Charles Krauthammer wrote a definitive piece last week on why the nation should support John McCain over Barack Obama. At least, it seemed definitive, but apparently Krauthammer had more to add. In what looks like the longest post-script in history, Krauthammer details the similarities and differences between Obama and McCain, and draws at least one important distinction for dispirited conservatives:
A conservative government has already partially nationalized the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and nine of the largest U.S. banks.
This is all generally swallowed because everyone understands that the current crisis demands extraordinary measures. The difference is that conservatives are instinctively inclined to make such measures temporary. Whereas an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Barney Frank administration will find irresistible the temptation to use the tools inherited — $700 billion of largely uncontrolled spending — as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically remake the American economy and social compact.
Of course, this is the point that conservatives opposing the bailout made all along. The government can’t be trusted to make these solutions temporary, especially with Congress in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Allowing the partial nationalization of banking and insurance companies ceded important philosophical and political ground to the statists, and instead the direction of the bailout should have been limited to fixing what government broke in the first place: the mortgage-backed securities that infected the entire system.
Think of it in terms of an old joke. A man approaches a beautiful woman at a bar and asks if she will have sex with him for a million dollars. She says, “For a million dollars? Sure!” The man hands her a $100 bill, and she throws it in his face, saying, “What do you think I am?” He replies, “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just negotiating over price.”
In other words, one cannot become a temporary statist without giving credibility to statism.
After noting that both candidates have talked about the necessity of bipartisanship, Krauthammer warns that Obama won’t need to be bipartisan while Congress is controlled by Reid and Pelosi:
Obama, on the other hand, talks less and less about bipartisanship, his calling card during his earlier messianic stage. He does not need to. If he wins, he will have large Democratic majorities in both houses. And unlike Clinton in 1992, Obama is no centrist.
And Obama has no track record at all of bipartisanship. McCain has a long history of working across the aisle, to the consternation of his party at times, but Obama has none. In an Obama administration with a Democratic Congress, Republicans will become irrelevant for at least the next two years. The only bipartisanship Obama will show will be to name a couple of Republicans as advisers, people who will keep those positions only as long as they can stomach being mouthpieces for policy they won’t influence one single degree.
Krauthammer says it won’t be the end of the world, and he’s right. We survived the Great Society and the Jimmy Carter presidency, too. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet gotten past the economic and foreign-policy hangovers of either yet, and we certainly don’t need to add to that burden with the sharp left turn we’ll get in four years of Barack Obama’s leadership.