Goldfarb and McCain

Yesterday’s announcement that Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb is taking a leave of absence “to serve as deputy communications director of the McCain campaign” has been greeted with surprising interest from bloggers across the political spectrum. Just sampling those in my RSS reader:

  • Radley Balko points out that “Goldfarb has written (falsely, by any reasonable reading of the Constitution, Federalist Papers, or diaries of the Constitutional Convention) that the founders believed the president should have “near dictatorial” powers when it comes to war and foreign policy.”
  • Matt Yglesias: “Some folks take comfort in the fact that up until 1998-99 or so McCain had reasonably reasonable views about foreign policy, but he’s been way out in crazy-land for years now and all indications are that his administration will be staffed by neocons too fanatical or dim-witted to have served in the Bush administration and been discredited.”
  • Andrew Sullivan: “Uh-oh.” (I’d say “Read the whole thing” but, alas, you just did.)
  • Glenn Greenwald cites some Goldfarb posts he disagrees with and adds, “Does one even need to point out that there are few things more incompatible with one another than “straight talk” and The Weekly Standard?”
  • Steve Benen mentions without comment in a “Campaign Roundup.”
  • John Schwenkler, new at PoMoCo, has a long rant about how this proves McCain=Bush and closes, “[The thought that] Mr. Goldfarb might resurface in the more appropriately water-carrying role of Press Secretary to a (shudder) President McCain ought to be enough to turn one’s vote elsewhere.”

I’m afraid I don’t get it. I’m only vaguely familiar with Goldfarb’s work as a blogger but he’s apparently been in the writing business for quite some time, including a stint at Time.com more than a decade ago. One presumes he’s qualified to write press releases and carry out other duties associated with the job which, as described by Bill Kristol in the announcement post, is pretty low-vis: “He’ll be focusing on their online activities.”

Kristol joked (one presumes he wasn’t serious) about Goldfarb being National Security Advisor to a President McCain but Schwenkler’s right: something in the communications shop is more likely. But so what? Ronald Reagan employed Pat Buchanan as his Communications Director, after all.

George Allen hired Jon Henke in a similar capacity, as did Mitch McConnell. I don’t recall either of them making a sudden shift to neo-libertarianism. That’s just not the nature of these gigs.

Presidents and presidential candidates hire all manner of people to serve in all manner of roles. They’re not interchangeable. Goldfarb is supremely unqualified to serve in a foreign policy role, let alone as Attorney General. His opinions on the scope of presidential power are therefore irrelevant.

McCain’s foreign policy is too neo-con and “national greatness” for my tastes. Bill Kristol has been one of his biggest boosters for years, which would seem to trump the Goldfarb association in terms of meaning. But we know where he stands based on his decades in office and his two runs for the presidency.

UPDATE: For more discussion, see “McCain’s Weekly Standard Posse.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies 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. Bithead says:

    james;

    heh.

    I should think it obvious that the biggest concern they have is that the guy leans toward conservative arguments.

  2. SJ Reidhead says:

    I find the whole affair rather strange, like everything else that is associated with Barack Obama, but then I have a Nancy Drew mentality, always looking for the big “?”.

    I do want to know “Why”.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  3. Radley Balko says:

    James,

    It isn’t so much that Goldfarb will influence McCain as it is a troubling indicator of McCain’s own thinking on issues like presidential power. I can’t imagine McCain would hire someone for his number-two communications position if he had any major disagreements with Goldfarb over such an important issue as the president’s powers during wartime.

    That Goldfarb’s position there is that a president has “near dictatorial” powers doesn’t bode well for the prospect of McCain reining in the excesses of the Bush administration.

    And it isn’t just Goldfarb. McCain’s camp is filled with unitary executive theorists.

  4. My experience with Goldfarb- He’ll lie and distort to support the message he wants to get across. When called out on a mistake, he doesn’t correct it.

    Also if Goldfarb has to ‘borrow‘ other people’s work in order to get his message across, he’ll do it.

    Bill

  5. Hal says:

    I should think it obvious that the biggest concern they have is that the guy leans toward conservative arguments.

    Yes conservative arguments such as “the president has near dictatorial powers”. Arguments that apparently don’t phase you in the slightest, Bithead.

  6. Bithead says:

    Three letters:

    F
    D
    R

    Out.

  7. Hal says:

    hahahaha. Yes, he certainly was a dictator wasn’t he.

    Geebus.

