Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It's no surprise that the head of last week's losing presidential ticket is now held in low esteem by both his own party and the party of his opponents. What's striking is that John McCain, a guy a lot of people thought was the most honorable man in national politics, is being excoriated -- by both sides -- for being dishonorable. That didn't happen to, say, John Kerry or Al Gore or Bob Dole. These losers may have been regarded as incompetent and ineffectual, but they weren't widely criticized for lapses of character.

We know what upset Democrats this year -- deceitful ads, insinuations that Barack Obama is a secret radical and subversive, McCarthyite attacks by the VP candidate and other surrogates. What has Republicans upset is John McCain's failure to come to Sarah Palin's rescue.

Both sides have a point.

From the Democratic point of view, John McCain ran a low, sleazy campaign that should have violated any rational person's notion of honor. On the other side, one can argue about whether it's dishonorable to fail to stand up for one's VP choice -- the history of American politics is full of running mates who didn't like each other very much -- but it's dishonorable according to the code of honor McCain claims to follow. That's essentially what righty blogger Don Surber said (rather pompously) yesterday:

He should be chivalrous and defend her honor.

Men should always come to the aid of women.

And a commander in chief should protect his troops, male or female.

I expect a Barack Obama to thrown anything and anyone under the bus in his quest for power.

But McCain, Naval Academy '58, must follow a higher code of honor.

That was in response to a Wall Street Journal op ed that called on McCain to give "a public slapdown to the very public smears emanating from his own campaign team" about Palin on last night's Tonight Show. McCain didn't do so to the satisfaction of Michelle Malkin:

From the man whose best-sellers include "Why Courage Matters" and "Character Is Destiny" comes this underwhelming reaction to the cowardly smearing of Sarah Palin by his own unnamed staffers:

"These things happen."

Not: "Shame on the leakers. I denounce and renounce them."

Not: "I'm going to get to the bottom of this and make sure those blabbermouths never work in a major campaign again."

Just: "These things happen."


But this is what happens when you stop making a real effort to hold yourself to a standard of morality and conclude instead that you simply embody morality.

George W. Bush thinks he was put on earth to do the work of God. Not having any doubt about that, he gave us eight years characterized by deadly lies, torture, and neglect of the victims of the worst natural disaster on American soil in our lifetime. What could be less Christian? But Bush thought: Who is more Christian than I am? Therefore, whatever I want to do must be Christian, by definition.

In just the same way, John McCain has swallowed the narrative of Mark Salter and other mythmakers -- he believes he's the living embodiment of honor. Therefore, how can anything he does be dishonorable?

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