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Newsmax Plans a "Kinder, Gentler" Right-Leaning Television Alternative to Fox | Main | AoSHQ Podcast: Guest, Matthew Continetti
March 07, 2014

McCain: My Good Friend Ted Cruz Should Apologize to My Other Good Friend Bob Dole

Ted Cruz named the Republicans' three most recent losing candidates -- Dole, McCain, and Romney -- as having failed to stand on principle, which then, he suggests, caused them to lose.

McCain asks, rhetorically (and arguably demagogically), if Bob Dole had failed to "stand on principle" on "that hill in Italy" in which he lost his limb defending the country in World War II. He wants Cruz to apologize to Dole, but not, he says, to himself or Romney.

If I try to give McCain a break here, here's how I do it. Both sides of the RINO/TrueCon war have insults for the other side that drive the other side crazy.

RINOs hate it when you suggest they're "cowards" who "lack principle" or "the will to fight." I've gotten that a lot myself, and it is, as intended, quite personally insulting.

On the other side of it, RINOs have their own disparagements of TrueCons -- starting off with the suggestion that they're crazy, that they lack sophistication and don't understand politics, are overemotional, and so on.

So while I think it's a bit of stretch for McCain to claim Cruz was claiming Dole shirked his duty in World War Two (come on, he said nothing of the sort), I can guess that what rankles McCain here is this frequent messaging that RINOs, such as himself, are "cowards." Cruz's formulation -- that these men failed to "stand on principle"-- doesn't explicitly make the "coward" argument, but it does suggest it.

On McCain's side, of course, he has called Tea Partiers "hobbits" and other terms of disparagement. And in his call for an apology to War Hero Bob Dole, he's not-too-covertly reminding the audience that Ted Cruz didn't serve.

There are several real arguments going on in the conservative movement. Most of these have to do with real things -- policy, tactics.

I think what the party is doing, wrongly, is attempting to dodge the actual arguments by resorting to personal-level attacks.

Which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Rather than engaging and arguing about the stuff that actually divides us, we're attempting to hide these arguments (which everyone knows we have) under a cover of personal attacks.

Which are in fact worse and more embittering than just having the argument we're trying to avoid.

Arguments about ideology and tactics are not exactly pleasant, but there is, at least, a small bit of detachment from them, on a personal level. If I argue with a commenter about X position, the fight could get edgy and hot, but at least we're arguing about something other than one another's personal value.

Once something gets personal, forget about it.

This is why I say this is all backwards. We're avoiding a fight (which could be productive and clarifying) on the actual issues (which do need to be discussed) by instead resorting to personal stuff and argument-by-categorization.

That is, rather than discuss the actual issue, we tend to simply categorize the position -- "RINO," "buying into the left's premises," "crazy," etc. -- and let the categorization do our arguing for us.

But this isn't an especially useful way to discuss things, just tossing disparaging labels at each other or each other's positions.

I've given up, personally, deciding what position I support based on how "conservative" it's alleged to be, or not to be. The party is in a state of flux. When Rand Paul can be applauded for advocating a fairly isolationist position at CPAC -- imagine such a thing in 2003 -- I think it's clear we're in a rebuilding, and reconsidering, and rethinking period.

There is no point fighting that, and no use trying to avoid it. And it doesn't advance the ball any by calling things either "RINO" or "crazy" based on 2004's now-obsolete definitions.

We should decide which ideas are part of the core of conservatism based upon how true and useful those ideas are rather than resorting to how true and useful and idea might be according to how "conservative" someone says it is.

Oh, and let me say this about the unending Cruz/McCain feud: They should insult each other honestly. I think honesty, even in insults, is better than dishonesty.

Here is what Cruz plainly thinks about McCain: That McCain is essentially a Democrat, who values the opinions of liberals (especially liberal journalists) far more than those of conservatives. And we all seek to please those we think the most highly of. And so McCain is consistently critical of conservatives. He flatters liberal sensibilities in hopes they will flatter him in return.

And here is what McCain plainly thinks about Cruz: That he's a charlatan who's offering people looking for Big Wins the illusory promise of a Big Win, that he's conning people, that he's not being "straight" with constituents. That he's undermining Republicans to advance his own personal political position.

Now, a fight between McCain and Cruz in those terms would be ugly. But at least it would have the benefit of being an honest fight, not this bullshit we have going on right now.

And one more thing: "Moderation" in the Republican party is currently a slur because no one at all speaks up for it. Everyone claims to be The Most Conservative Possible, Ever. Except for a few people, like Collins and Kirk, almost everyone claims to be the Most Conservative, and claims to think the Most Conservative always wins.

Moderates plainly do not believe this. And it does them no credit that they pretend to believe it while plainly not really believing it.

And if they want to make a bit of moderation -- as McCain clearly has in him -- not a term of disparagement, they have to speak up in favor of it, and explain to people why they think moderation is not always some kind of sell-out position.

You know, I used to fight this characterization myself. People would say I was a moderate or not as conservative as they are, and it really used to bug me. I felt like I was "losing" the race. I mean, someone says he's more conservative than I am; I can't let that insult stand.

But in fact, look: In the wild west, there's always gonna be someone faster than you, and there are in fact going to be an awful lot of people further to the right than any particular person.

We're letting this be a silly game of More Conservative Than Thou precisely because we're letting this be a silly game of More Conservative Than Thou.

If McCain believes that some people are too conservative, then why does he not just forthrightly say so, and make a case for a Not Too Hard, Not Too Soft brand of conservatism?

Why continue this endless posturing over the game show Quien es Muy Macho? ?

If he thinks it's a silly game, he should say so. I'd respect him more for that.

I really think this system we've developed where all our actual debates are either sublimated or squelched is a bad one. All that ends up happening is that what should be discussed on an ideological plane winds up becoming personalized trash-talk, and everyone feels lied to, because no one's being straight with each other.


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posted by Ace at 05:35 PM

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