John McCain & George Soros: New York Encounter

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soros.jpg
I’m headed back to DC from a very interesting evening in New York where I got to hang out for a while in the plush and exotic “The Core Club” — an ultra-chic watering hole for people who have seriously large monetary endowments. (The Core Club’s official site is here.)
When one thinks about it for a moment, it is at such clubs that money and political ambitions often meet in states like New York, California, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and to some degree Texas where big money places bets on some candidates and not others. The internet has undermined some of the cartelization of political fundraising, but despite Joe Trippi’s great success in the Dean campaign, there is a long way to go before such power circles as I saw in operation last night are undermined fully by a diversified small money giving base.
I mention all of this not because I was there for a fundraiser but because I stumbled into Senator John McCain and his 2000 McCain for President Campaign Chairman Rick Davis there for a fundraiser just before another event I was helping to organize.
I normally prefer grungy coffee shops or Congressional meeting rooms, but the club facilitiies and food were stunningly good. The reason I was there was that The Core Club’s president, Jennie Saunders, as well as Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and I co-hosted a book reception for George Soros and his just released The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror. About 150 people attended, and the quality of conversation and debate about Soros’s ideas and political views was excellent.

The McCain encounter caught me off guard. As long-term readers know, I admire McCain for challenging Cheney and his minions on torture. I have disagreed with John McCain on the Iraq War and on John Bolton, but I support what he has tried to do regarding political ethics. He, Russ Feingold, Martin Meehan, Henry Waxman, and Chris Shays were among very few members of Congress willing to take hits from the White House because of their efforts to try and keep “ethics and politics” in front of the public.

