In the crack van the other night, watching McCain make his stupendously terrible speech, we were talking about Bob Dole’s ’96 White House run and how it just seemed like Dole was there to be there, someone who wouldn’t embarrass the party too horribly, who had a nice story that wouldn’t fuck up the overarching GOP narrative. And I said what I always say when Mr. A brings up Dole.Dole at least had Mark Helprin writing for him.

I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others. For greatness lies not in what office you hold, but on how honest you are in how you face adversity and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.

Age has its advantages.

Let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action.

And to those who say it was never so, that America’s not been better, I say you’re wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.

And our nation, though wounded and scathed, has outlasted revolutions, civil war, world war, racial oppression and economic catastrophe. We have fought and prevailed on almost every continent. And in almost every sea.

We have even lost. But we have lasted, and we have always come through.

And after watching McCain stumble and grump around on a platform in front of about 20 people pissed off they were missing Matlock, I thought, boy, could McCain ever use the help of a real writerlike that:

If John McCain wins the Republican nomination, he will have done so not by persuading the Republican Party but by overcoming it with the help of outsiders and by feverishly endorsing the accusations of its enemies. If he loses, he will have provided the Democrats with what they will hail as proof that the GOP is an exclusionary, intolerant, narrow-minded, ruthless machine that would eat its own children rather than reform. These are betrayals, plain and simple, and betrayals by any definition are acts that are hard to square with honor.

And yet he has asked to be judged by his honor, and his countrymen have responded not merely with respect but with love, love for an American pilot whose plane went down and who suffered long in captivity on our behalf and in our stead, who was defiant and principled even in the face of death, and who, far beyond that, refused his freedom on a single point of honor that no one living would have accused him of dishonoring had he not. What he did is, as it should be, part of American history. There are few better or more moving stories, anywhere, of courage, defiance, and discipline. He has won the hearts of the American people. How could he not have?

But God does not make perfect beings, and although — and perhaps because — Sen. McCain was once the font of enough honor and self-discipline for 100 ordinary men, he has faltered.

It is not honorable to trade upon one’s honor, to offer it as a token, to mention it in every other breath. This is self-evident.

It is not honorable for him to treat his rivals and opponents as if they were his captors. Are they? Were they? Is the world divided so, into bands of angels following John McCain on his zigzag course as he decides what position to take on the spur of any moment, and demons mounting in their number as he condemns and disdains one group after another? The GOP, he says, “is intent on breaking me.” This is true only because he is intent on breaking it, making the nomination struggle a bizarre combat between the would-be nominee and the party he seeks to represent. Of course, many people fervently agree that in a contest between Sen. McCain and the Republican Party itself, the choice is clearly Sen. McCain: They are called Democrats.

That’s Helpring, on McCain’s 2000 run, of course. Helprin more recently came to McCain’s defenseagainst conservative talk radio:

This and the economy threaten to throw the conservative enterprise back to where it was before Reagan and even before Buckley. Along comes John McCain, who has an 80% positive rating from the American Conservative Union but who as a truly independent soul does not fit, at the margins, some of the transient notions of what makes a conservative. Partly due to his independence and flexibility, he is the only Republican candidate who has a chance of winning, and thus preserving the core principles of conservatism, in relation to which he is unimpeachable. They are national security (in particular the strength of the military after Iraq and vis-à-vis China and a resurgent Russia), constitutionalism (as in individual vs. collective rights), and the economy (free markets vs. government industrial policy).

One can agree or disagree with his peripheral positions, but political orthodoxy is political death. If the chat hosts would rather have Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they will get Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton—how delightful to go to jail for building your house on land once visited by an exotic moth—and they will wake up to a great regret, as if in their drunkenness they had taken Shrek to bed.

But guess what? Even if as the country veers left living conservatives gnash their teeth while dead ones spin in their graves, a small class of conservatives will benefit. And who might they be? They might be those in whose milieu the display of faith is more important than either sensible judgment or the national interest; those who, as in cultures in which purity is the prime value, elevate political martyrdom, and yet who themselves are never martyred; those whose influence and coffers swell on discontent, and who find attacking a president easier and more sensational than the dreary business of defending one. They rose during the Clinton years. Perhaps they are nostalgic. It isn’t worth it, however, for the rest of us.

Though if that’s a defense — “eh, he’s a billy goat, but he’s our billy goat” — McCain might just want to put an ad up for a speechwriter on Craigslist and see what he can get.


5 thoughts on “Writers

  1. I love your semi-charitable “20 people pissed off they were missing Matlock” characterization of Senator McCain’s audience Tuesday evening.
    The pundits weresomewhat underwhelmed as well.

  2. My personal opinion is that McSame needs as many anchors as can be tossed his way.
    That way we can haz BHO for preznit.
    Finally back on line after the washington deluge and tornado whipping of 2008. whew!
    pps: and thanks for a great van! Can’t wait for convention van with luxurious seating and extra strong seat belts to avoid flying out!

  3. I heard a radio personality refer to him as “Jurassic John” and “McCainasaurus” this morning…LOL!!!
    Nothing against age myself, but if one is too feeble for the job…it is what it is and I don’t want what’s left of this country to be ambling down the road, drifting lane to lane w/the left blinker on for miles…!!!

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