Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Chameleon strikes in the dark.

It looks like Senator John McCain's reputation as a "Burkean Conservative" just got blown out of the water after less than two weeks since Super Tuesday. Andrew Sullivan explains (author's hyperlinks):
So McCain reveals himself as a positioner even on the subject [torture] on which he has gained a reputation for unimpeachable integrity. It's worth reading Jon Chait's illuminating new piece in this context. I repeat that I am heartbroken. McCain has indeed been a leader in preventing the military from torturing terror suspects, and in banning waterboarding. But by leaving this lacuna in the law, he gives this president the space he wants. As president himself, of course, McCain would surely instruct the CIA to uphold the American way of interrogation, and not to adopt techniques once used by the Gestapo and prosecuted by the US as war crimes. But we now know that there will be one difference between Obama and McCain in November. One will never tolerate torture; the other just did.
Here's more from Sullivan on the same topic:
Maybe McCain is waiting to take on the forces of Rove and the electoral advantages of appealing to crude, fascistic templates of "torture-them-or-we-all-die" variety. But McCain should know that when dealing with unscrupulous thugs, appeasement is not the best policy. He's the nominee. He needs to remind people that conservatism can be - must be - a decent political philosophy, that upholds, rather than trashes, the deepest moral traditions of the United States.
You see, true Burkean conservatism holds that wise, conservative leaders should govern by making deals with their enemies in order to destroy their allies. That's why John McCain's previous position on torture -- refusing to appease his political party, yet defending his policy of appeasing terrorists -- was so popular. It demonstrated that he understood the key dynamic of the torture debate in the United States: the need to be nice to Islamic terrorists in order to avoid alienating them as future allies.

On the other hand, it's not much of a surprise that McCain is switching his position to defending his fellow countryman now that Obama is emerging as a clear frontrunner in the Democratic primary contest. Obama's stated foreign policy goal of negotiating with Iran while unilaterally invading Pakistan makes him even more of a Burkean conservative than McCain. McCain would have been blind not to have seen that there was simply not enough room on the Burkean Right for both himself and Obama. McCain's shift is therefore nothing more than a classic political triangulation between Obama and Bush.

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