Monday, October 6, 2008

George Will and John McCain

George Will's column in the Sunday WaPo is, from the very first sentence, one of the most devastating critiques of John McCain that has been published by a conservative. He writes, "John McCain, like many Americans who should know better, extravagantly praises Theodore Roosevelt." Yes, you read that right. Will refers to Roosevelt and McCain as "collectivist nationalists," and believe me, he does not feel kindly toward them.

Drawing upon a recent scholarly work, Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness, Will paints a very unflattering portrait of TR (and thus, I think, of John McCain). Here are some slicing, dicing quotes:

"TR saw virtue emerging from struggle, especially violent struggle, between nations and between the 'Anglo-Saxon' race and lesser races. Blending 'muscular Christianity,' the 'social gospel' -- which sanctified the state as an instrument of moral reclamation -- and Darwinian theory, TR believed that human nature evolved toward improvement through conflict."

"This dark vision of progress through strife made him advocate concentrated national power to serve his agenda, which was radically more ambitious than the Founders' vision of limited government maintaining order, protecting property and otherwise staying out of the way of individual striving. "

"Big was, he thought, beautiful and, anyway, inevitable. So government, and especially the presidency, must become commensurate to the task of breaking American individualism to the saddle of collective purposes. Here TR and 'Country First' McCain converge. "

"TR invested the materialist doctrine of evolutionary struggle with moral significance for the most manly 'races.' He wanted the state to rescue America from the danger, as he saw it, that a commercial republic breeds effeminacy. Government as moral tutor would pull chaotic individualists up from private preoccupations and put them in harness for redemptive collective action."

"Such as war. TR's response to
William James's idea of a 'moral equivalent of war' could have been: Accept no substitutes. TR wanted the body politic to be one body, whose head was the president. He disregarded civil society -- the institutions that mediate between individuals and the state, insulating them from dependence and coercion. He had a Rousseauan notion that the individual could become free only through immersion in the collective."

Holy smokes, Joe! This is George Will's "moral equivalent" of a declaration of war on the neo-conservative John McCain. This is really getting interesting.

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