Filed under: Conservatism
[posted by Matt]
Andrew Sullivan has been trying to explain over the past few days that Sarah Palin matters because the decision to elevate “this unstable, erratic, know-nothing beauty queen” to a potential Vice Presidential or Presidential spot reveals tremendous cynicism and irresponsibility on the part of John McCain, FOX News, and the Republican establishment. I think that’s largely true, but perhaps not entirely the way he’s thinking of it.
Sullivan writes “McCain knew full well that Palin was unqualified to be commander-in-chief.” But here’s the thing: John McCain is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief. McCain is a guy of rather mediocre intellect, little curiosity, and very poor and impulsive decision-making skills. He’s vain and headstrong, and he easily turns opposition over matters of policy or politics into personal vendettas. He became a political commodity in 1973 because he embodied the right-wing working-class value of patriotism under duress at a moment when patriotism and the white working class felt under attack for their complicity in a disastrous foreign war. And he was seized upon by a desperate Republican Party in political free-fall; in the thick of Watergate, the Nixon administration launched him as a political celebrity. He then parlayed that notoriety into a political career a few years down the road. He certainly has a substantial amount of charm and an instinct for playing the press, and he’s hardly the dumbest guy in the Senate. But he is not a responsible or serious person. And to a great degree, when he met Sarah Palin, he probably felt he was looking at a younger version of himself. Which is to say that the “rot” in the GOP, the eagerness to substitute celebrity and resentful pseudo-patriotic gibberish for real political discussion, goes back a lot longer than 8 years.
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