Do We Really Want a “Post-Partisan” President?

From the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished File, here’s Matthew Continetti in the Washington Post  comparing the candidates and noting that McCain, not Obama, has the real track record of trying to work across the aisle, end the partisan venomfest of Washington, etc. which so many of us claim to want. I want that, and it’s one reason I voted for McCain in 2000 and for Obama in the 2008 Texas primary.

 As thanks for his ecumenical outreach, Continetti says,  McCain gets . . .  the usual smash-mouth stuff.

 Consider the lineup of speakers at the Democratic convention  last week, which so often resembled a who’s who of McCain’s close friends and collaborators. There was Ted Kennedy, with whom McCain has worked to reform America’s dysfunctional immigration policy; Tom Daschle, who worked with McCain in the 1990s to defang the tobacco industry; John Kerry, with whom McCain voted against the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Don’t forget the Clintons, either. Hillary is McCain’s erstwhile drinking buddy — the two reportedly did shots of vodka together on a congressional trip to Estonia in 2004. And McCain supported her husband’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, trying hard to rally Republicans around an asssertive, internationalist foreign policy.

What did all this bipartisanship get McCain? A litany of attacks. In Denver last week, Democrats charged that McCain’s presidency would be another four years of George W. Bush‘s. McCain, the Democrats said, is not the “change we need.” In fact, he will be “more of the same” and will lead a “government where the privileged few come first and everyone else comes last.” (That final quote? It’s from Hillary Clinton. Chances are, she and McCain won’t be going to Estonia again anytime soon.)

In other words, the very people who know best that McCain has worked to end the partisan blood feuds and has tried at least intermittently to be a different kind of pol, stood up and told America that he was exactly like the Rove-led Bush.   McCain’s championing of comprehensive immigration reform (which opponents call “amnesty”) would have benefited some large businesses, yes, but what about the millions of poor and voiceless day-laboring immigrants who would also benefit from the fast track to citizenship? How is that working to make sure “everyone else comes last?” As Perot used to say, “If facts matter. . . ”

  Oh, and something else that has gotten little notice. Remember at the Saddleback Chat, when Rick Warren asked Obama and McCain to name wise people they admire and might call on for advice?  Post-Partisanly, McCain named Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who is, unlike McCain, black, a Democrat, a Civil Rights icon, and a member of the House. Lewis’ response to this outstretched hand:

 “Sen. McCain and I are colleagues in the US Congress, not confidantes. He does not consult me. And I do not consult him.”

You know, just in case anyone was thinking about changing the old way of doing things.

The hypocrisy about getting beyond the partisan warfare goes on that  List of Things That Make You Despair of Politics and Wonder Why You Bother. It’s right up there with Roveian Attack Ads, which we all claim to abhor when they’re aimed at our side  but which, alas, work time and again.

Sometimes I almost envy those who can view political campaigns as nothing but street fights for power, fights in which conscience and facts and fairness and intellectual consistency have no place, in which winning any way you can win is the only goal. That’s certainly the view taken by Robert Penn Warren in the greatest novel about American politics, All The King’s Men.  But can you really run dirty and govern clean once you win?


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