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Learning The Wrong Lessons

About a year and a half ago, i had an insight into American politics that troubled me. One way in which the two major parties differ significantly is in how, generally, they treat their failed presidential nominees.

In 1980, after losing the White House, Jimmy Carter was treated as a pariah. It wasn't until the Clinton administration, I think, that he regained any respect at all within the party he headed.

In 1984, Walter Mondale went straight from nominee to oblivion.

In 1988, Dukakis did the same.

In 2000, after the election, Gore had to (stealing from myself here) spend his time in the wilderness before he got in touch with his inner granola, remaking himself as the Defender Of Gaea.

After 2004, John Kerry was held in almost as much contempt by those who backed him as those of us who knew from the outset what he was all about.

And it isn't just presidents. Look at what happened with Joe Lieberman. Hell, it can be argued that accepting Gore's offer of the #2 spot was the worst thing he could have done. It pushed him into a prominence that he was ill-equipped to withstand.

On the other hand, Republican failures tend to be welcomed back into the fold more quickly. in 1980, Gerald Ford was seriously considered as Ronald Reagan's running mate. George W. Bush, after his election, was thought of as the kindly old uncle of the GOP. And even Richard Nixon was eventually reformed into Elder Statesman and sage of foreign policy.

That is all going away now, it seems. With John McCain's loss on Tuesday, it's absolutely astonishing how quickly the knives are out for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Like so many, I'm disgusted.

It's like some Republicans have decided that the best way to beat the Democrats is to mindlessly copy what they do, including the really, really dumb ones. And this treatment of the standard bearers of their party is nothing short of appalling.

Yes, it's important to look at a defeat and try to figure out why you lost. But it's also important to look at the other side and try to figure out why they won. And in either case, the incredibly petty and vindictive back-biting is not just embarrassing and stupid and self-destructive, it's also pointlessly embarrassing, stupid, and self-destructive.

Sometimes that's fun to watch. Four years ago, when the target was John Kerry, I sat back and relished it -- because it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

But generally, it's not a good thing. And in particular, when it's being done to two people whom I think deserve respect for their accomplishments, and willingness to take such risks as they have.

And it's reaffirmed my staunch desire to stay the hell out of party politics (and parties in general). That is precisely the kind of petty bullshit that I have literally negative interest in.


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Comments (35)

I agree with your post, the... (Below threshold)

I agree with your post, the comments coming from the most poorly run campaign during my life is discusting. I blame that though on Republican ethics not on Conservative ethics, and yes there is a differance.

I would really enjoy joining a conservative party instead of the PC moderates version of our current party.

John McCain goes back to be... (Below threshold)
Piso Mojado:

John McCain goes back to being a Senator that makes me want to move to Arizona just to vote against him.

Gov. Palin is the only reason I voted for him this time.

Hillary and Biden were both... (Below threshold)
Witch Hunt:

Hillary and Biden were both a lot harder on Obama than Lieberman was. What are the Democrats going to do with them? I smell a witch hunt.

The attacks on Palin are at... (Below threshold)

The attacks on Palin are attempts to tear her reputation down in anticipation of 2012, probably mostly from Romney backers and it wouldn't surprise me if some of them came from Obama people. In fact, if Palin were to announce that she had no intention of running in 2012, I suspect that the attacks would stop immediately. Anonymous quotes should generally be ignored.

With McCain it's different: most conservatives did not like McCain before he won the nomination, and supported him tepidly if at all (and then largely because of Palin). It's no surprise McCain is being trashed, and it's no different than before he was the nominee.

I agree that "eating your own" is a generally bad thing, but I think in this case that it's not unexpected.

I only agree with one of yo... (Below threshold)

I only agree with one of your points, Sarah Palin should not be blamed for the loss. However, I have no problem with the knives coming out for McCain. He has consistently thumbed his nose at conservatives and the sooner he is purged from the party the better off we will be.

McCain told his supporters ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

McCain told his supporters that they didn't fail, he did. Some in McCain's paid staff are embracing and embellishing that sentiment in order to avoid the label that they failed in their jobs. It's a mater of professional survival to them.

