Green Room

Defending the Honor of President McCain

posted at 11:02 pm on September 22, 2009 by

TV and radio host Glenn Beck recently sat for an interview with Katie Couric, in which he asserted that John McCain would have been “worse for the country than Barack Obama.” Beck’s remarks were deliberately provocative – he was laughing in a “try this one on for size” spirit when he repeated them. He might have been looking to stake out some unique, independent ground, in the manner of his Fox associate Bill O’Reilly, who awakens every morning to discover the center of the political universe is planted squarely between his toes. I’ll take Beck at his word, however, and strenuously disagree with him.

John McCain was not my choice for the GOP nomination. He ran a perfectly appalling campaign, all the more heartbreaking because he squandered the only exciting opportunity he managed to create: the selection of Sarah Palin. McCain’s greatest mistake, which America has not finished paying dearly for, was allowing the Democrat crooks behind the subprime crisis to skate away without penalty. The miscarriage of justice involved in leaving Barney Frank to happily count the money he looted from American taxpayers pales beside the damage he continues to inflict on the economy. In fact, the Washington Examiner just ran a story about the return of the very same policies that produced the subprime crash. McCain is accountable for every bit of the damage people like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd cause in the future, an accessory through his silence. He spent far too much of his campaign dreaming of a big, old-fashioned wedding with The Media, flanked by honored Senate colleagues in tuxedos and bridesmaid gowns… while the object of his affections staggered out of a tattoo parlor with Obama’s name written all over her, fell into the back seat of the Lightworker’s muscle car, and roared off in a shower of empty beer cans.

He was an awful candidate… but McCain would not have bitten his tongue while Iran murdered its citizens, leaving their Fourth of July picnic invitation on the table. He would not be working to install a Chavez puppet as dictator of Honduras. He wouldn’t have tried to sacrifice American intelligence agents in a show trial for political gain. He wouldn’t shower America’s adversaries with concessions while gaining nothing in return. McCain would have plenty of opponents, but he wouldn’t spend an unseemly amount of time designating groups of his constituents as enemies. He would know better than to casually accuse a cop of racism on national television.

I don’t see McCain setting up an Orwellian email address to rat out political enemies to the White House, or dispatching a horde of thugs to beat up demonstrators at town hall meetings. I doubt he would greet the disappearance of billions in “stimulus” money by shrugging and demanding another trillion. He wasn’t lying when he said he wanted victory in Afghanistan. He would have fewer unelected, unconfirmed “czars,” and none of them would be a Truther, a supporter of cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal, or a communist… let alone all three. His Supreme Court nominations would not have to defend their racial theories of judicial supremacy at their confirmation hearings. Enemies of America wouldn’t have to test John McCain to find out what he was made of – they could just ask the North Vietnamese. I always thought “The Straight Talk Express” was a silly name for his campaign bus, but at least it wasn’t splattered with the political blood of people thrown beneath it.

This is not to say that President McCain’s domestic policies would have been superb. It’s impossible to predict exactly what anyone would have done in the Oval Office. The butterfly effect from swapping out presidents is so huge that it comes with pair of tiny Japanese girls, who speak in unison when they warn of its approach. However, nothing McCain said during the campaign made me anticipate a presidency of bold conservative reform. I suspect we would have gotten something like the lazy Bush slide to the left in most areas, sprinkled with the occasional conservative policy, and the unmitigated disaster of amnesty for illegal aliens.

During the campaign, disgruntled Republicans often said it would be better to have Obama in office, showing everyone just how horrible Democrat policies are, than tolerate a RINO like McCain pushing the same policies in low gear, with bipartisan fingerprints. Glenn Beck’s slap at McCain is a retroactive expression of the idea that conservatism is just one crushing defeat away from total victory. Anyone who thought it was worth putting Obama in office, as some kind of object lesson for the American voter, gravely underestimated the amount of damage he could do. Look at how far we’ve sailed past the edge of fiscal sanity, in only nine months. It would take decades of careful, moderate reform just to get us back to where George Bush left us… and that wasn’t exactly an enviable position. Freedom is an endless voyage, while tyranny has far too many points of no return. The course we steered away from President McCain has taken us perilously close to those terminal waters.