John McCain gave a good stump talk.
He didn’t get into his work against America’s de facto torture practices and only briefly echoed his lack of regard for Donald Rumsfeld’s management of the nation’s national security portfolio (but still slammed Rumsfeld in a momentary reference). He opened his comments by crediting Bush for the killing of Zarqawi but emphasized that there was “still a long hard slog ahead for us in Iraq.”
McCain said that the war was the number one issue for most Americans and unless demonstrable progress in Iraq was tangible to Americans by the time of elections, then it was likely Republicans were going to take some serious hits.
McCain decried the partisanship that had gripped Congress and Washington and said that people would rather see Ann Coulter debate Michael Moore than McCain debate Joe Lieberman. Someone among the group of mostly Democrats and Independents in the room suggested that they’d rather see McCain debate Ann Coulter, but that dropped from discussion fast.
McCain favors increasing the size of the military in manpower terms, which will be tough, and argued that a draft would not be acceptable to the American public.
When I asked him about campaign finance and political ethics reforms, McCain harshly criticized his colleagues for their willingness to accept high-price charter flights from American corporations and rich donors while only paying first class fares rather than charter flight fares and suggested that many Senators and Congressman see themselves as a notch above America’s citizens — and thus deserving of greater perks and privileges.
On Iran, McCain said that if he was President, he would go to Putin in Russia and Hu in China and make sure that they understood in every sense that if they continued to oppose American efforts to sanction iran’s nuclear weapons efforts that their respective ties with the United States would come under tangible, real stress. I personally wasn’t convinced by McCain’s views on Iran, but I do believe that he realizes that taking the wrong step here or there in this brewing crisis could dramatically impact the power order in the world. He seemed to imply that America could not succeed in its objectives with Iran without getting Russia and China in line with the U.S.
McCain also talked a lot about immigration and suggested that the Republican Party was in serious danger of alienating the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States because of what many perceived as a disregard for fair and balanced approaches to both securing America’s borders and dealing with the eleven million illegal immigrants already here. He gave Bush a lot of credit for his position on immigration — and emphasized the notion of “earned citizenship” over “amnesty”.
McCain was compelling in the reception. He worked the room well, learned people’s names, answered their questions fairly directly — though he sidestepped parts of my question, which was what was left in his future agenda on torture, Don Rumsfeld, and political ethics reform. He answered the last part in great length but failed to get into his battles with the White House on torture and military management issues.
On a last question about stem cell research, McCain bluntly said he’s all for it — full stop. He said that whenever someone with another view challenges him on it, he says for them to “give Nancy Reagan a call. She knows what she’s talking about — and she’s working the issue hard. When Nancy Reagan calls, you’re going to take that call.” Anyway, he’s not with the Christian fundamentalists on stem cell.
I’m reporting this not to advocate on McCain’s behalf but rather to give some sense of what he’s talking about with groups of people like the one in this club yesterday in New York. His rhetoric is not strident — but he doesn’t shirk from his views on the war, though he is highly critical of how the Bush team prosecuted matters in Iraq.
I hung out with the host of the event for a bit and talked with many of his guests — as the McCain event finished about fifteen minutes before George Soros walked into the very same room. Many of those assembled for the fundraiser were Democrats or independents; some were Bill Buckley/National Review style Republicans. I met no libertarians and didn’t meet anyone whom I thought would reflect hard core Red State conservatism. But they liked McCain.
As an experiment, I invited a few of the McCain crowd to attend the Soros event at which Soros spoke and entertained questions about his new book which criticizes what he terms “a false metaphor of a war on terror”.
Soros’s book is interesting, and I may write more about it another day. Some have already criticized me by email and in public comments for admitting to hosting the Soros reception, but I was proud to have done so. I’m in the ideas business — and Soros has been highly significant in changing the political dynamics of much of the former Soviet Union. Many people and pundits are passive, only reacting to what others do. Soros is someone who risks and does. I don’t agree with some of the things he has done, but I respect and want to learn more about what strategic thinking lies behind his personal, political and philanthropic work.
Soros opened his comments by stating that he greatly appreciated and admired John McCain’s steadfast commitment to the Geneva Conventions.
But then George Soros discussed a bit of his background and tutelage under the famed Karl Popper — and his thinking about where Popper’s views on “open society” were limited and no longer useful. Soros suggested that simply undermining totalitarianism did not automatically lead to open societies and that such implosion of power and control could lead to ongoing collapses within the respective country.
His biggest home run was his statement that the Bush administration, after 9/11, failed to try and restore faith and trust in the nation’s abilities to manage the threat from bin Laden and had instead exploited widespread fear to trigger a war it wanted to have with Iraq. Soros, when asked what he would have done if President of the U.S. after attacks like those of 9/11, said that he would have “plagiarized Roosevelt” and told Americans that “it was still true that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself.”
Soros sees American prestige in the world as badly damaged — and somewhat restorable with a new effort at alliance restoration and a new discourse on what serious challenges nations need to collectively concern themselves with — but he thinks it will be hard for America to get back to a position of its previous prestige and moral status in the world.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but I listened to Soros carefully and have read his book. I also listened to John McCain very carefully — and they do fundamentally, seriously disagree over the Iraq War and how America should manage its national security portfolio. Yet there is still a strikingly similar concern in both their presentations about America’s standing in the world and ability to achieve its great objectives and purposes. Each holds a view about America’s social contract internally and externally that seems quite similar.
When I told Soros that I thought that he and McCain probably agreed on about 80% of things when it came to national policy matters, George Soros said that it probably wasn’t quite that high but that he admired McCain. I didn’t ask McCain his views of Soros, but I think that McCain is probably above simplistic caricatures — or should be.
John McCain did speak at Jerry Falwell’s university, something that has vexed many McCain supporters, and George Soros did spend more than any other American, albeit unsuccessfully, to try and remove President Bush from the White House.
When the subject of John McCain comes up, many on the left go crazy and call him a Cheney-ite conservative, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” an unprincipled political huckster who blows with the political winds. John McCain, as I have known him, is a conservative, but he doesn’t fit the kind of billing many on the left have been giving him.
I think McCain is making a mistake in not repudiating fundamentalist zealots in his party — and can’t support an election bid that is in part built on threatening a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, or over gay rights, or any implied promise to further mix church and state. But to say that McCain is right of the right is not accurate.
One close advisor to McCain recently told me in a reflective moment of despair about the decision to speak at Falwell’s university that sometimes it is not the person Americans are electing who matters — but rather the team of people and their views who will fill out his or her administration.
Soros too comes off to me as someone of moderate Republican sensibilities who believes that for a healthy political marketplace of personalities and ideas to be restored in America, the Democratic Party — which he believes is in distressing disarray — needs to be brought back to power, both in at least the House of Representatives in 2006 and the presidency in 2008.
I won’t share anything that Soros or McCain said that would be considered personal or off-the-record, but I do think that the quality of their commentary and their efforts to try and direct the national debate require serious review of their thinking and ideas.
The ad hominem assaults on their character and demonization make the critics lodging them on each side look small.
McCain is running for President. Soros is not but will no doubt make a significant difference in that 2008 battle.
We should listen to and study what they are saying. Soros takes risks with his books and puts ideas on the table and seems to welcome the debate — positive and negative — that often ensues.
McCain too seems to welcome (most of the time) applause and criticism.
Whether one agrees with either or neither, a debate about serious ideas and proposals for the nation are what our next election should be about — and Soros and McCain are taking this task on seriously.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

