Just back from a book party for Arianna Huffington’s Right is Wrong. In a brief talk, she expanded on one of the themes of the book: that the main political task right now is to convince people who dislike Bush but are considering voting for McCain that McCain is not the man they think he is. Not-quite-quoting from memory: “If you want to vote for the moderate principled maverick John McCain that so many of us admired, you will need a time machine to take you back to 2000 when that John McCain was running for President.”
Now, on the substance I disagree. In my view, that John McCain never existed outside the fantasies of people who couldn’t tell reckless narcissism and self-righteousness from principled politics. The John McCain who hired John Weaver of Southern Heritage magazine to run his South Carolina campaign, and who endorsed flying the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse, wasn’t a radically different character from the scoundrel running for President today.
But on the rhetoric, Arianna surely has it right. Better to acknowledge McCain’s past life of principle, along with his half-century of service to our country, before slipping the shiv in.