CW and Daniel and Freddie on Me on McCain

Not by me!

cw writes:

I don’t think Reihan is constitutionally suited for election commentary, which is not a bad thing. Elections are an ugly struggle to amass power.

This is on target: why do you think I haven’t been blogging? I’m not the best go-to person for telling you who to vote for as I haven’t been a genuine partisan for a candidate since 2000. I can, however, give you my rough sense of the range of possibilities for a McCain or Obama administration. The trouble is that the worst McCain scenario is obviously worse than the best Obama scenario, and vice versa. So I find myself defending Obama to ardent conservatives, as I did a couple of nights ago in Los Angeles, and defending McCain to almost everyone else.

My friend Andrew Sullivan and I aren’t trying to do the same thing. He badly wants Barack Obama to win, and I respect that. I don’t think I’ve said anything harshly negative about Obama, in large part because I think he is a decent, thoughtful person and I think he’d represent a real improvement in some important respects over President Bush.

cw also wrote:

As for Reihan, as he says, he is a sentimental and loving guy. He has affectionate feelings for McCain of a type that many us less sentimental and loving folk can’t comprehend. When I read what he writes the conflict is obvious. He has good feelings for McCain but at the same time what the campign has made obvious, is obvious.

This is right (I have to say, I really appreciate cw’s comment), which is why I was struck by yet another reaction. Freddie has written a smart post excoriating my comment. He consider it “a disturbing document.” Honestly, I don’t quite get it as he associates me with various anti-Obama arguments and right-wing tropes that I assiduously avoid, but Freddie is always smart and always worth reading. Freddie doesn’t seem to recall the role that McCain played during Bush’s first term, as chronicled by Franklin Foer, Jonathan Chait, Josh Green, and others, and the moment in 2005 when McCain forcefully critiqued the idea of permanent US bases in Iraq (as HuffPo noted), but that’s fair enough. It was a long time ago.

Freddie writes:

He really wants people, I think, to believe in the John McCain he believes in.

Well, not really. The comment was written for the same reasons that I argued with my new friends in L.A.: I believe that Barack Obama wants what is best for the country — or at least that is the vivid fantasy that I am projecting on to Obama (as Freddie might put it), or rather that is the judgment I’ve made from my vantage point.

Daniel Larison offered some new thoughts in light of my last post. He does a far better job of explaining the dynamics we’d likely see in a McCain White House than I did in the comment.

I pointed readers to David Frum’s pro-McCain post. I couldn’t have written the same piece because I can’t endorse every point Frum raises. I don’t think this election is anything approaching a no-brainer. That’s obviously not very satisfying for anyone, myself included. Assuming Barack Obama wins, as looks very likely, I’ll be rooting for him to lead the country through a difficult period. Of course I’ll criticize and cajole him with the help of my tiny soapbox. But I certainly won’t be looking to tear him down. And as I noted in my last post, I think that partisan intensity matters and I really just want America to have a breather after eight traumatic years.

I’d also like to point out the obvious: the McCain campaign has seemed strangely vacuous because they’ve decided to talk about Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi (I own and have read The Iron Cage) rather than Jeremiah Wright; opposition to equal marriage rights hasn’t been anywhere near as central to McCain’s campaign as it was to the Republican effort in 2004; and the argument from “socialism,” absurd as it is, is at least an argument about the direction of our economy rather than an argument for McCain as a “Christian leader.” The McCain campaign has been an often imbecilic disaster, consistently outclassed and outwitted by the Obama campaign in a fair fight. It has not been the most dishonorable campaign in modern memory. That’s not faint praise: it’s not praise at all. I don’t intend to “defend” the McCain campaign: this is not a campaign I’d run and I will very happily continue living in American regardless of who is president, as I don’t think Republicans are fascists or that Democrats are communists. Rather, I’m offering a minor corrective to some overheated rhetoric. I should also stress that the tenor of a campaign depends on circumstances — is the movement in a defensive crouch, or flush with cash and united by enmity against a profoundly unpopular sitting president? Context!

I’ve droned on, but here’s the thing: America is a strange, diverse, sprawling country, and our elections reflect that fact. There are loyal black Democrats in California who will turn out for Obama and who will also vote yes on Prop 8, a measure that will strip a non-trivial number of married couples of their rights. There are lukewarm Republicans who will turn out because they believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. There are good and decent people who believe crazy, bigoted, terrible things. And they are part of this process. I don’t think we do any good by demonizing each other. Let’s forcefully argue against equal marriage rights, let’s educate people about the canard that a believing Christian is somehow a Muslim, or, for that matter, that American Muslims like yours truly represent a danger to democracy in the first place. But we have to find some way to live with each other. Good grief.