Diagnosis: Evil

To most people, elections are complicated.  Not so to some pundits.  Enter Gerson:

By the summer of 2007, the Republican presidential candidate most closely identified with the war, John McCain, was in serious trouble. Moderates and independents no longer seemed impressed by the fierce, lonely advocate of what many called "escalation." Political observers argued that McCain's money troubles and staff resignations and firings — he went from 120 campaign workers to 50 — were "another nail in Mr. McCain's campaign coffin," showing that "the wheels came off," and leading to "a death spiral that is almost never survived."

If cliches could kill, McCain would have been embalmed and buried.

Yet the Republican candidate most closely identified with the war and the surge performs well in head-to-head polls against the Democrats. The revival of McCain's campaign was possible for one reason: the revival of American fortunes in Iraq. Most categories of violence in Iraq are now down by more than 60 percent, and sectarian attacks in Baghdad have fallen by 90 percent. Sunni tribal leaders are conducting the first large-scale revolt of Arabs against al-Qaeda thuggery — which includes, we learned last week, strapping explosives to a mentally disabled woman and setting off a blast in a market.

McCain seems well suited to deal with this kind of evil — precisely because he would diagnose it as evil.

Every Republican save Ron Paul embraced the most energetic and belligerent of Bush's policies.  How McCain alone is helped by this seems a bit of a mystery.  Besides, someone might even say that the surge hasn't worked (because it has exhausted its own ability to continue without achieving any of its stated goals), but I guess that person would, as Gerson earlier says, would "embrace retreat at any cost."  But Gerson's claim about McCain's surging success is just run of the mill causal fallacy stuff–a little post hoc ergo propter hoc or perhaps some oversimplified cause.  The real travesty is the remark after the dash.  

There is another theologian in this race.  If diagnosing something as evil constitutes a qualification, then why isn't Gerson supporting Mike Huckabee?

3 thoughts on “Diagnosis: Evil”

  1. Why is “diagnosing it as evil?” a prerequisite for president? Even Gerson doens’t answer that question, but assumes it as self-evidently true. I don’t doubt that both Senators Obama and Clinton would also diagnose turning the mentally disabled into bombs, in fact would regard terrorist tactics on the whole, as evil. Funny that Gerson doesn’t bother to mention one other thing Senator McCain has diagnosed as evil that the current administration seems to regard as good: the torture of POW’s.

  2. I think you hit the nail right on the head with your last sentence, Phil. Perhaps some voters prefer McCain over the other Republican candidates because of substantive policy differences, like “human rights” or something.

  3. The more general problem with his argument is the logical leap from “McCain wins nomination” to “McCain must have done a lot of things right and/or successfully appealed to people.”

    This is a zero-sum game and the field of candidates is finite. Someone has to win the goddamn nomination, a fact that the pundits frequently forget. McCain’s “rise from the dead” could just as likely be a function of high name recognition in an appallingly bad field. As anyone who has followed the presidential fortunes of the Democrats since the 1960s can tell you, winning the nomination doesn’t mean that voters love, support, or buy into the candidate. Kerry? Dukakis? Mondale? Or, on the GOP side, Bob Dole? All of these were simply default nominees. They won the nomination because someone has to win it and the other candidates were worse.

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