49 comments on “John McCain & George Soros: New York Encounter

  1. marlito rodriguez says:

    May I know where can I contact Mr. George Soros? His e-mail add or office address, perhaps? Or, maybe his telephone or cell numbers? So that I can relay my personal thoughts on his views. Thanks.

    Reply

  2. avaroo says:

    Soros was convicted of insider trading in France. The conviction was rcently upheld. He also cannot set foot in Indonesia without being arrested. Some hero.

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  3. Not a Liberal, if that's what you're thinking says:

    Avaroo, Avaroo, Avaroo…too bad your an apologist for the right.
    Party before country right?
    Oh, I am not a liberal and love my country as much as you do.

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  4. DonS says:

    Sometimes I think Steve speaks tongue-in-cheek, almost as if setting up a strawman for us to knock down. I mean, a intelligent person can’t really believe all the platitudes Steve reports as suitable for serious consideration.
    As to both Soros and McCain, but particularly McCain, one boggles at the hubris it takes to even mouth the words necessary to posit that “America” is somehow still great and has so much to show the world — and Russia and China better line up behind us or else. Call me a humbug, but I think we’ll do we’ll do save our own sorry ass much less the rest of the world.
    I giggled, too, at McCain’s little hissy fit about some politicians thinking they are better than the average American — charter flights and such. Make that a guffaw. McCain is right in their lapping it up like the rest of them while spouting reform politics out of the other smirking side. Sure, probably a necessary artifact of the current American politcal scene, but disingenuous not the less. An old high school buddy of mine, really really rich wall street type (who I can’t bring myself to even relate to any more) was a top financial aide to McCain. That’s the kind of commoner McCain relates to. It ain’t me, or likely you,babe.

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  5. Yasmin Naficy says:

    Steve: You lead an interesting and exotic life! Keep up the good work – I enjoy your discussions: Another resource in the battle against apathy. Anyway, it’s free world and if one wants to engage in intelligent discussions with anyone from Soros, to McCain, the Pope, or Daffy Duck, then this only points to a healthy state of mind, curiosity, and positive energy. Unhealthy minds react violently to opposing views. The thing I deeply admire John McCain for is enduring and then overcoming imprisonment and torture. Most would have given up and become homeless, quick to blame others.

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  6. avaroo says:

    “That was my point exactly.”
    Then you should have said it. You didn’t.
    “I sure you’re an important fella”
    I’m not even a fella, much less an important one
    “but I’m talking about what the US government is doing”
    no you aren’t, because the US government is not dominating the Iraqis. Iraq has a functioning government.
    “No, then what was he?”
    a terrorist
    “He made the news nightly and he wasn’t an important character, that’s why they threw him overboard.”
    this doesn’t even make sense
    “If you use Tom Friedman’s methodology you’ll repeat that every six months. Clue; it means nothing.”
    I’m sure everyone is willing to take your word for that, what with you being such a recognized expert and all. Why you’re not running things is a mystery.
    “No invading army ever said it was doing bad by invading, not even the Nazis”
    yes, we’re doing so much bad in Iraq, just like we did in Germany and Japan. As for troops being “silenced” I don’t seem to have any trouble at all hearing from our troops, I wonder that you have no access to any media whatsoever. Are you living in a bunker on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, perhaps?
    “Really?”
    yes, really. Our history couldn’t be more different from England’s.
    “Until we started have pre-emptive wars, a fair argument could be made for the second half of your sentence.”
    I prefer pre-emptive war to war after we’ve been attacked. I’m just weird that way. If you want to wait to be attacked, be my guest…..in some other country. But it really cannot be a pre-emptive war with 17 UNSC resolutions against Iraq.
    “Are you comparing WWII to today?”
    No, I’m making fun of you for suggesting that the war in Iraq is a “land grab”.

