The real McCain?

One reading of McCain’s belated protests against his supporters’ hate speech is that it’s a purely cynical move, motivated by bad press and by protests from moderate Republicans. I admit that I incline to that interpretation.

But it’s not the only reading consistent with the facts. Yes, McCain is accountable for the staff he has collected and for the campaign he’s allowed them to run, and for the choice of Palin. Still, it’s possible that there is in fact an actual human being named John Sidney McCain III who has more backbone and a final moral fiber than the candidate “John McCain.”

H.L. Mencken once said that Henry Wallace was the only person on the Progressive Party campaign who wasn’t a Communist. And Barry Goldwater showed through his later political life that he wasn’t really the Birch Society wingnut he campaigned as.

If there really is a decent John Sidney McCain III buried under all that campaign sludge, he’s going to be really, really ashamed of himself once this is over. Come to think of it, being really, really ashamed of himself is one of McCain’s standard post-abomination ploys.

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: