Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Election 2008: Bile vs. Guile

Regarding George Will's welcome broadside on the Straight-Jacket Express that Leon Hadar brought up over at the AmCon blog, even when Will's right, he's wrong:

It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency.

Some of us believe McCain is clearly unsuited for the presidency and no more due to "moralism", boiling or tepid, than to "bottomless" certitude, unless we're referring to a morality that places John McCain's advancement above all else and the ensuing certainty that anyone and anything getting in its way are fair game. It's ambition unrestrained by a modest or measured temperament, and the subsequent lack of morality, preachy or otherwise, that McCain displays, despite the fatuous theme of "service".

I'm reminded of Will misreading the minor controversy regarding Jim Webb's snub of President Bush at a White House reception for newly elected congressman. You'll remember Webb tried to avoid shaking hands with the president, only to be confronted and asked, "how's your boy?" Will, perhaps due to his own basic decency, was quaintly clueless as to what had actually happened:

...disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, [President Bush] asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.

Will mistook the hostility of the president's disingenuous question, which was nothing more than an attempt to force an intransigent Webb to submit to the protocol of their power arrangement--to knuckle under--sharpening his attack with the indecency of bringing the man's son (who, it shouldn't be lost on us, was carrying a rifle and facing peril under the command of President Bush) into it. It was about as civil and caring as a mafia boss asking a recalcitrant union leader "how's the family?"

We should be able to discount personality, seeing as it's not only subjective but subject to the artistic mythologizing so nauseatingly on display in the current campaign. We'd all like to think our mature and advanced democracy guards against the vanity and jealousies of petty men--with the outsized power of the executive branch, make that one petty man--but the Bush administration is depressing evidence that personality and temperament are as operative as ever. And this year we choose between aged choleric and youthful melancholic. I don't know what is more depressing, the dismal choice or the fact that the latter is clearly superior. If irreconcilable misanthropes had slogans mine would be: Refuse to Choose.