garnered a big-time interview in their latest podcast
, with Sen. John McCain.
After giving it a good listen, the first thing that strikes one about McCain is that for all of his flaws, very few politicians have the confidence to pull off his self-depreciating humor. At the very beginning, when he’s asked how he’s doing, McCain responds in what sounds like a parody of his usual crusader-ism and self-promotion, “Well, it’s hard doing the Lord’s work in the city of Satan.” When asked about why he agreed to do a podcast, he responds, “Glenn is such a powerful and influential American, I thought that this would shore up any ambitions I have for the presidency.” A guy doesn’t get a party’s nomination just for being able to joke about himself and his interviewer, but it does make one wonder why other candidates can’t pull off this style.
In more substantive news, McCain says it was right for the FEC to extend the media exemption to blogs. This is good; I hope that the senator will expand upon this opinion and swat down the effort in Washington state to get a discussion on a radio show treated as an in-kind political donation.
(While McCain may be praising the bloggers, he's making enemies in the world of talk radio. An unforced error, and one that is likely to hurt the senator somewhere down the line.)
For those who have speculated on a Bush-McCain “devil’s bargain” on the 2008 election, McCain is generous with his praise for the president, and when the name Jeb Bush comes up, he gushes like a fountain, calling him “a tremendously effective governor… He knows education better than anybody I’ve talked to, just about … He remains really popular in Florida and that’s hard to do when you’re a governor for seven or eight years. I’m a great admirer of Jeb Bush.”
McCain talks quite a bit about appreciating passion, but not letting it spread into personal attacks. You know… maybe this is a bit Vulcan of me, but I starting to have doubts about the value of passion in politics. Maybe it’s seeing how quickly passion can cross that line into “if you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot”, or the number of “you’re a partisan hack” e-mails in my box. Maybe it’s that “passion” has become synonymous with Howard Dean, and/or the pro-amnesty protests, and/or Al Gore’s bellowing “he played on our fears!” speeches, and/or denouncing Jill Carroll as in cahoots with her captors, and/or riding to the rhetorical defense of Ann Coulter. (And with that list, I’ve probably infuriated 98 percent of my readers.)
In the vein of Jonah’s support for “inactivists”, and “don’t just do something, sit there!” I wonder if there’s a case to be made for anti-passionate political leaders. Our nation today faces a full plate of problems that don’t have simple solutions: helping the American workforce thrive amidst the rapid change of a globalized economy, fixing broken borders and figuring out what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants, dealing with growing energy needs, bringing some sort of stability to Iraq, dealing the nuclear program in Iran, responding to Kim Jong Il’s saber-rattling in North Korea, the ticking time bomb of unsustainable entitlement programs, continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and building an intelligence service capable of heading-off the terrorist threats to come…
When thinking about these issues, sure, passion can be great, but it does tend toward the bumper-sticker solution: “Round ‘em up and send ‘em back.” “Bomb ‘em back to the Stone Age.” “Ban outsourcing and stop ‘em from taking our jobs overseas.”
My guess is that many of these problems will require not one silver bullet, but an array of different approaches, and constant tinkering to maximize what works. For example, on immigration, it will probably take a wall, tougher enforcement on employers who hire illegal immigrants, an effort to nudge the Mexicans to liberalize and improve their economy, an effort to streamline and improve our system of legal immigration, and a culture-wide effort to thoroughly and rapidly assimilate immigrants. It’s hard to be passionately in support of a menu of options; sometimes a problem calls for cool rationality.
UPDATE: Diane at ToughEnough.org feels my use of the term "self-depreciating humor" instead of "self-depricating humor" is enough to raise the question of whether I am literate. Because obviously, she's never made a typo in her life.