However, the real blame for the Republican lose is with the early primary voters, just as the lose by the democrats in 2004 is the fault of early primary voters. By the time most of us get to vote for the candidate to represent a party there's little or no choice. You take what you have been given like it or not.

I don't think McCain was the best candidate the Republicans could have ran. Straight talk is not such a good idea given the electorate's gullibility nowadays. We saw videos on these pages of voters who took Obama's vague messages like Hope and Change and translated them into not needing to pay their mortgage or other debts. The idea is let the ignorance and gullibility of many voters fill in what they think Hope and Change means and then don't disabuse them of their delusions until after the election.

Even many informed voters likely though McCain had a good grasp of economic issues until, in keeping true to his straight talk shtik, he told the electorate he new nothing about the economy. I think that cost McCain a lot of votes, maybe enough to lose the election.

Note to future Republican early primary voters. Make sure the candidate you support has a well rounded background, or at least can fake it. Also, try picking someone in the prime of their life and who doesn't look stupid on TV. I know that's shallow, but it's important in this day and age.

Rumor has it that Mitt Romn... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

Rumor has it that Mitt Romney is behind the attacks on Sarah Palin (who didn't suddenly change when she was picked to be the VP nominee).

JT: Not trying to be picky ... (Below threshold)

JT: Not trying to be picky but In case you wanted to fix it, you wrote George W. Bush where you meant George H. W. Bush.

Eh. McCain didn't endear h... (Below threshold)

Eh. McCain didn't endear himself to much of anyone in the conservative crowd. I personally thought McCain-Feingold was a tremendous attack on the First Amendment and my estimation for both McCain and Bush declined when Bush signed it, only to be met with further opprobrium for the Supreme Court when it was partially upheld.

McCain lost in part because of principles that not all of us believed in -- like limiting speech in the form of money to the campaign. He stayed within the law in this regard, which was good, but he wrote the law to handicap spending in races and then left an out where handicapping didn't matter. He was peeved about Obama not levelling the playing field but nobody else cared, he wrote the rulebook and the out that Obama used to beat all hell out of him.

I guess you can say that he was proven correct, that money in the political system can tilt outcomes, but falling on your sword to prove the point is not what we were looking for. McCain gave a valiant effort but he lacked the carpe jugulum spirit that was evident in Sarah Palin from her first appearance, and was part of her appeal. He's an honorable man, but that doesn't actually make him an ideal candidate.

And it's not that conservative candidates lack honor. You can be honorable and speak with candor at the same time, it's just that McCain was rarely able to do both. His message people were awful and he lost debates not because his positions were wrong but because he could not reframe his opponents' positions or prevent the reframing of his own. The few times he was able to speak unfiltered to the press (the debates), he couldn't get his words out.

I am happy for him that his honor is intact. I am less happy about the price the rest of us will pay for his honor.

The one area where I believe his honor was damaged was in appearing on SNL with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. If Sarah had done the segment it would have been one thing, but there was an edge of meanness there without her. I don't know if he perceived it or not, but it was far from his highest moment. He was participating in making fun of her, which is not offset by making fun of himself at the same time.

#7, I've heard that rumor t... (Below threshold)
Sean P:

#7, I've heard that rumor too, but I really fail to see how broadening the circular firing squad to include Romney will help the situation.

If you want to purge anyone, purge W and Rove. It was their brilliant idea to foist "big government conservatism" onto the party, and destroy any reason for pure FiCons to stay in the party. In hindsight, McCain's efforts at damage control weren't as good as they could have been but he wasn't the one who created the mess in the first place.

Gotta remember these guys a... (Below threshold)

Gotta remember these guys are all politicians. If they had brains and class they'ed be somewhere in the private sector getting rich.

McCain and Palin were ahead... (Below threshold)

McCain and Palin were ahead in some national polls until he said "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." Then Obama leapt ahead.

