"THE REAL McCAIN," NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH "THE REAL BUSH" OR "THE REAL CHENEY"
David Brooks tells us today that the John McCain we're seeing now isn't the one who'd be president if he's elected:
...when people try to tell me that the McCain on the campaign trail is the real McCain and the one who came before was fake, I just say, baloney. I saw him. A half-century of evidence is there.
If McCain is elected, ... he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all -- and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign -- a serious man prone to serious things.
Please remember that this is same David Brooks who, writing for Salon in 2000, told us what to expect from a Bush presidency:
I am planning to vote for George W. Bush because he is a nice guy. As a nice guy he will attract and retain the loyalty of outstanding administration officials, and together they will promote policies that are smarter and bolder than we ever would expect, just from looking at Bush himself. As a nice man, he will prove remarkably adept at working with Congress, with Democrats, with the media and with all the other different people you need to handle as president. He will set a tone of bonhomie that will grease the machinery of government; things will actually get done in Washington again.
Good grief -- has anyone ever made a worse prediction?
George W. Bush, of course, has run a nakedly partisan administration -- and yet many pundits argued for years that the partisan side of Bush would someday fade and "the real Bush," the one who got along so swimmingly with the (quite conservative) Democrats in the Texas legislature, would emerge.
And hell, even Dick Cheney was supposed to be easy to get along with. This is from a 2000 CNN story, written just before the Cheney pick was announced:
...A collegial conservative in Congress
Cheney's supporters bill him as a conservative but not an ideologue....
Republicans say Cheney's record was unlikely to make him vulnerable to Democratic accusations of extremism....
They were all supposed to be nice and non-partisan and convivial. What happened?
Well, maybe they can all be real sweethearts under certain circumstances. But obviously they're also all capable of profound, abiding hatred of their enemies.
Bush still bears a deep grudge against the left-leaners he met at Yale, and much of what he's done as president suggests that he's still trying to fight them, by proxy. The same can be said for Cheney and his bitter resentment of the Democrats who placed limits on executive-branch power in reaction to the administration of his old boss Dick Nixon. And McCain's temper, of course is legendary.
So these guys can get angry. And then, as party standard-bearers, they lead a GOP that thinks all its enemies are pure evil, and that focuses on marginalizing, if not destroying, all opponents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Bush and Cheney and McCain head the party of Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Hate is part of the job description, and there are no days off from the job of hating.
Non-partisan? They're at the head of the Republican Party. Partisan combat is the most important part of the job.