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  7. Pissed Off American says:

    Hmmm….juvenile chatter, eh??? Is that kinda like “evil doers”…”dead or alive”….”mission accomplished”….”bring it on”….”last throes”…..etc.????
    Or perhaps it is more along the lines of “Go fuck yourself”, (as our Vice Buffoon puts it).

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  8. Giles says:

    It sounds as if George Soros has been persuaded by some of the national security analysis in the Dartmouth Report. Would be interesting to know if he mentioned it in his remarks. Also, what was his view of the role of southern political opinion in shaping American foreign policy?

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  9. Zathras says:

    May I suggest to Paul that he take a break from reading blogs and pick up a newspaper now and then? They are available online now, or so I hear.
    It’s possible that if he did he might come across a story about John McCain’s immigration bill, or even his opposition to spending approved by most of the Senate. It’s less likely he’ll run across stories about Hillary Clinton’s legislative accomplishments, but I see where her fundraising is going well.
    And, yes, the word is juvenile. Look it up, or look in a mirror.

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  10. MNPundit says:

    The actual compromise that Bush worked out with McCain on torture, was a non-ban. It was a horrible and McCain was over joyed with it. McCain is a politician, even if he has principles, he is still a conservative in the mold of Goldwater, and while that might be better than the current abomination, it’s still damn dangerous.

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  11. km4 says:

    For Steve Clemons since he’s a John Boltom fan 😉
    Taunted and jeered, Bolton bolted from Oxford
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/14/51635/8284

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  12. Paul says:

    “Amid the juvenile chatter upthread”
    this is much less juvenile, huh?
    “was a sensible comment about George Soros never having run for anything and taking no position of responsibility in American public life.”
    Well, you are half right. In various respects, he is involved “in American public life” a lot more than various elected public officials.
    “His position and McCain’s are hardly analogous.”
    I wouldn’t put them on the same level in many respects, yeah.
    “So who is the Democrats’ John McCain?”
    good question
    “I mean a politican who is liked and admired even when his opinions are unpopular”
    but his opinions that the public really knows about are not “unpopular.” The public likes him for fiscal responsibility, campaign finance reform, “straight talking,” and perhaps (though it surely isn’t the main thing) his hawkness. Even the last thing isn’t THAT unpopular. And, various Dems have controversial opinions on something (Sen. Reid on abortion) and popular overall.
    “who is not afraid of the press”
    yes, since he is know for his popular opinions this is no biggee.
    “and who remains active as a legislator even while preparing a Presidential candidacy.”
    Hillary Clinton?
    “As far as I can tell the leading nationally prominent Democrats would lose most of their support instantly if they adopted positions their supporters disagreed with”
    Maybe that is why McCain decided to do the same thing … not make waves, support Bush, toady to the religious right etc. Seems like he too takes that line.
    “they are terrified of the media; and they look on their day jobs as mostly for show.”
    Feingold, Clinton, and all the rest basically just have sinecures in their minds. Don’t think so.
    Juvenile, huh?

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  13. S Brennan says:

