Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2008

WILL HAS NO USE FOR MCCAIN.... It's probably fair to say conservative columnist George Will has been thoroughly unimpressed by John McCain of late. He's blasted McCain for "behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high." Will has lamented McCain's "dismaying temperament." He's described McCain as "childish," "shallow," and suffering from a "Manichaean worldview."

And today, Will labeled McCain "John the Careless," citing among other things, McCain picking Sarah Palin for the GOP ticket because he seemed to believe "never having attended a 'Georgetown cocktail party' is sufficient qualification for the vice presidency."

The column is worth reading, but this is the paragraph that stood out for me:

Palin may be an inveterate simplifier; McCain has a history of reducing controversies to cartoons. A Republican financial expert recalls attending a dinner with McCain for the purpose of discussing with him domestic and international financial complexities that clearly did not fascinate the senator. As the dinner ended, McCain's question for his briefer was: "So, who is the villain?"

This is amusing, but it's also important. McCain's appreciation for policy complexities doesn't exist. Maybe he's impatient, maybe he's easily confused, maybe both. But McCain not only prefers to see the world as black and white, good guy vs. bad guy, he needs this dynamic to make sense of current events. Subtleties, nuances, and depth are inconvenient, and therefore dismissed.

Indeed, we saw this clearly just a few days ago. Criticizing Obama's policy on nuclear energy, McCain described the security of spent fuel, the storage of nuclear waste, and nuclear proliferation as -- and I quote -- "blah blah blah." Don't bother him with details; just tell him who the enemy is and which direction to start attacking. Intellectual seriousness is for wusses.

There are three key angles to this. First, it's about the single worst quality a president can have, especially in a time of crisis.

Second, it helps explain why McCain's attacks against Obama have been almost entirely personal. Obama, as far as McCain is concerned, "is the villain." He doesn't deserve respect; he deserves, McCain seems to believe, to be destroyed.

And third, McCain's style is so similar to Bush's worldview, it's frightening. The only key difference is Bush, who famously boasted that he doesn't "do nuance," generally approached politics with a genial attitude. McCain likes to "reduce controversies to cartoons," but with angry and erratic temperament.

Steve Benen 11:16 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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And a great portion of the electorate cannot follow nuance, and needs to break every problem down into good guys and bad guys. The need a simple storyline.

(See: Television, Reality (2005-present))

Which is why John McCain will get an absolute minimum of 40% of the vote and has a not-zero chance of winning.

Posted by: Z. Mulls on October 30, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, thanks for this insightful post. As a Clinton supporter, I have not always appreciated or agreed with some of your posts, but this one is spot on. Way to go.

Posted by: John Petty on October 30, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Nuance" is a French word.

Posted by: Al on October 30, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Hi there I'm the Republican Party.
Stupid is a Virtue

Posted by: Im John McCain and I approved this message on October 30, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with your larger point. But I think you misunderstand McCain's "blah blah blah" comment. His point was that Obama will just talk about nuclear power, while he'll do something about it.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on October 30, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

But I think you misunderstand McCain's "blah blah blah" comment. His point was that Obama will just talk about nuclear power, while he'll do something about it.

McCain's point, which he has made repeatedly, is that the question of nuclear safety is a settled one. He seems to believe that because we have nuclear submarines that we have no reason to consider the issue of how to deal with nuclear waste. Statements to the effect that these are very much open and complex issues, especially when one is discussing a vast expansion of nuclear power, sound to him like Charlie Brown's teacher.

Posted by: brent on October 30, 2008 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

@ larry birnbaum

Precisely. No need to step back and make sure we ask some serious questions. Need nuclear power? Good. Bam! Build plants. Done. Next question.

Posted by: jonas on October 30, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "McCain described the security of spent fuel, the storage of nuclear waste, and nuclear proliferation as -- and I quote -- 'blah blah blah.'"