The Obama presidency has been a flash forward to where the post-Reagan glide path might have taken us, in ten or twenty years. It is not the same thing to arrive at this moment in 2009 instead of 2029, any more than spending the night drinking a bottle of whiskey is the same thing as draining it all in one gulp. Toxicity increases with dosage. Many things might have occurred over the next few decades, to help us cope with the coming crash. Instead, the time bomb of Social Security begins detonating next year. Even if Obama left office tomorrow, it would take dramatic reforms to pull us out of our nose dive… and the American voter hates dramatic reforms.

I’ve got a lot of bones to pick with George Bush’s domestic policies, and I doubt President McCain’s would have been much better, but if either of them replaced Obama tomorrow, the economy would begin improving immediately… not because they would do anything particularly brilliant, but because they wouldn’t pummel us with the insane crap Obama serves up as daily fare. At least the markets would have less reason to be terrified of the White House. Simply refraining from the dramatic transformation of our economy and culture would be a huge improvement at this point.

McCain wouldn’t be a worse president than Obama. He would be more politically inconvenient for the conservative movement. Speaking for myself, I’d pay that price in a heartbeat… to spare my country what it has already endured, and what is yet to come.

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I fear for our republic. But I also wonder if We the People would have been stirred from our malaise under McCain.

publiuspen on September 22, 2009 at 11:16 PM

I fear for our republic. But I also wonder if We the People would have been stirred from our malaise under McCain.

publiuspen on September 22, 2009 at 11:16 PM

We’ll never know, of course, but I was always convinced the price of breaking that malaise under President Obama would be too high. Events since the election have reinforced that belief. The goal of conservatives should always be persuasion. Believing that only the crash of liberal America could empower conservatives concedes that the goal of persuasion is unattainable. I don’t believe that, although I wouldn’t deny that my faith is sorely tested on some days…

Doctor Zero on September 22, 2009 at 11:24 PM

I think Beck meant a few different things. One is that McCain wouldn’t have been as much fun for Beck. Two, is that McCain would have been worse because his status-quo compromise politics and counterfeit conservatism would not have pushed America into the harsh awarenesses which Obama has, and would only have sustained the Left in its insidious creep rather than exposing them, as Obama has. It is a paradox Beck cannot adequately express.

rrpjr on September 22, 2009 at 11:32 PM

Doctor Zero on September 22, 2009 at 11:24 PM

I have never felt such anger as these days… But it is not “the crash of liberal America” I seek. I believe government is the servant of the people not the master. I do not know how We the People regain control.

publiuspen on September 22, 2009 at 11:39 PM

+1 for the Mothra reference.

Russ on September 22, 2009 at 11:48 PM

I don’t see the world in Republican and Democratic stripes. I see it as a struggle between Conservatives and Liberals. I think Beck has hit on something here. Our government has become unresponsive and bloated. We have too many career politicians that have forgotten the people in favor of their special interests. Who is a lobbyest for the people? Well enough is enough. The giant is awake and we are paying attention. I do agree that President McCain would have been much better than Obama. I do not agree with the statement, that “it takes a Carter to get a Reagan”. My only question is who is our Reagan?

d1carter on September 22, 2009 at 11:49 PM

I too hoped that Obambi would win ( i did vote for McCain) only to show the pantywaste wimps in the middle just how evil liberalism is. I wanted TehWon to push too far, do too much and truly show what a marxist scum he truly was.

Well, he is doing it in spades. I know we will survive and it will take time to recoup once we have kicked all the bastidges out in the coming elections, but I think it will be a lesson well learned.

Too many Americans have gotten soft and fookin lazy. They needed a square peg into round hole moment to wake their asses up. Period.

