September 05, 2008

What McCain didn’t say

Last night, John McCain sounded all the standard John McCain leitmotifs, from ?causes greater than self-interest? to ?stand up and fight!? to, of course, his hopes of the leader of a proposition, not a nation?America isn?t ?just a place, but an idea.? For the Republicans in the hall, who once loved to hate McCain, the old themes illicited a boisterous response. For the rest of the country, the speech probably rang a bit flat (but then so did Obama?s). Although it certainly had its moments of poignancy, and McCain was able to build to a final crescendo in which he exhorted each and all to ?stand up, stand up? above enthusiastic applause.

All fine and good. But while Sarah Palin?s fresh face has inspired many us in the alternative Right to imagine her as a new kind of Republican leader, we know John McCain all too well. And it?s no coincidence that things that most disturb us about a McCain presidency are precisely those things that the senator barely touched on last night, or left out entirely. 

Immigration?legal and illegal?received no mention; however, his wispy talk of the Americanism of that ?Latina daughter of migrant workers? gave us a good reminder of where Mac stands on mass immigration and amnesty?promises of ?border security? being irrelevant to the more important question of numbers and national origin.

With foreign policy, I guess we should be thankful that McCain didn?t go on too long on America?s ?solidarity? with Georgia and didn?t bring up ?democracy promotion? at all. At the moment, Republicans, and the country as a whole, want to be reassured that we?re not losing in Iraq?and then move on. Still, it?s hard to imagine that if he reaches the White House, McCain wouldn?t seek out some international crisis of some sort or find some new wicked enemy to confront in order to secure his legacy as, in the words of his friend Joe Lieberman, a ?wartime president.?

At the very least, McCain?s expressed desire to ?establish good relations with Russia? and promise, ?we need not fear a return of the Cold War,? were delivered in a manner that, to me, seemed perfunctory, almost glib. 

Reflecting the country?s mood, McCain?s speech was all about domestic institutional reform: cutting taxes and spending (what the GOP always talks about) and ?making government work again.? If McCain were elected?which is looking increasingly more likely?let us hope and pray that he spends all his time on school choice and ?making famous? some ill-starred Congressman who gets caught swindling an Indian tribe or earmarking some gigantic and unnecessary bridge in his home district. This kind of work would be beneficial?and infinitely more desirable than McCain?s deciding to do all those things he didn?t much talk about on Thursday night. 

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