Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

Wesley Clark Speaks Truth, Hilarity Ensues

July 2, 2008

When I first heard that Wesley Clark had said “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” my first reaction was something to the effect of “well of course, but that’s an awfully stupid thing to say”; I figured that Clark, not being a real politician, had chosen his words… unwisely. Silly me! I—and you—should know better than to take anything like this at face value. Context really does matter, always. In this case, it seems Clark did not choose those words at all; Bob Schieffer did. Thanks to TPM, here’s the context, followed by some of the more appalling talking-head reactions.

Partial transcript:

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk. It’s a matter of gauging your opponents, and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn’t seen what it’s like when diplomats come in and say, ‘I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it-‘
Bob Schieffer: Well-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ‘ -it publicly.’ He hasn’t made those calls, Bob.
Bob Schieffer: Well, well, General, maybe-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: So-
Bob Schieffer: Could I just interrupt you. If-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure.
Bob Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.

Are pundits actively dishonest, or just lazy and stupid?

McCain and FISA and wiretapping

June 7, 2008

John McCain, according to some (including the Obama campaign, naturally), may be a wee inconsistent in his statements about presidential power and FISA and wiretapping and telecom immunity. Orin Kerr disagrees, citing differences between statutory and constitutional power. I’m afraid Professor Kerr’s response is far more intelligent, subtle, and nuanced than McCain deserves. For all his vaunted straight-talkiness, McCain is a politician, and does what politicians do—that is, he panders to whatever audience he’s talking to, saying as little of substance as he can as ambiguously as he can.

And let’s not forget complex legal analyses mean little in a political campaign. Most people cannot distinguish “unconstitutional” from “I don’t like it,” let alone from “in violation of statute.” If McCain and his handlers really did mean their various statements to hinge on the distinction, they certainly went out of their way not to say so.

Professor Kerr’s friend Marty Lederman writes far better than I can, so I’ll close with a quote from him:

Let’s give the McCain folks credit: they have managed to say just about everything and nothing at all — all at once! The statements really have a kabuki-like feel to them. My favorite is this quote from a McCain spokesman to Charlie Savage: “To the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn’t be read into as anything otherwise.” That’s a classic. Please don’t try to parse it — life is too short.

John Hagee

May 29, 2008

It doesn’t particularly bother me that John Hagee thinks that “Hitler was fulfilling God’s Will.” That’s pretty conventional theology, really; if you believe in an omnipotent God, you’re sort of stuck with believing that everything is fulfilling God’s will. What does bother me is Hagee’s smug certainty that he knows what God’s will is.

I would talk about Hagee’s (and Biblical “literalists” in general) appalling Biblical interpretational practices, but I don’t have the heart right now.

Hagee is certainly not an anti-Semite, not in the classic sense of Hitler or Mel Gibson. But were I Jewish I don’t think I’d be too quick to cozy up to him. He is a staunch supporter of Israel, but not because he’s particularly interested in a Jewish homeland per se, or because Israel is a lone beacon of democracy and enlightenment values in an unstable region, or anything like that. He supports Israel because he is a Dispensational Premillennialist, who thinks that the return of the Jews to the promised land is a necessary condition for Armageddon, the Rapture, the Tribulations, and the subsequent thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth.

And as far as Hagee’s attitude towards the Jewish people themselves, well, he certainly doesn’t think that they’re Them As Kilt Our Lord or anything; as far as he’s concerned God’s cool with them. But eventually they’re going to have to accept Jesus as their Personal Lord and Savior if they want to avoid spending eternity in a lake of boiling blood, or whatever God Hagee has in store for the damned.

I suppose I’m pleased that John McCain has repudiated Hagee, although it’s not like he did it for the right reasons. [Well of course he didn’t; as a politician the only reason he does anything of the sort is because of what he thinks it will do to his chances in the election.] But what’s up with Joe Lieberman? People of Connecticut, aren’t you ashamed?

Another reason to despise Hagee—I’m sure there are many—is his association with the televangelical “prosperity gospel“: the doctrine that God wants you, the faithful, to prosper materially, if only you prove your faith by, oh, sending money to John Hagee. How any thinking person can reconcile such an abomination of a doctrine with anything in the New Testament, and with most of the Old, is beyond me.

Important note: throughout this post I’ve been using phrases like “Hagee thinks” in a figurative sense. I do not know what Hagee thinks. I am pretty sure I don’t want to know what Hagee thinks. I do not have any reason to think that he has sufficient integrity for us to assume that what he says to reflect in any meaningful way what he thinks.