WElcome to the wake up call. Time to start acting like your liberty and the Constitution means something and behave accordingly.


exsanguine on September 22, 2009 at 11:51 PM

“ I do not agree with the statement, it takes a Carter to get a Reagan”…
d1carter on September 22, 2009 at 11:49 PM

But that is my prayer.

publiuspen on September 22, 2009 at 11:54 PM

I’m usually one of the few righties I know who is mostly ambivalent on Beck, but that statement is just stupid. McCain wasn’t my candidate either, but we can’t blame him for everything either. It’s like the bored yuppie in therapy blaming everything on their mother.

We knew McCain was moderate. He never misrepresented himself. The Republican party elected a crummy nominee. This is on us. And people who stayed home because he wasn’t conservative enough were treating the election like a game, and I think that stinks.

killtruck on September 22, 2009 at 11:55 PM

publiuspen on September 22, 2009 at 11:54 PM


d1carter on September 22, 2009 at 11:57 PM

The problem with speculating on whether McCain may or may not have engaged in the same atrocious behaviour is that you do not know what evil lurks in the heart of McCain. This is the man who put his name on a bill which abrogated the first amendment to the constitution.
I wager that, had he won, he would have done anything (perhaps short of murdering his own family and selling the meat for less than $1.88/lb) to stay in the good graces of the democrats. He most certainly would have tried (though probably not with the fervor of our favourite Indonesian) to run some sort of health-care reform scheme by us, and him being a republican, we may well have bought it.
Would he have sold out the Poles? I don’t know, did Putin look at him angrily? Probably.
Would he be looking at pulling us out of Iraq & Afghanistan? If the winds from the polls had blown that way on the wrong day, I wouldn’t put it past him.
For me, the only thing McCain had to offer was the faint hope that he would die in office, perhaps even surpassing WH Harrison in his term of service. A pleasure to speculate on, but “Science Fiction is written by the losers, from their mother’s basement.”

fronclynne on September 23, 2009 at 12:01 AM

Doctor Zero:
My read on Beck is that he’s viewing a McCain presidency from the perspective of its long-term effects on the country. I think he sees the short-term effects, domestic and foreign, of Obama being worse than they would have been under McCain. However I think he sees the long-term effects of Obama — engendering revulsion by and for Obama’s tone-deaf leftist powergrab in the people of the country, pushing the country back to its principles of liberty and classical liberalism — being far better than the status-quo-malaise that McCain’s presidency likely would have produced.

This perspective, focused on the strategic trends, is (I think) what is behind Beck’s assertions that there’s no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans; that, except for the speed, both parties (infested as they are with Progressives and Progressivism) are taking us to the same Leftist, totalitarian place. If I had to reword his statement, I would say, “If both drivers are trying to steer the bus off of a cliff, does it really matter that one is only doing so at 50 mph instead of 90?”

I think Beck is operating in the realm of strategic perspective here, while most of the commentators are working on the tactical level, and that’s why even honorable commentators occasionally misrepresent what he’s saying.

Harpazo on September 23, 2009 at 12:25 AM

First off – good piece, Doc, but I don’t think this has anything to do with McCain’s “honor,” really. Frankly, neither you nor I nor Glenn Beck is in a position to impugn his honor.

You’re right about all of the things McCain wouldn’t have done if her were President, but you can’t answer the alternative history question without being able to answer how you imagine McCain would have won in your President McCain world. As soon as you start running the thought experiments, if you’re honest, you’ll understand how hard it is to shoe-horn into the Oval Office. The media, the political class, the electorate, the country, George W Bush, Alan Greenspan, Robert E Lee, and God put BO in office.

There is no likely world that I can think of in which McCain was elected, but the Dems still got 60 Senate seats and an overwhelming majority in the House. The world in which McCan could have been elected was a world that didn’t hate Bush, that wasn’t facing a major economic crisis, that wasn’t still (barely) under the thumb of an ideologically corrupt media and its intellectual enablers… and 75-100 years of progressive liberalism defining the terms of political discussion and taking power at American conservatism’s epochal moment of exhaustion.

