Tuesday, June 23, 2009

As Good As It Gets

DougJ: But that he loved himself more

Joe Klein on president McCain (via Steve Benen):

To put it as simply as possible, McCain—and his cohorts—are trying to score political points against the President in the midst of an international crisis. It is the sort of behavior that Republicans routinely call “unpatriotic” when Democrats are doing it. I would never question John McCain’s patriotism, no matter how misguided his sense of the country’s best interests sometimes seems. His behavior has nothing to do with love of country; it has everything to do with love of self.

I think that’s about right. But, I have to ask: how can you say that someone is selling his country down the river out of love for himself without questioning that person’s patriotism?

Update. Atrios has a good answer to this question:

[I]t’s because John McCain is a severe narcissist. He certainly doesn’t think he’s putting himself ahead of country, he’s just not really able to distinguish between the two.

That’s exactly it, I think. McCain’s self-aggrandizement isn’t cynical, it’s based on the belief that what’s good for John McCain is good for the United States. It’s the same way that all the flag pin stuff isn’t just political posturing, it’s based on an actual belief in the power of the Tinkerbell strategy.

JedL: President Obama swats away McCain's Iran criticism

Watching this makes you wonder why in the world John McCain seems to be pining for a rematch:

One of the more memorable exchanges from this afternoon's White House press conference came when President Obama called on NBC News' Chuck Todd, who followed up on earlier questions regarding Iran.

TODD: You have avoided, twice, spelling out consequences. You've hinted that there would be from the international community, if they continue to violate -- and you said "violate these norms." You seemed to hint that there -- there are human rights violations taking place.

OBAMA: I'm not hinting. I think that when a young woman gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car, that's a problem.

TODD: Then why won't you spell out the consequences that the Iranian people...

OBAMA: Because I think that we don't know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I'm not.

Greg Sargent noted, "Obama and his advisers have repeatedly disparaged the D.C. cable bubble as petty and distracting from the country's challenges, though the White House happily uses good cable coverage to its advantage on occasion. I guess Obama wants to make it clear that he won't handle sensitive international crises on cable's clock, either."

And that's definitely a good thing. Todd seemed to be asking, forcefully, that the president address a series of hypotheticals -- assume the demonstrations continue, assume the violent crackdown continues, assume Iran makes no concessions to address the concerns of dissidents, and assume an international reaction is being crafted. What, then, is the White House prepared to do?

Except, of course, presidents don't -- and shouldn't -- engage in this kind of speculation publicly. What Todd wants to hear is Obama as a Pundit in Chief, pontificating about possible consequences for possible outcomes, addressing an international situation that's still unfolding at this very minute. The president knows better, and it was a genuine treat to hear him smack down the entire approach.

It reminded me of something Matt Yglesias said last week: "Something I think people don't always get is that the President is not the columnist-in-chief or the National Blogger. One of the very nice things about being a professional political pundit, is that you can just sort of spout off what you think and use colorful language and strong, bold words." Presidents, in contrast, "need to be careful ... paying scrupulous attention to consequences."

Whether his detractors like it or not, Obama is a president, not a pundit, and he doesn't seem to care much about whether that meets with the chattering class' approval.

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