  8. Jim says:

    I think Radley Balko is basically right. Joyner’s argument that Goldfarb is an experienced writer and is therefore a good choice ignores two important facts:
    There are many, many skilled writers–just as, or more, skilled than Godldfarb–that McCcain could have chosen and
    He knows the kinds of arguments that Goldfarb is in favor of.

    Staff members don’t act in isolation and picking Goldfarb is the same as saying that “this guy and his opinions are going to play well with the other staffers I have ’round these parts.”

    Furthermore it signals an intellectual alliance with the Weekly Standard in the same way that Tony Snow’s appoint served as a validation of Fox News’s “fair and balanced” claim…to the winguts.

  9. Yeah, how come John McCain doesn’t seek the Obama campaign’s advice on who he hires, or the partisans who are already spporting his opponent? It’s as though he’s opposed to hope and change.

    It is certainly reasonable to disgree with McCain’s theories of presidential power, but why is it bad for him to hire someone who understands and agrees with him to get that message out?

  10. Hal says:

    why is it bad for him to hire someone who understands and agrees with him to get that message out?

    You misunderstand. No one is saying that it’s wrong for McCain to hire whomever he wants. Merely that his choice speaks volumes about his campaign, style of leadership and various other insights into the man – unlike James’ belief.

    Obviously, McCain thinks Goldfarb fits right into his posse and Goldfarb’s POV on various subjects causes him no concern.

  11. Bithead says:

    hahahaha. Yes, he certainly was a dictator wasn’t he.

    Well now that you mention it…

    It is certainly reasonable to disgree with McCain’s theories of presidential power, but why is it bad for him to hire someone who understands and agrees with him to get that message out?

    Because, clearly, there is a fear that people might actually agree with a skilled writer making such arguments.

  12. Hal says:

    A Google search does not an argument make, dude.

    Because, clearly, there is a fear that people might actually agree with a skilled writer making such arguments.

    Yes, I believe that was the argument in favor of Goebbels, too.

  13. Bithead says:

    A Google search does not an argument make, dude.

    No, but what it contains, closes it.

  14. Hal says:

    No, but what it contains, closes it.

    BS. Pick an actual link and make your case. Don’t just throw out a bunch of smoke, step back and put the flash light under your chin and whisper darkly.

    What do you think this is? Summer camp?

  15. Bithead says:

    Oh, please.
    You can’t read the links provided?
    They make the case for me.
    The reason you’re objecting to the tacic of forcing you to read is youre afraid what it will do to your closed little mind. Even the titles make the point that FDR was widely considered a dictator.

    Dictator or Democrat? – TIME
    Was Franklin D. Roosevelt a dictator or healer?
    Did FDR Want to be a Dictator?
    Was Franklin D. Roosevelt A Socialist Dictator??

    And on and on.
    Oops. You didn’t want to see that, I guess.
    Sorry. Facts just sorta come out.

  16. Hal says:

    Note to Bithead. Actually asking the question isn’t an assertion of the answer.

    Did you actually read any of those articles, or did you merely just see “dictator” and assume that it made your case for you.

    Also, can I ask wtf does FDR have to do with the issue in question? Let’s assume that FDR was a dictator. The fact remains that it was – what? – over five decades ago and not something I actually would agree with even if the dictator in question is a democrat.

    I mean, seriously dude. This isn’t an argument. You’re just asserting crap, throwing up a bunch of links without even reading the content, then expecting your assumed fact that FDR was a dictator makes it okay for Goldfarb to claim that the president has “near dictatorial powers”. I mean, the entire history since, the camps, etc, has proven FDR wrong on these accounts, so I have no idea wtf you think you’re proving here.

  17. joe says:

    Hal: i suppose he confused FDR with Truman – the steel mill seizure attempt – what a sad little attempt.
    but i guess it could have happened with any liberal, because, as we’ve learned from jonah godberg: ‘all liberals are akin to fascists’.

  18. Hal says:

    the steel mill seizure attempt

    Indeed. Something that cuts right to the heart of Bithead’s seeming argument that the president has near dictatorial powers and how that is such a great thing for McCain.

    I’m still always taken aback by those on the right that seem to long for a king.

  19. Bithead says:

    Did you actually read any of those articles, or did you merely just see “dictator” and assume that it made your case for you

    It’s clear YOU haven’t.