I think Palin is a joke with zero chance of ever becoming President, but one would be nuts to attribute their loss to her place on the ticket. The timeline does not bear that out.

i believe the accounts from... (Below threshold)

i believe the accounts from mccains people that palin didnt know africa was a continent, or which 3 n american countries are in NAFTA

and look at the meltdown theyre having now, with mccain aides calling the palins "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." ...what a rudderless debacle. imagine that circus moving in to the white house

by all indications, america must be feeling its a damned good thing they werent elected. has ANYONE here changed sides yet? i think obama is looking better than ever. surely some of you must be heartened by his choice of pro-israel attack-dog rahm emanuel

has ANYONE here ch... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
has ANYONE here changed sides yet?

Kind of early for that. Lets see how he does once he's actually president and his followers start clamoring for all the free stuff he promised them. If he can't deliver, then a lot of people will be changing sides, but not in Obama's favor. ↓

i'll be among the first to ... (Below threshold)

i'll be among the first to get on his case if he doesnt perform. frankly the emanuel appoinment has me concerned that obama might owe too much to AIPAC, but like you said, way too early for any such speculation

Actually I like Obama's pic... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Actually I like Obama's pick of rahm emanuel, but not for any reason you would agree with. Last night on Fox (not that you watch Fox) Dick Morris was warning Obama that rahm is for rahm, and that when he was on Clinton's staff, rahm was responsible for leaking a lot of sensitive information to the press. Hopefully Obama wont pay any attention to Morris. ↔

in fact i might agree. im i... (Below threshold)

in fact i might agree. im in favor of healthy press leaking. the ultra-secrecy thing doesnt work for me and i dont think its worked for the US at all for the past 8

the ultra-secrecy ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
the ultra-secrecy thing doesnt work for me and i dont think its worked for the US at all for the past 8

As much as Bush might have wanted ultra-secrecy he never was able to achieve it. He had too many people around him that had their own agenda. Either they were closet liberals or they were working on a book deal. I'm not sure any administration can really obtain ultra-secrecy short of appointing Putin to be chief of staff. With his KGB experience he could ferret out the moles or scare them into silence. Too bad he's not available. •

disagree. bu$h has had by f... (Below threshold)

disagree. bu$h has had by far the most secretive administration in recent history. for every leak that made it out of the black box, there are entire domains of info that have been kept nearly watertight. i remember vividly in 2001, when i was still pro-bu$h, how concerned i was when he made a point of letting everyone know leaks of any kind would not be tolerated. that has enabled him to promulgate a great many messages that arent rooted in fact but instead serve as cloaking for very large-scale political purposes

Well that begs the question... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Well that begs the question how do you know there were few leaks? Or put another way, if there were so few leaks how do you know what was going on? I recall lots of damaging leaks such as the one about listening in on phone calls made by overseas terrorists who were calling into the U.S. •

#16,That, and it get... (Below threshold)

That, and it gets Rahm out of the legislature, where I doubt his picked replacement will step aside when his time in the White House is done. Whomever the Gov sends to the House in his stead will not enjoy the same incumbent advantage as Rahm would.

I hope Obama also picks Kerry, Kennedy, Byrd and other entrenched kleptocrats in untouchable districts/states :)

often its the leaks themsel... (Below threshold)

often its the leaks themselves that point to how much is going unleaked, especially in an example such as you bring up. the cheney energy policy meetings is another and the list goes on, the big granddaddy of them all being the iraq war

i feel that many of the leaks coming from any administration are committed to more or less keep people honest. in the clinton case it kind of worked, unfortuately for him personally, but they were pretty small schemes, comparatively. in the bu$h case the tight secrecy has kept leaks from unwinding any of their grander schemes

often its the leak... (Below threshold)
often its the leaks themselves that point to how much is going unleaked, especially in an example such as you bring up. the cheney energy policy meetings is another and the list goes on, the big granddaddy of them all being the iraq war

You do realize that when the military chiefs are making plans for the strategy and tactics of a war, namely the Iraq war, it really isn't a good idea to hold open meetings and invite the press and CNN to report on the proceedings, don't you?

yes oregon i realize that, ... (Below threshold)

yes oregon i realize that, and im talking about something different, namely in this case what was happening politically in the run-up towards the war

#21 -- Rahm is from a relia... (Below threshold)

#21 -- Rahm is from a reliably Democrat district in IL. His seat is safe as a baby in her momma's arms, incumbent or no.

