Saturday, November 8, 2008

McCain the Faux Maverick

McCain . . . has the amateur chess player's weakness for making an impulsive move just to see what will happen: thus his eleventh-hour intervention in the Wall Street crisis negotiations. In chess what almost always happens after the impulsive move is doom.

Russel Baker, Oct 7 2008, NY Review of Books

The last thing I want to do is pile on a man who just lost the job he wanted more than any other. Sen. McCain's life-ambition, so it seems, was to be commander-in-chief of the US military. And just because he's a politician, and ran a typical politican's campaign, doesn't mean he's not mending a broken heart right now.

But I want to say something about Sen. McCain's so-called 'maverick' persona. A maverick, by definition, is an individual that strays from the pack. An individual who takes his or her own path to wherever it is he or she wants to go. An individual who decides for himself where it is he wants to go in the first place.

The world is a tricky place, however. Getting anywhere requires reading the tea leaves. As such, it is almost impossible for an individual to succeed when he has only his own wisdom upon which to rely. An individual who relies on himself for inspiration must be able to read his environment all by himself, or be condemned, as the quote above puts it, to the lonely path of "doom." It is the trickiness of the real-world, not weak-minded pansiness, that explains why most people eschew being a maverick and turn to company. Life ain't an easy road when you travel it alone.

So what does Sen. McCain's record tell us about the quality of his 'maverickness'? Well, let's see. Sen. McCain has run for president twice. It strikes me that, both times, he has spectacularly failed at reading his environment for what it was. In 2000, he ran an 'Obama campaign' in a Bush Environment. In 2008 he ran a 'Bush campaign' in an Obama Environment. What I mean is, in 2000 rabid partisanship ruled. McCain ran a centrist, can't-we-all-get-along campaign. In 2008, there was a strong anti-partisanship-backlash, put in motion by Barack Obama in his 2004 speech, when he said:

We don't have blue states, we don't have red states, we are the United States

But 2008 saw Sen. McCain run a campaign in which he ignored what was on people's minds -- how to fix problems in a spirit of bi-partisanship. Rather, Sen. McCain focused his campaign on his opponent's questionable patriotism and the made-up charge that his opponent was a socialist. To top it off, he took Sarah Palin --an unknown, attractive, fresh voice -- and turned her into his attack-dog VP. What a waste.

The point is this. The last thing America needs following President Bush is a go-it-my-own-way president whose own way is ignorant of real-world facts and knowledge.

In contrast, millions upon millions of Americans made the right choice in choosing Sen. Obama. Sometimes with the pack is the wise way to go.

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