In fairness to McCain, "blah blah blah" is pretty much a verbatim quote from the lobbying group Nuclear Energy Institute and other proponents of massively expanding federal subsidies and gutting safety regulations for nuclear power, who dismiss those concerns as blithely as their bought-and-paid-for tool McCain does.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 30, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

@ Larry
But I think you misunderstand McCain's "blah blah blah" comment. His point was that Obama will just talk about nuclear power, while he'll do something about it.
Ya Like he said in the debate "I'm going to build 30 nuclear plants "right away"
It takes 10 - 15 years from design to permitting to bringing them on line.
He will be in a nursing home with his teeth in a glass of water long before the first kilowatt is generated.
Thats if you can find somewhere to put them (NIMBY)and the waste

Posted by: John R on October 30, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Please consider posting this video and passing it along, it’s amazing. It’s great at showing the distinction between MaCain and Obama in regards to the economy. Please pass this along to everyone you know. We have to get McCain elected… E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moTAI4VDIJw

“Some may try to tell us that this is the end of an era. But what they
overlook is that in America, every day is a new beginning. For this is the land that has
never become, but is always in the act of becoming.” Ronald Reagan

Posted by: Ernesto on October 30, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with your larger point. But I think you misunderstand McCain's "blah blah blah" comment. His point was that Obama will just talk about nuclear power, while he'll recklessly and with no forethought about the consequences do something about it.
Posted by: larry birnbaum on October 30, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

FIXED!

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 30, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest readers go to the LA Times site and google "John McCain, Naval Aviator" and read the article published about three weeks ago, regarding his career as a pilot. You can see way back then all the negatives in his personality that are so obvious now. Further proof that the Navy was right not to promote him from Lieutenant Commander to Commander for "lack of maturity", at least while they were using the standard issues for promotion, before he ended up in the "POW fast track promotion system."

Posted by: TCinLA on October 30, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

The truth is that Wills description of McCain is also an accurate description of his party. The Republicans have based their strategy on fear, villains and mind numbing over simplifications. For over forty years they have focusing building a majority by wooing the rural, redneck-peckerwood, white, racist, anti-intellecual, fundimentalist segment of the electorate. And, as the country moves on they are stuck with them. And, Will welcomed these voters until now. The thoughtfull ones from this group have left the party, but the rabid lunatics now form the Republican base. Will was willing to use them until they could no longer be controled.

Posted by: Elphage on October 30, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

When Will refers to McCain's Manichaean worldview and tendency to reduce complexity to cartoons, it suggests a mental habit that approaches severe neurosis. Part of being an adult is recognizing that everything isn't black and white, that there are shades of gray. But for a compulsive gambler like McCain, that recognition is disempowering. He chooses one thing over another with the certitude of roulette player. It's by secretly thinking there is one absolutely correct way of choosing that leads to bad choices. McCain may be the most temperamentally unsuited candidate for president in American history.

Posted by: walt on October 30, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs know they talk mostly to children ... evangelicals who purposefully truncate their thinking and simplify their educations.

the good evil thing works every time with people reduce everything to teachings of St. Paul.

Posted by: chuckchuck on October 30, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs know they talk mostly to children ... evangelicals who purposefully truncate their thinking and simplify their educations.

the good evil thing works every time with people reduce everything to teachings of St. Paul.

Posted by: chuckchuck on October 30, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs know they talk mostly to children ... evangelicals who purposefully truncate their thinking and simplify their educations.

the good evil thing works every time with people reduce everything to teachings of St. Paul.

Posted by: chuckchuck on October 30, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

As the dinner ended, McCain's question for his briefer was: "So, who is the villain?"

If the guy had said "job outsourcing" or "Saudi oil", would he do anything about it?

The man should have said, "Mu"

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on October 30, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, funny thing about Will not being bothered by the direction of the R Party, until now. Reminds me of a comment from a friend, this morning - I had sent her word of the latest Senator Gordon Smith ads in Oregon - The theme has changed to "One Party Rule is dangerous for this country - We must, at least, have Smith" - Her reply was that the Rove-Delay years of trying to destroy the Democratic Party didn't seem to bother Smith.

But, as to Double Talk being told who the villain is and from which direction to attack, I would add, and "Where can I bail out" from DT. Has he ever hit a target? But, he was rather ept at Tail-Hooking back home.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 30, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

That anecdote sums up, perfectly, what the last 8 years have been about, and what Palin hopes to resurrect in the future.

Anti-intellectualism fervor of the right has become one of the factors in this, almost comical, downfall.

I think they are now realizing, although not publicly, what ignoring the details of public policy does for you.

Posted by: Simp on October 30, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The new slogan of the Republican Party,
"Real men don't think things through."
--Paul Krugman

Posted by: Quatrain Gleam on October 30, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

But couldn't all of Will's criticisms of McCain and Palin be true of Bush as well. A lack of curiosity, no sense of nuance, a disinterest in economics...

