a mccain presidency

Reason’s April 2007 issue has a very timely article profiling John McCain. McCain made his intentions to run for president clear, last night (though blundering early, as he chose poorly his words in referring to the troop deaths in Iraq as “wasted”). Matt Welch does a good job of dispelling the media fabrication of a rebellious, centrist McCain, subtitling his article “The Frightening Mind of an Authoritarian Maverick”.

Like Kristol and Brooks, McCain regards Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as political idols; like them, he never hesitates in asserting that government power should be used to rekindle American (and Republican) pride in government. Unlike most neoconservative intellectuals, however, McCain is intimately familiar with the bluntest edge of state-sponsored force. A McCain presidency would put legislative flesh on David Brooks’ fuzzy pre-9/11 notions of “grand aspiration”, deploying a virtuous federal bureaucracy to purify unclean private transactions from the boardroom to the bedroom. And it would prosecute the nation’s post-9/11 wars with a militaristic zeal this country hasn’t seen in generations.

Towards the end of the article, Welch addresses McCain’s contempt for liberty:

McCain is at his most unintentionally revealing when writing about his Republican predecessor in the Senate, Barry Goldwater. “I really don’t think he liked me much,” he wrote in Worth the Fighting For. “I don’t know why that was….He was usually cordial, just never as affectionate as I would have liked.”

That it never occurred to McCain why a libertarian Westerner might keep a “national greatness” conservative and D.C.-bred carpetbagger at arm’s length is both touching and deeply worrisome. Does he not understand that there are at least some people in American life who take liberty as seriously as McCain takes his notions of national duty? Judging by a comment he made recently on the Don Imus radio show, the answer seems to be no. Defending campaign finance reform, McCain said, “I would rather have a clean government than one…where ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has been corrupt. If I had my choice I’d rather have a clean government.”

He may have his choice soon enough.

I have to say, after 8 years of a presidency which has seen some of the most astounding rollbacks in civil liberties in generations, the idea of a Teddy Roosevelt-worshipping, big-stick-carrying President McCain is just about the scariest damn thing I can imagine. I’ll link to the full article once it’s online – read it. Trust me. It’s enlightening and scary. It makes you realize that McCain’s blunderous choice of words in referring to “wasted” troops in Iraq is not because he disrespects the men or their deaths, but doubtless because he would have even bigger plans for them.