Beck’s statement was foolish. It should remind us not to take Beck too seriously – in case we needed the reminder – but to the larger audience he reaches, maybe it helps some of them think a little harder about things they don’t think much about, even if they reach a different conclusion in the end.

I still think Beck’s been a net plus for conservatism this year. Whether we leave him behind will depend on just how desperate things really get and whether the political process produces some authentic leaders – as opposed to media celebrities – we can unite around.

CK MacLeod on September 23, 2009 at 12:32 AM

I voted against Obama and for Palin, with McCain as the possible spoiler (Amnesty; Climate Change; ad nauseam), hoping he might have been restrained by Sarah’s spunk.

He could cause a lot of stupid, pandering damage with such statist follies IF NOT HELD IN CHECK… that was the risk voting for Palin/McCain.

I took it. And he failed to FIGHT! And told the People that Obama was a decent man who no one had to worry about.

(Foot, meet politically-fatal bullet. Hoof, meet mouth.)

Obama, however, was CERTAIN TO TRY TO cause such statist lunacies.

It was his goal, and sworn aim.

Why anyone would pick a charismatic true believer crackpot tyro doofus like Barry the Youngster over an old, cranky warhorse who loved his country (perhaps not always wisely, but well… enough) seemed to be feckless naivete.

And now, seems to have been witless lunacy.

Obama is a trainwreck in slo-mo, bro.

McCain wouldn’t have had the energy to do as much harm.

His only charm.

profitsbeard on September 23, 2009 at 12:36 AM

+1 for the Mothra reference.

Russ on September 22, 2009 at 11:48 PM

Which I totally missed. Now, I’m recalling all manner of cheesy English-dubbed Japanese monster movies (Mothra v.Godzilla and All Monsters Attack were favorites, “Minya, come and get me…”) Ah, anyway…

Diane on September 23, 2009 at 4:34 AM

When you have lemons… Beck’s thoughts do help me out of my Obambi malaise. Hope that it was all for the best. It is not so much the presidency but 2010. Can this nation sustain 4 more years of Pelosi/Reid? I’m sorry some of our friends have been left without an umbrella but if you are willing to surrender sovereignty (Gaza, Honduran Presidency, Brussels to name a few) for shade only to be burned, then I hope the world will stop looking upon US taxpayers as an ATM. Do it for yourselves as conservatives demonstrated on 9/12. Stop waiting in line for USAID and embrace capitalism.

FeFe on September 23, 2009 at 4:49 AM

I recall John McCain calling those who opposed Amnesty ” Bigots” and he also had Lindsay Graham do the same for him in the You Tube posted below.

I don’t believe McCain would have been worse for America but I do believe he would have been bad for the GOP as President. He would have tried hard to reach agreement with Reid and Pelosi on issues conservatives totally oppose. The GOP would not be surging in polls as it has since January.

McCain also hired an open border Mexican advisor to his campaign who was probably as bad as Van Jones.

Dennis D on September 23, 2009 at 6:25 AM

Palin was not McCains problem. McCain did not do enough to protect and defend her during the campaign. Just to put this into perspective. Palin was continiously bashed for $150,000 in cloths. Did anyone attack Obama for his Styrofoam Greek Columns which cost 1 Million? I think McCain lost because of the idiotic posturing when the financial crisis hit and he cancelled the campaign.

Dennis D on September 23, 2009 at 6:29 AM

McCain would have been worse for conservatism. President Obama is far, far worse for America. Who knows how damaged we as a nation will be when he is finally replaced.

BadgerHawk on September 23, 2009 at 7:19 AM

Russ on September 22, 2009 at 11:48 PM

Dittos on the Mothra reference.

Good Post, Doc.

catmman on September 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Believing that only the crash of liberal America could empower conservatives concedes that the goal of persuasion is unattainable. I don’t believe that, although I wouldn’t deny that my faith is sorely tested on some days…

Doc Zero, I’m going to disagree with you here. On foreign policy, there’s no question that McCain would have done better. Heck, a magic 8-ball could probably have done better. But domestic policy? Do you really think that McCain would have been better? Sure, if you take the short view, McCain’s policies would have been-possibly- somewhat better than Barry’s. However, some of the stuff that Obama proposes, such as amnesty, would have passed easily under president McCain. There are simply too many go along, get along GOPers in DC. At least with a Democrat in the White House, there’s a chance that the Republicans will display some sort of spine.

