“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hubris, I'd call it

Must read article from the March issue of Reason magazine. I offer excerpts, but you should RTWT here:

Be Afraid of President McCain
The frightening mind of an authoritarian maverick
...McCain’s singular goal in public life is to restore citizens’ faith in their government, to give us the same object of belief—national greatness—that helped save his life after he gave up hope as a POW in Vietnam.

...Any young McCain worth his salt could convert a grudge into motivational sustenance and torment his tormentors with defiant lip. So after being shot out of the sky during a risky raid over Hanoi in 1967, then pummeled by a mob of local Vietnamese and detained at the notorious prison nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton, McCain comported himself heroically despite two broken arms, a mangled knee, and innards wracked by dysentery and other maladies. Every morning for two years a guard the prisoners called The Prick would demand that McCain bow to him. Every morning McCain would refuse, then brace for his beating. ... “Resisting, being uncooperative and a general pain in the ass,” he wrote, “proved, as it had in the past, to be a morale booster for me.”

...Starting off as a Reagan conservative, McCain soon got caught up in the 1989 “Keating Five” scandal, in which he and four other senators were raked over the coals for pressuring regulators to go easy on the savings and loan magnate (and generous campaign donor) Charles Keating. Because the scandal called his honor and integrity into question, he counted it as an even worse experience than Vietnam. After enduring the scandal and his wife’s messy addiction to pills, McCain locked in on a lifelong political goal: to give all Americans the same opportunity to transform their lives that he had, by focusing their belief on the Land of the Free.

...“Our greatness,” he writes in Worth the Fighting For, “depends upon our patriotism, and our patriotism is hardly encouraged when we cannot take pride in the highest public institutions, institutions that should transcend all sectarian, regional, and commercial conflicts to fortify the public’s allegiance to the national community.”

So it was that McCain fought in 1994 to abolish a minor congressional privilege—use of the parking lot closest to the main terminal at National Airport. He readily acknowledged this was “merely a symbol” of corruption, not an actual abuse of power. “I meant only to recognize that people mistook such things for self-aggrandizement,” he explained in Worth the Fighting For. “Every appearance that inadvertently exacerbates their distrust is a far more serious injury than it would be had we made other, more serious attempts to rekindle Americans’ pride in their government.”

So many ways for Americans to lose their pride in government, so little time for reform! Everything from the trivial to the sublime became a “transcendent issue” requiring urgent federal attention.
I think that "pride" is the right word, but I still think it's McCain's pride that's at issue. Things that injure John McCain's pride become national issues. If McCain "cannot take pride in the highest public institutions," then you aren't allowed to either. The most egregious example is his inability to take pride in the First Amendment, but Matt Welch covers the others in his recommended article.

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