    Avaroo,
    One by one,
    To your comment:
    “Zarqawi was doing bad things long before March 2003.” – That was my point exactly. The US allowed him to do those bad things because he opposed Sadam, but when he did serve our purpose he had to go.
    To your comment:
    “I don’t know why you’d WANT to “dominate” the Iraqis, but I don’t.” – I sure you’re an important fella, but I’m talking about what the US government is doing, not your personal preferences.
    To your comment:
    “Zarqawi wasn’t a celebrity. ” – No, then what was he? He made the news nightly and he wasn’t an important character, that’s why they threw him overboard. As for celebrities having to be popular…are you really that naive? I pray it’s just an act.
    To your comment:
    “I don’t think we know what Zarqawi’s death means yet.” – If you use Tom Friedman’s methodology you’ll repeat that every six months. Clue; it means nothing.
    To your comment:
    American troops wouldn’t and don’t say that they are there to “impose military bases on the Iraqis”. – No invading army ever said it was doing bad by invading, not even the Nazis…what’s your point? American troops have been silenced by Rumsfield in a way they never were before…and since I served in the Army I have a clue, you clearly don’t.
    To your comment:
    “And I think they know better than you do what they are there for. Your judgment is clouded.” – see above
    To your comment:
    “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re sort of the anti-British. Our histories couldn’t be more different.” – Really? Read some history my young friend, just one year before our founding revolution we thought of ourselves as British. Are they teaching “new history” in school these days?
    To your comment:
    “We’re not an imperial power, we never have been.” – Until we started have pre-emptive wars, a fair argument could be made for the second half of your sentence.
    To your comment:
    “ah, Iraq to be the 53rd state, after Japan and Germany became 51 and 52?” – Are you comparing WWII to today? You aren’t really that far gone are you?

    Reply

  14. Richad Power says:

    Steve,
    McCain is finished in the reality-based community. I think you will probably have a sense of that after scanning these posts. He may be installed as Cheney’s replacement — to further the political make-over of Bush. He may run in ’08. But he will be rather old by then, and history will have passed him by. I would say McCain is a tragic figure, but that would mean that the substance really was there to be lost. And regretfully, I have come to the conclusion that the substance was not there. It was feigned all along. McCain behaved scurrilously, and in a highly partisan manner, during the *successful* war with Milosevic. McCain did not demand that Bush put an end to the Swift Boat slander. McCain made a grandstand gesture on torture, by forcing passage of that bil, but then let Bush cancel it out with a signing memo. If I had a moment with McCain, I would ask him why the International Red Cross is still denied access to prisoners in our custody. McCain was slandered, and only feigned indignation when his friend Kerry was slandered. McCain was tortured, and only feigns action to end torture done in our name. McCain bemoans the loss of civility in politics, and yet has wedded himself to Bush, the most rapidly, blindly partisan leader in modern US history. McCain feigned being a champion of campaign finance reform, as he positions himself for the ultimate gravy train ride — a Republican presidential campaign. McCain will feign concern about global warming, and media monopolization too. But sadly it is all a lie. To equate him with Soros, a man of international vision, and action, is a mistake.
    Richard Power
    http://words-of-power.blogspot.com

    Reply

  15. Punchy says:

    “The ad hominem assaults on their character and demonization make the critics lodging them on each side look small.”
    Just go ahead and say it. Say it. Bill O’Rielly. Ok, I said it.

    Reply

  16. james says:

    to lisainvan- i agree with you. the political arena is so polarized one can’t even talk without being branded a certain way, but we do need to talk and have different views expressed.. one concern of many folks today is that under bush leadership a basic idea of freedom of expression is under threat, or that no dissenting voices will be heard.. unfortunately very few in the political arena express an independant view of things, whether the war in iraq or any number of issues.. it saddens me to say, hillary clinton, john mccain, gwbush, john kerry and etc, no matter what side of the political spectrum have been for this war in iraq… how much of that is catering to the hand that feeds them- that being the military industrial complex, or the oil companies wanting into iraq? we have a plutocracy, not a democracy and the politicians know this.. telling ordinary folks this is tantamount to calling a spade a spade though, and that is something most politicians are unwilling to do.. it is like knocking down a sacred cow- democracy and freedom and all that, and replacing it with something that says – ‘the almighty dollar rules’.. even if it is true, no politician is willing to say it..
    steve that is a very annoying posting format now in place.. i have waited to post and notice it is still not posting.. i am thinking the reason for some of the double posts here have to do with this new system of posting.. i think i will pass off posting after this comment as it is too much work to post and not worth it!!!!!!! maybe you are just wanting to cut back on the posts.. if so, i think this new system will work for you!