What’s my point? I think that your position is probably correct in the short term, but I think that you’re mistaken if you take the long view. We are, for better or worse, a two party country. A McCain presidency would have sealed the GOP’s doom. I’m not convinced that Republicans have yet learned their lesson, but the country as a whole has awakened. Most people ignore the day to day doings in DC because, well, they’re busy living their lives. But when politicians want to wreck everything, well, that gets there attention. I’m still of the opinion that people would still be slumbering if McCain were president.

Physics Geek on September 23, 2009 at 9:24 AM

What’s my point? I think that your position is probably correct in the short term, but I think that you’re mistaken if you take the long view. We are, for better or worse, a two party country. A McCain presidency would have sealed the GOP’s doom. I’m not convinced that Republicans have yet learned their lesson, but the country as a whole has awakened. Most people ignore the day to day doings in DC because, well, they’re busy living their lives. But when politicians want to wreck everything, well, that gets there attention. I’m still of the opinion that people would still be slumbering if McCain were president.

Physics Geek on September 23, 2009 at 9:24 AM

I understand your point about the “awakening,” and hopefully America can make some lemonade out of the Obama lemon. I heard that very argument advanced many times during the campaign, by unhappy Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for McCain, and I’ve thinking about it ever since. My problem with that line of thinking is that we just don’t have enough liberty left to sacrifice, for an awakening that may not be a sure thing.

If current trends continue into 2010, and the Democrats are looking at a bloodbath, they may well decide to pull the trigger on junk like national health care, polls be damned. I’m not sure America can come back from something like that. I’m not sanguine about our ability to repair the damage that’s already been done. How do you undo billions of dollars swept into the coffers of Obama’s political allies, trillions in new spending, and a skyrocketing deficit… when the growth of government has not truly been rolled back, even the tiniest bit, in decades? And that’s assuming the spectacular incompetence on display at the U.N. today doesn’t get us into more hot wars, or cost us a city.

As I said in the original essay, I’m not comfortable with the idea of putting my countrymen through the Great Crash to wake them up. I don’t believe that’s necessary. I have come to appreciate the power of conservative ideas, and the older principles of the Founders that illuminate them. The right leadership can get people on board with those ideas, without having to beat them half to death first.

Granted McCain was not that leader… but she might have been standing right next to him. At any rate, the price we’re paying to do better than McCain in 2012 is just too high. We should keep that in mind when we’re looking at the lineup for 2012, and wondering if we could do better in 2016. Of course, the people jockeying for positions on that 2012 lineup had better keep it in mind, too.

Doctor Zero on September 23, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Couple things, Doctor Zero.

McCain sucked as a candidate. As a conservative he’s a pretty okay moderate. He’s right on some of the social-conservative issues, and with the right team (which he did NOT have) could have done okay on the fiscal-conservative side as well, but .. his continued attacks at the religious-right base over the years left a bad taste – and those people have long memories.

The Republican primary system blew it. Badly. McCain may have been the right candidate to square off against Hillary, but he was the wrong candidate to go up against Obama. Lest you mistake my meaning, Ron Paul was the 2008 equivalent of Ralph Nader, both of whom were pikers compared to Ross Perot.

The electorate were given a choice, in very muddy terms, between a leftist-running-as-a-centrist and a centrist-running-as-a-centrist. They chose the leftist.

Even if they hadn’t chosen the leftist this time ’round, a McCain presidency would have only “kicked the can down the road” to 2012. No way in hell a Repub could have won then with McCain in the white house.

It’s highly unpleasant, Doctor, but .. I think we’re here for a reason – there’s enough of us who don’t remember Carter and who haven’t learned from Eastern Europe – who require an object lesson.

