, but watch some senatorial hearings and watch your respect for that institution shrivel up like, well, you know what I mean.

    Yes, nothing makes a person more disappointed and horrified than C-SPAN. I’ve never heard that things are remarkably better in a governor’s office, though, so I’m not sure why you believe that Palin would be any different.

    She is grounded and still seems driven by an idealism that I can identify with in ways that the three gentlemen are not.

    Now that much I can understand, even if I don’t see it in her. To me McCain and Obama are at least as idealistic (Biden I don’t know about), but none of them seem all that grounded to me. The difference for me is my perception that McCain starts from a position of idealism and then defends it, while Obama starts from a position of idealism and then justifies it.




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  32. Michael, as with a comment to Alex elsewhere, it isn’t just fidelity to ideals, it also what those ideals are, and that is, alas, a dealbreaker for me with Senators Obama and Biden. I used to think I shared some of Senator McCain’s ideals, but I’m less sure about that all the time.




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  33. Floyd says:

    “”Unfortunately the writer has very little control over how his writing will effect the situation””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    While this too has some merit, it is tangential to the subject of endorsement.
    You can’t say,accurately, that an inference constitutes an endorsement. Inference itself implies that the reader infers implication from the writer.
    Implication has not been a common element of Will’s style, which should lead the savvy reader to resist inference.
    This is the core of my argument.




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  34. just me says:

    I think Obama is arrogant and unwilling to admit when he is wrong.

    This really turns me off-above and beyond what policies he stands for.

    In the end McCain for me is the lesser of two evils-especially given that there is no way in Hell the GOP is going to take back congress this year and will more than likely lose a bunch of seats in both houses-some of those seats are some of the more fiscally conservative bunch (Sununu probably is going to lose here, and we will get Ms. tax and spend Shaheen). The last thing I want to see is Obama in the White house with a strong majority in both houses-especially when the GOP has a bunch of wishy washy members that will easily swing with the DNC on matters).

    I think the GOP having party discipline is a pipe dream-and I don’t want to see what will happen in the two years Obama gets to be president and the GOP tries to get one or both of those houses back-and I am not even sure they will be able to do it in ’10 either.




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  35. Michael says:

    Michael, as with a comment to Alex elsewhere, it isn’t just fidelity to ideals, it also what those ideals are, and that is, alas, a dealbreaker for me with Senators Obama and Biden.

    Fair enough, I just wasn’t sure if there was something about her personally that made you trust her.

    I think Obama is arrogant and unwilling to admit when he is wrong.

    And you think McCain is otherwise?




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  36. just me says:

    And you think McCain is otherwise?

    He doesn’t strike me that way. And he does seem to be willing to admit when he was wrong-Obama just nuances his way through his changed opinions when he just needs to say he changed his mind.

    And Obama shoots out the top of my arrogance meter-he just doesn’t seem to come with any humility at all.

    Of course this is completely opinion and you can think Obama is Mr. Humility and McCain is Mr. Arrogant, but I think Obama is self important and puffed up and for me at least it is off putting and doesn’t much make me at least want to vote for him.




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  37. Michael says:

    And he does seem to be willing to admit when he was wrong

    Recently?




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  38. Alex Knapp says:

    just me –

    Why is arrogance a vice and humility a virtue for a president? Don’t you think a healthy ego is important for the top spot?




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  39. Alan says:

    Suggesting that a canned and tightly scripted candidate’s non-response to a crisis is reason to elect him President is absurd on its face.

    How would it be possible for there to be a “canned” response to our current situation? Do all candidates have ready-made responses, just in case the Treasury Secretary asks the congress for a $700 billion bailout?

    Face it, both candidates were faced with an unprecedented situation here that neither one had prepared answers for. What you see is how they react, this is the 3am call as it were, and so far they’re following exactly what I predicted several weeks ago: Obama takes the slow and deliberative road to his decision, and McCain takes the quick reactionary road.

    Posted by Michael | September 23, 2008 | 11:44 am | Permalink

    It was not so much Obama taking the slow and deliberate road as much as it was Obama “voting present” to avoid taking an immediate stance and risk damage to himself.




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  40. Dan McIntosh says:

    Shortly before the latest crisis I posted a note on my own blog comparing the candidates temperament and decision styles. Obama thinks and acts like a jurist; McCain thinks and acts like a fighter jock. Jurists are dull (think the Biden nomination, or the IRAC rules in law school). Fighter jocks move fast and surprise you (think the Palin nomination, or OODA). Although the fighter jock is not the best pattern for governing, it does have advantages in the last weeks of an election–UNLESS there’s a crisis and the candidate is obviously flying by the seat of his pants. Then it looks dangerous.

    I don’t know if I’ll vote for Obama, but in spite of the fact that I supported McCain in the past there’s no way I’ll vote for him now.




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  41. Bithead says:

    I think Obama is arrogant and unwilling to admit when he is wrong.

    And you think McCain is otherwise?

    I would suggest you look at McCain’s stand on offshore drilling as one such scenario. Has Obama ever had any kind of reversal of that sort?




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  42. Michael says:

    I would suggest you look at McCain’s stand on offshore drilling as one such scenario. Has Obama ever had any kind of reversal of that sort?

    You have a funny definition of Right and Wrong, Bithead.

    McCain wasn’t wrong on offshore drilling, and he isn’t wrong now. That’s because opinions and positions aren’t eligible for being labeled as right and wrong. If McCain had been opposed to it for a reason that turned out to be incorrect, then you could say he was opposed for the wrong reasons. I don’t think that’s McCain’s official reason behind the switch in his position.

    In fact, I don’t think he’s ever said that his past position was wrong when he held it, only that it’s not the best position to hold now, so I don’t see how that even applies here. And you will remember that Obama has made similar position reversals on things like Net Neutrality and FISA.




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  43. Bithead says:

    Given the energy situation, McCain was wrong on offshore drilling. Makes no damn sense at all to keep our oil locked in the ground, where by law we can’t touch it.




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  44. Michael says:

    Given the energy situation, McCain was wrong on offshore drilling. Makes no damn sense at all to keep our oil locked in the ground, where by law we can’t touch it.

    The fact that you think he was wrong is kind of beside the point, isn’t it? Ask McCain if he thinks he was wrong.




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