    Reply

  17. james says:

    to lisainvan- i agree with you. the political arena is so polarized one can’t even talk without being branded a certain way, but we do need to talk and have different views expressed.. one concern of many folks today is that under bush leadership a basic idea of freedom of expression is under threat, or that no dissenting voices will be heard.. unfortunately very few in the political arena express an independant view of things, whether the war in iraq or any number of issues.. it saddens me to say, hillary clinton, john mccain, gwbush, john kerry and etc, no matter what side of the political spectrum have been for this war in iraq… how much of that is catering to the hand that feeds them- that being the military industrial complex, or the oil companies wanting into iraq? we have a plutocracy, not a democracy and the politicians know this.. telling ordinary folks this is tantamount to calling a spade a spade though, and that is something most politicians are unwilling to do.. it is like knocking down a sacred cow- democracy and freedom and all that, and replacing it with something that says – ‘the almighty dollar rules’.. even if it is true, no politician is willing to say it..

    Reply

  18. Carroll says:

    I like Soros..I like some of his ideas and give the man credit for putting his money where his mouth is…particulary when he has no political office to gain …I read his book 2 years ago and found it very interesting..a little long and dry at times but interesting…
    But McCain?…I don’t think it is bashing to say I don’t trust McCain…and if he were president I think we would see a Duyba on speed.
    There is something about McCain’s psyche that is damaged, not quite right. Willing to bet he is the kind who would go ballistic if he had any power…nope, pass on McCain…hope the voters do too.

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  19. karen says:

    Sorry about the double comment. I didn’t think the first one went thru..\It’s late. Long day.

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  20. lisainvan says:

    There is a very interesting point at the end of what Steve writes in his piece on McCain and Soros. No matter what you think of each figure, and even if you don’t think one or another or both is being forthright, both are committed to changing the nature of public discourse in the way in which they engage with others. McCain at least goes through some motions about allowing public dissent at his views. The commencement speach at the New School was striking in that there was all kind of dissent displayed and reported. Have you seen that with Bush lately? But a display of dissent is not sufficient — there needs to be a real and substantive exchange of differing points of view. McCain not actually be there, but at least he pretends or goes through the motions. That this is something to be praised is a sign of the sad times we live in and goes to Soros’ remark about Popper’s Open Society. The Open Society is founded on what Popper took to be the foundation of scientific method: falsification. To arrive at the truth you actively seek evidence that would undermine your current belief, rather than evidence that simply confirms it. Too much public discourse is devoted to simply reinforcing what people already believe. McCain and Soros (I would say Soros more) deserve credit for encouraging a discussion in which beliefs are tested by considering potentially confounding evidence and views.

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  21. karen says:

    sorry about the double comment it’s late…long day.

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  22. karen says:

    Dang Steve, the Core Club. I’m impressed. That’s the creme de la creme of the NYC social, intellectual elite scene. If you ever get invited there again and need a date, just say the word!

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  23. karen says:

    Dang Steve, the Core Club, that’s top of the line. NYC’s social intellectual elite-creme de la creme type stuff. If you ever get invited there again and need a date, just say the word..

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  24. Zathras says:

    Amid the juvenile chatter upthread was a sensible comment about George Soros never having run for anything and taking no position of responsibility in American public life. His position and McCain’s are hardly analogous.
    So who is the Democrats’ John McCain? I mean a politican who is liked and admired even when his opinions are unpopular, who is not afraid of the press and who remains active as a legislator even while preparing a Presidential candidacy. As far as I can tell the leading nationally prominent Democrats would lose most of their support instantly if they adopted positions their supporters disagreed with; they are terrified of the media; and they look on their day jobs as mostly for show.

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  25. Robert Diaz says:

    I really appreciated your article on McCain and Soros. I have become disappointed in McCain because of the way he allows Bush to run over him. Still I appreciate him because he is from my home state (though I now live in Oklahoma). I do believe you when you say that he is a conservative, and if a Republican were to win again in 2008 I would rather it was McCain. However I am not sure the powers that be will allow that to happen. We have lost our democracy.

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  26. avaroo says:

    “maybe we will see a resurgence of Pat Buchanon and the isolationist wing”
    nah, an independent can’t win in a US presidential election, at least not now and probably not for the next generation or two.

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  27. bakho says:

    Among Republican senators, I prefer Lugar to McCain. If Bu$h doesn’t fix Iraq by 2008, maybe we will see a resurgence of Pat Buchanon and the isolationist wing.

