The professional pol–Part One

Mark’s observation about McCain’s sudden non-appearance for Tom Reynolds shows Arizona’s senior senator at his most canny. The question is at what point he becomes too clever-by-half.

Remember that the only thing that McCain cares about is winning the Republican nomination. Under normal circumstances, that would mean pulling out all the stops. But two things counsel against that here:

1) McCain has an interest in a GOP bloodbath in November. The Republicans are likely to turn to him if they figure he is the only thing between them and a Democratic President. He thus must do nothing to help someone over the top.

2) He in unlikely to campaign for someone who is likely to lose, because then his selling-point as party savior gets tarnished.

Thus, it is unremarkable that he would shy away from Reynolds. The only trick here is not to make it too obvious: he has to be seen as pushing hard for the ticket. His calculation must be that he will campaign for someone who is likely to win–but not so likely to win as to not give him credit for pushing the candidate over the top, and not so close to defeat that his efforts would actually salvage a candidacy. He must thus be seen to be defending his party while simultaneously subverting it.

McCain’s a pretty loathsome hypocrite, but if he can pull this one off, then you have to give him credit for exquisite craftsmanship.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.