I say this because Will could have saved us all a lot of trouble by making this critique 4, 6 or 8 years ago.

--Dan

Posted by: Dan on October 30, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone have any use for George Will?

I remember in his baseball book he wrote that umpires might not always get the calls rigth but over the course of their careers the calls that should have been balls or outs were made up by calls that should have been strikes or safe calls.

Basically if a guy gets it wrong don't worry because he'll get it wrong again and it will equal out.

The kicker came at the end. It was all a throwaway bunch of bullshit until he said that it's like a judge who might get it wrong in your favor but it will equal out because eventually he'll get it wrong against your favor.

This is some sort of assbackwards view of karma. Better yet Republican karma.

Hey don't worry that I'm fucking you over. Eventually I'll fuck you over again but it will be in your favor.

This is Republican theory of Government in a nutshell.

George Willcan go to hell. I think his toupee has been doused in fireretardents so it won't be too hot for him there.

Posted by: on October 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

George Will, the most over-articulate pundit of all time. I can't stand reading this guy's stuff because he seems compelled to find the most obscure and obtuse words to explain very simple things. I bet this guy has gone through about 10,000 thesaurus' in his life.

And that bow tie is ridiculous.

Posted by: citizen_pain on October 30, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Please consider posting this video and passing it along, it’s amazing. It’s great at showing the distinction between MaCain and Obama in regards to the economy. Please pass this along to everyone you know. We have to get McCain elected… E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moTAI4VDIJw

“Some may try to tell us that this is the end of an era. But what they
overlook is that in America, every day is a new beginning. For this is the land that has
never become, but is always in the act of becoming.” Ronald Reagan

shitty piece of propoganda. The video should include some footage of Obama fixing a tractor a la Stalin and maybe doing the backstroke like Mao.

Get real with this crap would you.

Posted by: on October 30, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Bluster and strong-man posing is the common tactic of the ignorant and unimaginative, though ambitious person.

A McCain presidency would probably have been an entertaining experience, if it was a small Latin American country without nukes he was aiming to lead; having him in charge in the US would have the entire planet trembling with trepidation, day and night. "What lunacy now?"

Posted by: SteinL on October 30, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

To be a naval aviator, you have to keep your planes in the air. Mr McCain was a Naval Plane Planter, with sufficient pull to be able to keep his bad calls and miserable judgment out of his record.

Posted by: SteinL on October 30, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's Goofus vs Gallant, and Barack is Gallant

Posted by: Johnny Bravo on October 30, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I'm equally delighted with the outrage of the reich wing knuckle draggers that Obama is going to win as I am that Obama is the right guy for the job.

Posted by: TedM on October 30, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

larry birnbaum wrote: "His point was that Obama will just talk about nuclear power, while he'll do something about it."

I sincerely hope that Obama is "just talking" about his support for both "safe nuclear power" and "clean coal" -- neither of which exist except as industry propaganda campaigns -- and that once in office he will not waste one single penny on either one of those toxic, dangerous, useless technologies.

Obama has been properly emphasizing the best solutions for energy and climate: efficiency, wind and solar. The USA can eliminate any need for increased energy supply through application of existing efficiency technologies and the elimination of blatant egregious waste, and the USA has vast commercially exploitable wind, solar and biomass energy resources that are more than sufficient to produce several times as much energy as the entire country uses, forever.

That's the way to go -- not squandering money on some cockamamie nuclear boondoggle -- and I hope that President Obama and a Democratic Congress will go there.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 30, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

George Will should look in the mirror. The problem is the Republican party. Imagine a Romney/Huckabee ticket running on their platform and track record. Or, don't bother imagining just remember back to the primary. Romney a pretty smart Republican with a not bad resume talked like a fool-- no, lying bastard fool-- during the primary. Their extremist base destroys reputations. Over the last 15 years Will earned his place on the wall of shame.

Romney/Huckabee was their best shot, but they too would've floundered amid the chaos of Republican "ideas."

Posted by: dennisS on October 30, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

George F. Will writes:

From the invasion of Iraq

and
McCain has a history of reducing controversies to cartoons.

Anyone recall the Will columns or TV appearances decrying the Iraq Invasion? How about his support for Al Gore or John Kerry, who "did nuance" and didn't reduce controversies to sound bite sized "with us or against us" morsels? Me neither.

George Bush, Jr., when challenged about the figures on his own website by Al Gore in a debate actually rebutted with, "that's fuzzy math." Where was George F. Will? Carrying water for the Republicans.

