McCain’s bullsh*t

Kevin Drum’s takedown of John McCain’s silly promise to “eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East” reminds me of a story told by a former colleague who was assigned to President Ford’s (or maybe it was Nixon’s) Energy Independence Task Force, charged with figuring out a way of achieving energy independence within ten years.

First thing we had to do was redefine “energy independence.” Then we had to redefine “ten years.”

Mike O’Hare likes to talk about what he calls “the process of infantilization,” in which officials make promises they know they can’t keep and voters pretend to believe those promises, which means they can blame the subsequent failure on the officials and take no responsibility themselves. Both of this year’s Republican candidates treat the voters like infants: the “gas tax holiday” is the clearest example, but far from the only one. That is, they are dedicated to bullsh*t, in the technical sense of the term introduced by Harry Frankfurt.

While I’m certain that the Democratic candidate has chosen the nobler strategy, I wish I could be confident that it was the more advantageous strategy as well. As the Grand Inquisitor (no, not Ratzinger, but one of his spiritual predecessors) tells Jesus, the last thing most people want is responsibility for their own lives.