I keep one thing in mind. Cloward-Piven has a fatal flaw – the guns are in the wrong hands.


acat on September 23, 2009 at 10:26 AM

My problem with that line of thinking is that we just don’t have enough liberty left to sacrifice, for an awakening that may not be a sure thing.

Sigh. I hate finding myself at odds with someone that I usually agree with. Then again, I had this discussion many times last year. But here goes again: if the “awakening” isn’t a sure thing, this country is done. Kaput. Finis. If the crapper that the current administration has put us into in short order isn’t sufficient to shake people out of their stupor, then there really isn’t any point in fighting anymore, as there simply isn’t the collective will to resist.

Do I believe that? No, I don’t, and I didn’t last year. But I thought that it was important to find out one of two things:

1) The country really wasn’t ready for European, cradle to grave, government finger in every facet of your life socialism and would fight to prevent it.

2) The country didn’t care enough to stop our slide into second rate status.

Is there a downside to picking #1? Of course there is. Look at what’s happening to this country right now. However, I’d suggest that a lot of this started before the current administration was sworn in. If Bush hadn’t been his father’s son- presidentially speaking- we probably wouldn’t be in this mess. In fact, I believe that absent a Democrat-lite GOP Senate, House and White House, we wouldn’t (a) have nominated McCain and (b) have elected Obama.

My choice, as I saw it, was to continue slowly down the path to Hell, with no possible reversal on the horizon, or to grease the skids under the handbasket to see if people would actually scream STOP. So far, #2 seems to be path more traveled by.

Am I worried that the Dems will ram something through, regardless of the political ramifications? Of course. Unlike Clinton, who was at heart a self-centered pragmatist, Obama is at heart a narcissist who believes that the world revolves around him. He simply cannot fathom that people don’t accept his leadership and is willing to screw anyone and everyone to force his views on us.

Physics Geek on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Physics Geek on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 AM
It’s correctable. It’s just a question of how bad it’ll get first.

If Middle America hits the snooze button again, I’d watch for a rise in “tenth amendment” types, and expect the number of expatriates to jump exponentially as those with eyes to see and ears to hear try to circle their wagons or run for the hills.


acat on September 23, 2009 at 10:54 AM

Anyone who thought it was worth putting Obama in office, as some kind of object lesson for the American voter, gravely underestimated the amount of damage he could do.

We knew the damage he could do.

I liken this to being a parent, at some point you have to let your children make mistakes. You will teach them the right way, but eventually they will make the wrong decision. They must be allowed to suffer the consequences and hopefully learn form it.

Call it “The Jimmy everyone’s a racist Carter effect”….

Bogeyfre on September 23, 2009 at 10:59 AM

This post has been promoted to

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on September 23, 2009 at 11:06 AM

glenn made a point this morning:

Republicans would have been complicit in furthering a McCain agenda with cap and tax/open borders/global warming policies. Hillary would have been met with as much resistance as Obama faces now (but it would be called sexism not racism natch)so in the theoretical world defeating these big government proposals would have been more likely in a hillary presidency than a mccain. Its a plausible argument

HAHAHA OH WOW on September 23, 2009 at 11:45 AM

I don’t see this post on the main page.

BadgerHawk on September 23, 2009 at 11:48 AM

John McCain might have been a bad president for Americans, but I’m Australian and pro-American, and I thought he would be good for pro-American foreigners, for four reasons:

1. Much better / stronger / mature foreign policy than Barack Obama. Thus, pride for American allies.
2. Fierce opposition to wasting money. Thus, a stronger economy: good for trading partners.
3. Likely to appoint better judges than Barack Obama will. Thus: America likely to be a healthier cultural influence in the long run.
4. Four years in the White House for Sarah Palin to learn her trade as a national leader.

Even though I’m looking at this though a prism of “what’s good for Australia?” the same four factors should weigh heavily for American conservatives who like America to be great, not apologetic.

Those who toiled and spent their money to get John McCain elected did the right thing. They have nothing to be ashamed of. The economy went bad and they lost, is all.

David Blue on September 25, 2009 at 7:07 AM

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