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  28. avaroo says:

    S Brennan, Zarqawi was doing bad things long before March 2003. I don’t think you can nuance his demise. Nor can you take a swipe at the US over his demise, IF you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history here.
    I don’t know why you’d WANT to “dominate” the Iraqis, but I don’t. If we have mutually agreed upon bases in Iraq, I’m fine with that.
    Zarqawi wasn’t a celebrity. Have you any idea how unpopular he was in his native country? He was just a terrorist, he happened to be top of the food chain, but terrorism is nothing to make a celebrity over.
    I don’t think we know what Zarqawi’s death means yet. American troops wouldn’t and don’t say that they are there to “impose military bases on the Iraqis”. And I think they know better than you do what they are there for. Your judgement is clouded.
    “It’s the same plan the British had and it will probably work out about as well.”
    In case you haven’t noticed, we’re sort of the anti-British. Our histories couldn’t be more different. Our goals now may be similar but that because THEY’VE changed their goals. We haven’t. We’re not an imperial power, we never have been. We’re quite happy to stay here at home, living well and making money.
    “Will we be able to pull off this land grab?”
    ah, Iraq to be the 53rd state, after Japan and Germany became 51 and 52?

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  29. S Brennan says:

    Avaroo,
    Let’s be clear here:
    Zarqawi is dead and that’s nice, since the US invasion he continued to do bad things that that the US could not abide anymore and his usefulness to the US and many others had expired…so…he had to go. Sure, we [US-elites] liked him when he opposed Sadam…but times change.
    Will it help us dominate the Iraqis to the point that we can install major military bases in perpetuity?
    Unlikely.
    So…does it matter?
    Not really.
    If people want to celebrate a minor celebrity’s death…fine, but let’s not have any illusions, his death didn’t change anything, it did not mean anything on the ground. Our soldiers are still dying to impose military bases on the Iraqis. It’s the same plan the British had and it will probably work out about as well. Will we be able to pull off this land grab? I don’t know, but Zarqawi won’t matter one way or the other.

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  30. avaroo says:

    koreyel, perhaps you missed it, but Iraqis were pretty happy that zarqawi is dead. jordanians too, he wasn’t too popular there either since the last terrorist activity there.
    Dems should not be on the wrong side of history here. It is a good thing that zarqawi was killed.

    Reply

  31. koreyel says:

    “He (McCain) opened his comments by crediting Bush for the killing of Zarqawi but emphasized that there was “still a long hard slog ahead for us in Iraq.”
    Crediting Bush? For killing Zarqawi?
    Did everyone stand and clap?
    I mean… did they hurrah as if it is going to make one whit of positive difference?
    Listen:
    For every Zarqawi you “kill” 30 more will be born. For every smart bomb you drop on an Arab village 3000 more terrorists will be created. For every day you parade dead Zarqawi’s photo on the telly… 30,000 more USA haters are born.
    The DC echo chamber still hasn’t figure this out yet.
    Has it?
    What a bunch of babbling baboons.
    All that money.
    All that power.
    All those Brooks Brothers suits.
    All those cocktail weenies.
    And still… dumb as dog shit.

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  32. Pissed Off American says:

    I gives me hope, after reading this thread, and many threads on countless blogs, that the American public MAY be stirring just a tad, and coming out of their slumber. The question for Steve, is, whether or not he is going to continue to place the despicable tittilation he experiences by rubbing elbows with these criminals above the moral mandate he SHOULD be feeling to join us in TALKING STRAIGHT and calling a spade a spade. McCain will say whatever he needs to say to feed his political aspirations, the TRUTH be damned. When an issue is politically opportune, he exploits it, without conviction or honesty. Who has been held accountable for the TORTURES that he claimed to abhor??? What real TEETH did his torture bill carry??? Like I said before, he was just posturing, just like that asshole wimp Reid did with the dog and pony show he pulled over Phase Two. Damn, I would like to see just ONE of these bastards be held accountable to their constituency, and to the tenets this country was supposedly founded upon.

