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View Diary: Book Review: Matt Welch's "McCain: The Myth of a Maverick" (64 comments)

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  •  McCain, not so complicated . . . (0+ / 0-)

    I definitely wouldn't class him as an authoritarian.  Guiliani was a classic law-and-order authoritarian.  McCain's streak at the Navy with those demerits is not something you'd expect from an authoritarian.  His occasionally tense relationship with other authority figures doesn't suggest an authoritarian streak.

    The big problem with a guy like McCain is that his policies helped to pave the way for authoritarians -- especially his economic ones.

    It can be reduced to two elements: Tax cuts, de-regulation.

    I have no problem with either at the appropriate time with the appropriate balance.  The problem now though is that his policies will only continue to help concentrate vast sums of wealth within the hands of a few -- while ordinary folks get screwed.

    These policies  will only further increase economic inequality.  Economic inequality nets greater political inequality; and in time political inequality tends to net political instability.  Authoritarians tend to do very well in political systems that become unstable.

    •  John Dean (1+ / 0-)
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      John Dean has the definitive set of profiles on authoritarianism in his book, "Conservatives Without Conscience". While the "military mind" predisposes someone for membership in the club, McCain's political career also seems to
      fit the pattern, not to mention his own personality traits. Throw in the "short guy" Napoleon syndrome, and there's meat on the bones.

      •  Did Dean . . . (0+ / 0-)

        specifically call McCain an authoritarian?  I don't remember seeing that.  I've read "Conservatives Without Conscience" and Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" so I'm familiar with the research and the reasoning.

        One of the reasons that McCain faced so much resistance from the Hagees, the Falwells, and the Hannitys of the world is that there are times when he doesn't get his marching orders quite right.  He's sometimes a little too blunt and too honest about his emotions to be a truly first class highly manipulative leader (one of the double-highs in Altemeyer's paradigm).

        McCain's administration would provide a lot of benefits for authoritarians -- which is one reason that I think the Hannitys and Limbaughs of the world have finally fallen in line -- but I don't see McCain himself as being a strong authoritarian.  I think the guy is mostly just out to lunch.  That doesn't make a McCain presidency any less problematic for long-term American interests.

    •  One other little trick (0+ / 0-)

      One other little trick - alluded to in the article - is McCain's ability to preemptively disarm criticism. He does it through his "I'm not perfect", "I've made my share of mistakes", "I don't claim to be more than I am" etc. As a Conservative he can get away with it much easier than a Liberal (I won't go into the reasons why, though the media contribute). Note for instance how he bats away Stephanopolus' point that McCain - railing against government health care - has had it practically his whole life. McCain's reaction? A joke about getting bad "government health care" while a POW. And, of course, his support among Evangelicals is actually hardened by this artificial "contriteness". Though at some point he might actually be held somewhat accountable for statements such as the admission on 60 Minutes that he "killed innocent women and children" during his bombing runs. But, probably not. Hey, if worse comes to worse, he'll probably undergo a born again moment. Throw in his down-to-earth persona, and he gets away with a lot that either Hilary or Obama would be pilloried for. And I'm afraid it will continue.

      •  Different read . . . (0+ / 0-)

        I think McCain gets a free pass from big media because he's in favor of a tax code that disproportionately rewards the wealthiest Americans -- which include major media players (and his own family interests); and also because he's a big champion of deregulation (ABC in particular wants further loosening of media ownership rules).

        I would treat each of these factors as separate matters -- e.g. the ability to schmooze with reporters (something he did by inviting them to a BBQ last month); tax policies; and the authoritarianism question.

        I don't think McCain is an authoritarian -- or that he gets special media treatment because he is an authoritarian.

        I think print journalists and some in the press corp tend to like him because he occasionally feeds them good copy and because he knows how to win them over -- he schmoozes with them and treats them well.  He probably should keep them at a distance, and, if the journalists were on their toes they would recognize the conflict of interest, but many don't.  The situation is exacerbated by the fact that McCain wins the bosses of the big media players over because he does things that help make them even richer.  That's just old school schmoozing -- authoritarianism doesn't come into play in that equation.  This isn't to say that old school schmoozing between big media and politicians is good for Americans.  It isn't.  But it also doesn't directly relate to authoritarianism.

        The only way that the behavior pattern changes is if the guys at the top start losing ad revenue because the viewers -- who don't get even a pittance out of the exchange -- start giving them hell for failing to performing a public service.  If the public does not reward those who play them for suckers, then there won't be as much as an incentive for the media players to play the viewers for suckers.

        That's a huge challenge, but that's where I see the battle lines being drawn over this issue.

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