Sorry George F. Will. Too little too late. The Reality Based Boat left shore back in 2000.

Posted by: ed on October 30, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine all our energy that we've put into fighting Neocons going to support Obama's plans.

Just for fun check this out!http://www.iftheworldcouldvote.com

This is a wonderful site. I got it a few days ago and it looks like it is spreading. I wrote down the results so I could compare. Click on FAQ, it says three guys from Iceland started it! You can only vote once from a computer, so that eliminates multiple voting.. Also they are listing the BLOGS it's been posted on. Really fun and, I hope, prophetic!

Posted by: optimist on October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine all our energy that we've put into fighting Neocons going to support Obama's plans.

Just for fun check this out!http://www.iftheworldcouldvote.com

This is a wonderful site. I got it a few days ago and it looks like it is spreading. I wrote down the results so I could compare. Click on FAQ, it says three guys from Iceland started it! You can only vote once from a computer, so that eliminates multiple voting.. Also they are listing the BLOGS it's been posted on. Really fun and, I hope, prophetic!

Posted by: optimist on October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Will's criticism of McCain is misdirected. Will should be speaking out against Republican tactics and policy of the last eight years that McCain is trying to ape clumsily in his campaign.

Posted by: Independent on October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

OTOH, complexity can be used for cover by villains and incompetents. Complexity by its nature carries a mantle of authority that is often unwarranted.

IMHO, this seems to be particularly true of economics and warfare. Byzantine edifices of reason and pseudo-science can be built to support policies contrary to inherently complex and often unpredictable human nature. The clever and academically educated are attracted to these edifices.

The stupid, fearful, and lazy can be easily bamboozled or intimidated. Many of the potential dupes know their own vulnerability(a knowledge that often eludes the clever) and seek shelter in a black/white world that appeals to their authoritarian sensibilities.

As much any reason that is why Obama/Biden is extremely preferable to McCain/Palin; they will be much less easy to snow and less likely to react impulsively.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 30, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

quote from upthread: "Yeah,like McCain said in the debate "I'm going to build 30 nuclear plants "right away."

the wall street journal, of all people, had the difinity push-back about this a while ago.

the average cost of a nuclear plant [IF it comes in at budget, something that rarely happens] is $2 billion dollars.... 30 x 2 = 60...where was that money gonna come from??? [and this was BEFORE the financial "meltdown" (unfortunate choice of words, considering)]

the article also pointed out that the part of the credit market that finances these kind of public work projects was hopelessly undercapitalized...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 30, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder If some conservatives like George Will have been as disgusted with the last eight years as the rest of us. but because of loyalty to the party didn't want to say so publically.

I wonder if true conservatives (Goldwater, Hatfield, etc) maybe will try to get the party back on track. In the meantime Obama can get the world back on track.

Posted by: optimist on October 30, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I hope it is now safe to state definitively that McCain is the villain. If we cannot draw that simple and obvious conclusion, I have no idea what to do next.

Who am I supposed to attack?

Posted by: Ralph on October 30, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder If some conservatives like George Will have been as disgusted with the last eight years as the rest of us. but because of loyalty to the party didn't want to say so publicly.

I wonder if true conservatives (Goldwater, Hatfield, etc) maybe will try to get the party back on track. In the meantime Obama can get the world back on track.

Posted by: optimist on October 30, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

McCain has a history of reducing controversies to cartoons. Hmmm, It is as if McCain graduated near the bottom of his class. One might wonder how he got into the academy. I'm sure being the son and grandson of Admirals was not a factor. This is the USA; we reward hard work and merit. McCain earned his station in life similarly to the way GWB earned his. If you can choose the correct family, in which to be born, you can do quite well in this country. "Quit whining and get to it!"

Posted by: Bathrobespierre on October 30, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK
. . . he seems compelled to find the most obscure and obtuse words to explain very simple things.

Do you perhaps mean "abstruse"?

Posted by: George Will's Dictionary on October 30, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

This black/white, good/evil, unnuanced world view is perhaps the reason for the air quotes about women's "health" factoring into an abortion decision. If abortion is evil, no other considerations are allowed to come into play.

Posted by: stinger on October 30, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

He's no Admiral. I'd love to see his performance reviews from the Navy. I bet someone saw this trait in him years ago. Its almost like "maverick" is a cover up for ADD.

Posted by: John Henry on October 30, 2008 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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