IS JOHN McCAIN LOSING THE RIGHT-WING PUNDITOCRACY AGAIN?
When an ABC News panel lit into John McCain on Sunday (the Huffington Post has the video), a lot of people focused on Sam Donaldson's raising of the age issue. But note what George Will said:
The question is, who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and un-flustered? It wasn't John McCain who, as usual, substituting vehemence for coherence, said "let's fire somebody." And he picked one of the most experienced and conservative people in the administration, Chris Cox, and for no apparent reason... It was un-presidential behavior by a presidential candidate.
As I told you on Friday, Christopher Cox has been widely praised on the right; I don't think it's just style or tone or lack of gravitas that's bothering Will, I think it's that specific recommendation.
I think McCain is losing corporatist right-wingers with this stuff.
And then, after criticizing Cox, McCain, speculating on a possible replacement, pulled a name out of his keister -- and some right-wing pundits were even more horrified.
Here's Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator's blog:
Cuomo for SEC???
John McCain has now officially jumped the shark, the whale, the ocean, and the intergalactic space creature, all at once. He is recommending naming Andrew Cuomo to be chairman of the SEC. That's like giving Ted Kennedy prosecutorial power against pharmaceutical companies, or like asking Putin to head a U.N. investigation of Georgia's Saakashvili. It's absolutely friggin' nuts....
Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard? Horrified. Mark Levin of National Review? Horrified.
And here's another American Spectator post, from Spec's Philip Klein. The key word is "whim":
... after saying he wanted to fire Chris Cox as SEC Chairman, McCain said he wanted to appoint Andrew Cuomo to replace him. There isn't much rationale behind either choice beyond McCain wanting to show, in the case of Cox, that unlike Bush, he holds people accountable, and in the case of Cuomo, that he would be a bipartisan leader willing to appoint a liberal Democrat who disagrees with him on almost every issue to a key position. But it really does raise questions about what type of people McCain would appoint as president, which seems to be dictated by odd whim, rather than thinking about who would be best at implementing policies that he publicly supports....
Even the VP decision seems to have been a bit quirky. Most reports suggested that McCain really wanted to pick Joe Lieberman -- somebody with vast foreign policy experience who would be unacceptable to conservatives. But when he realized that he couldn't do that, he seemed to go for the polar opposite selection -- somebody who has no foreign policy experience, but who energizes conservatives.
... the signals he has given us during the campaign are so idiosyncratic, that we really have no idea what to expect from his administration.
The more McCain feels he has to go populist, the less these guys are going to want to help catapult his propaganda. They didn't trust him before and they don't trust him again. They don't think he's going to be true to their precious conservative movement. It reminds me a bit of 1992, when some movement conservatives didn't really think it would be a huge tragedy if Poppy Bush lost, because they didn't think he was one of them. Remember how that wound up.
And it's not as if McCain is making up for it with suggestions that really appeal to the swing voters: fire who? replace him with who?
So I hope McCain keeps flailing, trying to be more and more populist. He may really lose the influential conservatives who closed ranks around him after he clinched the nomination.
UPDATE: George Will just revised and extended his remarks in a Washington Post column titled "McCain Loses His Head." Ron Beasley at Newshoggers asks,
Did George Will just say John McCain is too hot headed to be President?
I think George Will just said John McCain is too hotheaded to be a conservative. You judge:
... Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does."...
Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either....
When Will says "disconnected from knowledge and principle" he means "disconnected from conservative principles, which are the root of all knowledge."