  20. Hal says:

    I’m not the one making the argument – whatever that argument actually is…

    “Burden of proof”. It’s a phrase you’ll hear now and then. You should understand where the burden lies.

  21. Bithead says:

    Also, can I ask wtf does FDR have to do with the issue in question?

    Hey, who was the one who brought up dictators, anyway?

    Indeed. Something that cuts right to the heart of Bithead’s seeming argument that the president has near dictatorial powers and how that is such a great thing for McCain.

    I note “During wartime” is a phrase that has gotten lost somehow. Mind explaining why?

  22. Dantheman says:

    Bithead,

    “I note “During wartime” is a phrase that has gotten lost somehow. Mind explaining why?”

    Because most of us are aware that the Korean War was fought during wartime. Why aren’t you?

  23. Bithead says:

    The implication here, was that the president should have dictitorial powers at ALL times, which was clearly not the case.

  24. Hal says:

    Hey, who was the one who brought up dictators, anyway?

    Um, actually no. That would be Michael Goldfarb’s assertion that the president has near dictatorial powers. I didn’t bring it up, I only think it sends a chill down my spine and I’m left aghast that James doesn’t think there’s any issue here with him being the deputy communications director of McCain’s campaign.

    I must say, you’re the master of the circular argument. You said “three letters, F D R” without any explanation. When pressed for an explanation, you sent a simple google search URL. When pressed further, you simply quoted the titles of some of the pieces. When pressed further for an explanation, you simply played “rubber and glue” like we’re on some third grade playground. It’s just bizarre that you think you’re actually forming a coherent argument.

    The implication here, was that the president should have dictitorial powers at ALL times, which was clearly not the case.

    Um, where on earth do you derive that? Any quote in the comment stream above that you’d like to share with us? Again, please note that Michael Goldfarb’s quote was the source of “dictatorial”, not anyone else’s. And here’s the full quote in context:

    Pam Hess, the UPI reporter who gave us this extremely moving and persuasive glimpse of the liberal case for the war in Iraq, asked if timetables for withdrawal “somehow infringe on the president’s powers as commander in chief?” Mitchell’s less than persuasive answer: “Congress is a coequal branch of government…the framers did not want to have one branch in charge of the government.”

    True enough, but they sought an energetic executive with near dictatorial power in pursuing foreign policy and war. So no, the Constitution does not put Congress on an equal footing with the executive in matters of national security.

  25. Dantheman says:

    “The implication here, was that the president should have dictitorial powers at ALL times, which was clearly not the case.”

    Since the Supreme Court held that the President does not have dictatorial powers during wartime, do you have any response other than pettifogging?

  26. anjin-san says:

    His opinions on the scope of presidential power are therefore irrelevant

    Not really. If a presidential candidate hires people who think that the president should be a dictator or the next best thing, well it tells you something about how the candidate sees the role of the president.

    As for the “during wartime” BS, well the cold war lasted 40 odd years, and the neocons have made it clear that they expect the WOT to go on the better part of forever.

    Welcome to the sweet land of not very much liberty. Of thee I sing, assuming I have permission to do so.

  27. I can’t wait to hear who Senator Obama has hired as his new pastor.

  28. Bithead says:

    Um, where on earth do you derive that?

    The words ‘during wartime’ keep disappearing. Changes the whole tenor of the discussion.

    Since the Supreme Court held that the President does not have dictatorial powers during wartime, do you have any response other than pettifogging?

    Funny they didn’t so rule while FDR was running the place. Or perhaps not so funny when you consider the concept of packing.

    Welcome to the sweet land of not very much liberty. Of thee I sing, assuming I have permission to do so.

    Seems an odd time for you to suddenly be so concerned about freedom. Your perception thereof seems a little selective.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Seems an odd time for you to suddenly be so concerned about freedom. Your perception thereof seems a little selective.

    Actually, I have been concerned about Bush’s “Operation End American Freedom” for many years. When Clinton was president, I spoke up about his policies that eroded personal freedom as well. You might have missed all this while you were obsessing about Vince Foster…

  30. Dantheman says:

    “Funny they didn’t so rule while FDR was running the place. Or perhaps not so funny when you consider the concept of packing.”

    Sorry, but repeating the trope that FDR was a dictator, without offering the slightest proof, doesn’t constitute an argument that can convince any of us whose heads can process more than one bit at a time.

  31. tom says:

    Michael Goldfarb = is a failure, he should be on trial for treason.

    SCUMBAG