#23 -- Don't try to talk sense to Peabody, it's evident he has none. The GWB administration leaked like a sieve, I'm surprised they were able to keep anything a secret. The New York Times even published details of things that were secret and agreed by all to be helpful to the WoT except for the NYT editors. How many other administrations have had Bob Woodward crank out four books on them during their term in office? The first SecTreas and now Scott McClellan have written disparaging books.

Like I said, don't bother telling him, it will only further damage the tinfoil industry to lose his contribution.

darren you take a very narr... (Below threshold)

darren you take a very narrow view on what you choose to call leaking

Darren, there were an awful... (Below threshold)

Darren, there were an awful lot of things that the public deserved to know in Woodward's books. Sure, it harmed the Administration's public image, but maybe they shouldn't have been so deceitfully secretive in the first place. If the public wouldn't go along with what you're doing, maybe that's a reason not to do it in the first place.

I'm not a political junkie,... (Below threshold)

I'm not a political junkie, but the voting patterns I've seen, while admittedly short of in detailed analyses, seem clearly to show two things: (1) conservatives didn't turn out for McCain and (2) young and minorities switched to Obama. Number one can be explained by McCain's past history. Sucking up to the media and compromising fundamental principles might lead to a lukewarm turnout. Palin was not enough. Number two, personally, seems to indicate that these two groups were voting to elect the first minority President. Now that that is accomplished, it can't happen a second time. Therefore, conservatives, assuming they can gain effective control of the Republican Party, need to learn to communicate that small government (tax reform - THE most important issue - reduced spending and taxation) and dynamic free markets are the only way they can achieve their goals of personal betterment. Remember there were 3 million FEWER voters in 2008 than 2004. Obama is NOT riding a sweeping wave of youthful enthusiasm and popular belief in bigger government. McCain could not, by his very history and nature, employ the proven Rovian campaign strategy of consolidating the base. And Obama was the flavor of the month. But, that being said, I can't convince myself that one of the other candidates could have won this battle. McCain, as an honorable and valiant man, is to be celebrated as a worthy candidate.

I did not object to the Woo... (Below threshold)

I did not object to the Woodward books, did I?

It's remarkably refreshing to see an administration letting someone into their discussions and differences in that way. There is more than just Woodward, there is Susskind's The One Percent Doctrine and Lichtblau & Risen's books have revealed quite a bit about the goings-on in the Bush Administration.

Some things absolutely have to be secret to work. The precise resolution of our satellites, our ability to crack PGP in real time to X number of bits, the speech-recognition capabilities of our computerized telephone-tapping abilities. You don't need to know this, not that you're not trustworthy but that if you know it others know it and the people who need to be killed (and there are those people) can use that information to try to kill you.

I agree that the Bushies have been very liberal with their use of the "executive privilege" out, but then again, in the history of the nation Congress has rarely been as intrusive into the business of the Executive as they have since the Nixon administration. There has to be some latitude for advisors to be frank and honest behind closed doors. I get that requirement because in my field there are ironclad cutouts around "peer review" documents. These are not discoverable in lawsuits in order to encourage candid and critical assessments. Similarly, Congress can't request any old thing from the Executive. The Executive has its own section in the Constitution, it's a co-equal branch and while I'm not a con-law scholar it doesn't seem pertinent to request the list of people who met with Dick Cheney for energy policy -- and the courts agreed. If Congress doesn't like the policy then they shouldn't vote to approve it, or should write one themselves.

OTOH, some of this "I'm Executive when you want X and Legislative when you want Y, so you can't have X or Y" stuff from Cheney's office is more than a little disingenuous.

But publishing the details of the SWIFT program? Man, that was just stupid. If you want to criticize the Bush Administration for having the worst press operation in modern history, I am four-square behind you in that. Few administrations have done more things right and either explained them wrong or allowed others to frame their actions without rebuttal.

