Temperament in Times of Crisis

I can't say that I agree with George Will on much -- though I do believe he is opposed to the designated hitter in baseball, as do I -- and I'm not in agreement with all that he says in an editorial today in the Washington Post. That may be because I'm a political liberal who is more comfortable with government intervention in the economy than is he, but that's not my point.

What is interesting is Will's take on McCain's fitness to be president. That his attacks on Christopher Cox show a shallowness of understanding and a moralizing impulsiveness that can be dangerous.

What is central to McCain's persona, one that appears he shares with his running mate, is a self-righteous moralism that pits "us" against "them." If you disagree with me, you're not only wrong but you are immoral. Will writes:

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people. McCain's Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17, Page A4; and the New York Times of Sept. 20, Page One.)

It is this "us" against "them" that has caused the US to plunge in world regard. We are viewed as arrogant and self-righteous, and also unreflective. Could Barack Obama be a bit too analytic and cautious? Perhaps, but is reactive impulsiveness a better quality?

Will is likely not a fan of Barack Obama, but his concluding paragraph suggests that he's even less enamoured with John McCain:

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?

In just a few weeks from now, we will have an opportunity to cast our vote for a new President. I will admit that Barack Obama is not the most experienced candidate ever, but he brings intangibles that can be enhanced and supported -- with a good team of advisers and a clear headed sense of the world. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem ready to go to war with whomever they deem the enemy. That's our choice!


Allan R. Bevere said…
"What is central to McCain's persona, one that appears he shares with his running mate, is a self-righteous moralism that pits "us" against "them." If you disagree with me, you're not only wrong but you are immoral."

An unfortunate perspective to be sure. Hey, that also sounds like a lot of liberals I know!

Self-righteous moralism is not a liability limited only to conservatives. It can infect us all!!
Anonymous said…
Self-righteousness often comes from either a hyper religious perspective or from an ideological perspective - either way, the opposition is demonized and is perceived not only as the opposition, by is denied any credit as well-intentioned. The opposition becomes malevolent, evil if you will, and dedicated to the destruction of all that is cherished.

The hair raises on the back of my neck when I hear that the opposition is out to destroy us all. And I find it hard not to embrace anyone but the ideologue - which is why I resist the Christian Right at all points - even if I embrace many of their ideals.


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