Monday, October 13, 2008

The Death of a Conscience

The San Francisco Chronicle informs us this day....well, as Will Rogers once said "Everything I know I read in the newspapers"....where was I? Oh yes.

The Chronicle tells us that the McCain campaign has decided that it's time to change course yet again and start talking about things that are of importance to the great majority of Americans. In the immortal words of Bill Clinton "It's the economy, stupid!"

It seems to have sunk in with McCain's handlers that what people need and want to hear about is not homos marrying each other or babies being killed by Obama, it's not about whether Obama's an Arab as one lady in the McCain campaign seems to think, it's not about pitbulls in lipstick from north of Nowhere and what Obama and Bill Ayers thought about each other if they ever thought about each other at all, and it is not about every talk radio influenced  know-nothing paranoid who sees a huge negro Arab muslim conspiracy in Obama's middle name, for heaven's's the economy and what in the hell happened to it in the last year or so and all the money folks were counting on retiring with. 

It's also the larger question of how we got in this mess and who was responsible for getting us there. The writing's on the wall here, and it spells Republican led deregulation-which, unfortunately, the Clintons and the Democratic Leadership Conference had much to do with. 

We now have the answer to what would happen when we got government off the backs of the big money boys on Wall Street and in the banks and insurance activities.  It's a pretty damned ugly house of cards we and they built together.

Regulation without purpose is one thing, but regulation that promotes good order and stability is a conservative value that Edmund Burke, the father of them all, would recognize and approve of.

Let's make a distinction here. 

There's offensive stuff that gets the job done, and there's offensive stuff that is ineffective in changing people's minds about anything. It's of no value preaching to the lynch mobs who come to campaign rallies and shout "Treason! Kill him!" because they're convinced already. 

Simply stated, the campaign thus far has failed to see the distinction between offensiveness as a political tool and offensiveness for its own sake. McCain is guilty, like Icarus, of being willing to cast principle aside for wanting the presidency too much. 

Governor Palin probably does not understand the distinction at all, and she will probably turn out to be the biggest mistake of all for John McCain. 

In wanting it too much McCain turned away from the moderates and the opposition to pirouette before the brownshirts that inhabit his galleries and the Julius Streichers of talk radio and the Father Coughlins in the pulpit-of whom there are far too many these days. At times McCain seemed to check himself when the better angels of his nature asserted themselves, but it is the death struggle of a conscience perhaps. 

Governor Palin's conscience has never been known to be a deciding factor in anything she's done in the campaign thus far. Of her, Edmund Burke well could have been speaking when he said "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

And let it be said, the moderates are still where the votes are.  

So there's a change afoot. Senator McCain used the word "fight" as a theme in his most recent reiteration of the stump speech, and he used it 15 or 16 times. Does that mean it'll do much of anything? Not if he and the Governor can't come up with something better and it may well be too late in the day.

This election is going to be a referendum on far more than whether America is willing to elect a black man to high office-it's going to be a referendum on what the next presidential campaign may look like and it's going to be a referendum on the Right in this country, and whether they've earned a place at the table with the rest of us.

Come to think of it, after the election's over we could do well to buy them all Greyhound tickets to points north-Point Barrow or Attu is nice this time of year and they'll be among fellow travelers, the likes of Joe Vogler and his acolytes. Together they can make foxhole radios out of pencil leads, razor blades and toilet paper rolls and tune in whatever it is they listen to up there.

Here's what E.J. Dionne said today, and it's worthy of quoting:

"McCain cannot be blamed for all of the crazies who see in Obama a chance to earn fame and fortune by concocting lies about him. And yes, we should defend the speech rights even of those whose views we find abhorrent.

But the angry McCain-Palin crowds, and particularly those who threaten violence or shout racist epithets, should be a wake-up call to McCain. The dark hints about Obama that McCain's campaign is dropping dovetail too nicely with the nasty trash floating around the Internet and the airwaves.

We are in the midst of what could become - and here's hoping it doesn't - the worst economic downturn in decades. The last thing we need is a campaign that strengthens fanaticism, tarnishes the authority of the next president, and whips up the worst kinds of prejudice. This works both ways: Obama should not be delegitimized if he wins, and McCain should not want to win in a way that would undermine his own capacity to lead....

McCain has an obligation, to his own legacy and the country he has served, to separate himself and his campaign from the kooks. Extremism in defense of liberty may be no vice, but extremism in pursuit of the presidency is as dysfunctional as it is degrading."


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