Huffington on McCain

Was the John McCain of 2000 a better man than the one now running for President? I rather doubt it. But it’s an effective line of attack.

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: