Questioning Their Motives
Victor Davis Hanson has a piece out today that I suspect will be the first of many of its kind. Intermixed with some excellent points about the perception of McCain campaign negativity, the politics of race, and scandalmongering, he aims this cheap shot at Republicans who have expressed dismay at McCain or even endorsed his opponent.
Second, with Obama now with an 6-8 point lead, some in the DC/NY corridor these last three weeks figure it’s time now to jump or at least sort of jump, since the train they think is leaving the station and there might be still be some space at the dinner table on the caboose. They also believe as intellectuals that the similarly astute Obamians may on occasion inspire, or admire them as the like-minded who cultivate the life of the mind-in contrast to the “cancer” Sarah Palin, who, with her husband Todd, could hardly discuss Proust with them or could offer little if any sophisticated table-talk other than the proper chokes on shotguns or optimum RPMs on snow-machines.
This is such utter nonsense. Conservative intellectuals are, by definition, both conservative and intellectual. While many of us understand the practical realities of politics and campaigning, we are ideologues who are motivated by fundamental principles of governing, intellectual consistency, and the ability to coherently articulate the message. While we are “team players,” having generally chosen the GOP as the best vehicle for carrying those ideas into fruition, we’re not party hacks who will publicly adopt positions of convenience for our candidate at the expense of intellectual honesty.
Here at OTB, the authors have broad agreement on general principles but have different emphases and thus different preferences in this election. As is almost always the case with intellectuals, none of us is thrilled with the available choices. I continue to support McCain, albeit less enthusiastically than even a month ago. Alex Knapp continues to support Obama, although never with any great joy. Dave Schuler, a Scoop Jackson-Sam Nunn Democrat by inclination, hadn’t made up his mind as of last Wednesday evening. (The others haven’t, so far as I recall, weighed in.)
I don’t spend a lot of time discussing Proust. To the extent that I’m invited to dinners and parties with smart people, that’s not going to change based on whom I support in November. There are plenty of smart folks on both sides of this one. What would, however, ruin my credibility in those circles is carrying the water for my party in direct opposition to my previous intellectual positions.
I was never a McCain fan, having found his 2000 campaign self-righteous and off-putting. He has been flat out wrong on a number of issues, notably his signature issue of campaign finance “reform.” I came to admire him during this year’s primary campaign, though, for doubling down on Iraq and fighting his party on immigration at a time when both those positions appeared to be political suicide. Once it became clear that Rudy Giuliani was not who I thought he was, McCain became, as I expressed it in a June 2007 post, “my least unfavorite among the 2008 field.”
I’ve defended him against charges and “Outrage of the Day” scandals that I thought were dubious and noted that many things he was doing that I personally found distasteful were well within the bounds of the rough and tumble of the American political system. Then again, I’ve done the same for his opponent.
Yes, I’ve been pretty hard on him for choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. Not only did she undermine his core message of the importance of experience and “being ready on day one,” but she’s simply the kind of politician that makes me recoil. I object to Palin for the same reason I bitterly opposed the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court: neither was “qualified” by traditional standards for the exalted positions for which they were chosen. Miers and Palin were/are both nominally qualified and both probably had the tools to carry out their jobs but given the available talent pool, their selections made no sense.
George Will, Christopher Buckley, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Kathleen Parker, and other conservative commentators who are criticizing McCain and Palin are doing so at a risk to their standing, not to bolster it.
So, while I agree with Hanson and others that, given the choices, the McCain-Palin ticket is more likely to preside over policies that conservatives like — or at least block those we don’t like — than the Obama-Biden ticket and, as a resident of suddenly-swing state Virginia will vote accordingly, I’m not going to pretend that it’s the second coming of Ronald Reagan and Morning in America, either.