Yesterday, Brad DeLong scolded Weisberg for publishing the increasingly parodic Christopher Hitchens: "your marquee has no value if the things that appear on it have a substantial probability of being just stupid."
And now Weisberg tries to reassure us that Senator John McCain's fervent endorsement of South Dakota's draconian abortion law and his dramatic smoochfest with Jerry Falwell are just an act:
Discount his repositioning a bit, and McCain looks like the same unconventional character who emerged during the Clinton years: a social progressive, a fiscal conservative, and a military hawk. Should he triumph in the primaries, we can expect this more appealing John McCain to come roaring back.Sorry, no--we have been led down this path before. Certain centrists (Weisberg and his colleague Andrew Sullivan among them) consistently contended that Reagan, then Bush I, then Bush II all were just "playing to the base," but that deep down inside they're warm, fuzzy, huggable Teddy Roosevelt/Barry Goldwater Republicans. Those centrists were wrong then, and they are wrong now.
The obvious problem with this argument, even if it were true, is that candidates who are willing to play the whore when they are running for office continue to spread their legs when they have to have to run for re-election--or when their polls are sagging. But, more to the point, if a politician changes shades like a chameleon, then how do we know which is the real McCoy (or McCain)? Even Weisberg acknowledges that
McCain was not always the moderate, tolerant character I'm describing. He was a conservative before he was a liberal before he became a conservative again.Or as Arcane Gazebo recasts it:
Let's consider the reverse hypothesis: McCain is actually an ultraconservative, but is trying to play to the moderate center in order to boost his presidential prospects. This actually explains the data better--the meaningless public statements placate moderates, while the ultimate policy decisions are still very right-wing.In his article, Weisberg bases many of his own impressions on private conversations he's had with McCain, but he doesn't see the contradiction between his blithe acceptance of those discussions and his premise that McCain is more than happy to tell people what they want to hear. Perhaps Weisberg, not Falwell, has been duped.
As a Carpeicthus over at LiveJournal asks, "Do McCain supporters really think it's a good sign that the strongest argument for his candidacy is that he's really a giant lying hypocrite?" And does Weisberg really want Seth Pecksniff for President?