But by definition, you can't know what's actually secret. You can suspect, but to say that if X has been revealed then the remaining secrets must be 3X or 6X or 10X is an unknowable. If you want to find out, then run for office, or wait 50 years.

darren nobody is arguing ag... (Below threshold)

darren nobody is arguing against having state secrets. the problems are such as when we fight wars for secret reasons, rather than the publicly stated ones, or when surveillance programs go far beyond what the law permits, without any oversight or accountability

McCain is dead. So lets bu... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

McCain is dead. So lets bury him and the incoherent views he tried to foist on the party. Its time to pruge the party of those who believe the GOP should be a more effective, slimmed down version of the dhimmierats.

If I want to vote for a liberal I'll vote dhimmierat. People need a clear and sharp contrast. McCain deserves nothing but contempt for the defeat he has caused and the disaster he contributed to for so many years.

"without any oversight o... (Below threshold)

"without any oversight or accountability"

Keep harping on that one as you continue to try and convince yourself.

The Intelligence Committee set up a bipartisan panel to continually monitor the surveillance program and the panel itself was even expanded as seen necessary. It was revisited on a continuing basis and re-authorized more than once.

Maybe your story will hold ... (Below threshold)

Maybe your story will hold true for John McCain but not for Sarah Palin. Maybe what you now see in the treatment of John McCain is what many of us have been saying from beginning to end of the nomination and election process: he's too old, he is not a conservative, his belief in anthropogenic global warming is disturbing, his immigration policy is a slap in face to those of us whose families legally entered this country, his reaching across the aisle always seems to benefit the other side and the only people who thought he was a maverick was the MSM. The one chance he had to truly be a maverick during the campaign, the bail out of the financially stupid but politically connected, he sided with the politically connected against the taxpayers who will be footing the bill.

It's like some Republica... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

It's like some Republicans have decided that the best way to beat the Democrats is to mindlessly copy what they do, including the really, really dumb ones. And this treatment of the standard bearers of their party is nothing short of appalling.

It is like that isn't it? Exactly why the maverick anti-Republican Republican, reach across the isle, backstab your own party, global warming embracing, federal stem cell research advocating, I can bail out the crooks better than you McCain was such a STUPID choice from the get-go. Did I leave anything out?

That's what we get when blue blood, latte sipping, down the nose looking, intellectual snob RINOs are calling the shots.

McCain was never a "standard bearer" for the Republican Party. What planet are you living on? He is a Reagan Democrat with the emphasis on "Democrat."

Palin is the only good thing that happened in this race. Her real conservatism is a threat to Democrats and so-called moderate Republicans alike. Exactly why they are so intent on sabotaging her future.

Jeff, you're preaching to t... (Below threshold)

Jeff, you're preaching to the choir and I hope you're not confusing those of us who never even put McCain on the short list with those who voted for him in the primaries. They are the people responsible for him being on the ticket. While the Democrats harped incessantly about McCain they were really delighted that McCain got the nod. They knew, and so did many of us, that he did not represent us.

I can't figure out how the hell that happened unless there was a slew of people just looking for someone they thought some Democrats might vote for. Were people really that naive to think that reaching across the aisle would get them anything but a bloody stump to tend to afterward?

Until Palin came along McCain was doomed to get even fewer states than he got. I voted for McCain and I'm not ashamed of it. But I did it for the simple reason that I live in a state that could go either way. I voted against Obama.

It's ridiculous that Florida (even though their delegates didn't count) went for McCain in the primary and then no one showed up for his rallies until Palin came along. that's why the Democrats won't let her rest. She is still a threat to their way of thinking. They won't rest until they feel they've completely destroyed her.

And Jay, dear heart, I hope that now that this is over, you aren't trying to lay blame with any of us who wanted other candidates. You did yourself. Are you saying this means we cannot be openly honest about our feelings in regard to McCain without being seen as "eating our own"? He is not "our own".

Few of us were happy about McCain. We said so even during the campaign. Many of us set that aside for the duration of the fight. You go to war with the army you have - not the one you wish you had.

It's time to talk about lessons learned.






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