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  33. madmax says:

    Have the Core fumes blured your perception? Reading you, I perceive your comments as to prepare “us” for the next “lesser evil”…From “old” europe…with love

    Reply

  34. km4 says:

    John McCain is a phony.
    Case in point: John McCain on MTP
    Russert: Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?
    McCain: No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain how his views on this program when you have him on.
    Russert actually questioned McCain pretty hard in the segment pointing out all his recent flip flops and showed that he is no longer the “maverick” that he’s been portrayed to be. Russert, used Pinkerton’s quote calling him a: “born-again Bushophile” to describe his relationship with the President now. McCain left the interview with this to say:
    McCain: I haven’t had so much fun since my last interrogation.
    georgia10 has more…”What we saw in that interview was the death of McCain the Maverick, and the birth of McCain the Chameleon.
    Phony John McCain
    The senator – one day to be failed presidential candidate – gets his first soljah moment when confronted by students at the New School commencement.
    His respone: “When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed and wiser than anyone else I knew,” McCain said.
    Well there you go. John the phony maverick McCain. Gawblesshim and his condescion. It wasn’t in evidence when he was at LibertyVille I mean university, sucking up to the christofascist wing of his party.
    So the NYT will give him a lede about the the raucous greeting he got in front of them liberal kids and he will burnish his right wing cred., Beautiful.
    Bush is taking the country into a controlled descent into terrain and phony john still plays the game like the craft is trim.

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  35. S Brennan says:

    angrybear has som thoughts on John McCains speech to the Economic Club of NY:
    http://angrybear.blogspot.com/
    The two excerpts show McCain to be a panderer of the first order.
    I’ve posted my unkind thoughts on John “lotta talk” McCain.
    Briefly, the excerpts deal with trade deals that favors his contributors and the need to cut SSI outlays so we have enough money in the budget to continue our unending tax cuts for the wealthy.
    John McCain – Hopeless panderer.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Reply

  36. Frank Wilhoit says:

    “…where Popper’s views on “open society” were limited and no longer useful….undermining totalitarianism did not automatically lead to open societies…implosion of power and control could lead to ongoing collapses…”
    If undermining totalitarianism could lead to collapse, then let totalitarianism be undermined, and let it be undermined everywhere, and let it be undermined this day.

    Reply

  37. ccobb says:

    Actually Steven, I don’t think “some on the left” go as nuts as those of us who used to be in the center before it moved out from beneath our feet under the Bush Adminstration. I was intrigued by McCain in 2000, but now he does indeed drive me nuts.
    Here’s why: I am as tired of dog-whistle politics as I can be. After Bush, I do not want wink and smile politicans who act as if they’re just saying what they have to say for their base, but trust them, it’ll be alright. I don’t trust them anymore; and watching McCain get off the straight-talk express to merge onto the base-pleasing bullshit highway nauseates me.
    The left left never bought his schtick. The center-left once did, but now no more. Once burned and all that.

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  38. Pissed Off American says:

    McCain leaves me cold, he’s an opportunist, grandstanding on the torture issue and then saying basically when push comes to shove, you do what you have to do.
    Posted by avaroo
    Oh my God. I am going to blow my brains out, something SENSIBLE actually came out of the tepee flap.

    Reply

  39. avaroo says:

    I’ve met George Soros, been in his office, he’s given me money for a non-profit organization and given my brother-in-law money for a book about Hugarian gypsies and the awful way they are treated throughout Europe. He’s a nice man, but I don’t like the attempt to buy elections. Soros hasn’t been elected to anything, making him quite different from McCain.
    McCain leaves me cold, he’s an opportunist, grandstanding on the torture issue and then saying basically when push comes to shove, you do what you have to do.

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  40. Robert Morrow says:

    John McCain? He can’t get nominated. I know hundreds of Republicans down here in Texas and I know about 2 who are for him. They like Tancredo, Allen and Condi, though.

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  41. daCascadian says:

    Thank you Steve for this piece, good “food for thought”. In my eyes Mr. McCain has lost a lot of ground, much of which he will almost never get back because of his lack of honesty.
    These are certainly “interesting times”
    Appreciate your efforts even tho I often disagree with you.
    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

    Reply

  42. demsin06 says:

    Steve:
    Reading what you had to say about McCain was wondering where you come down on in the Virginia primary race today between Miller and Webb? My concern is that Democrats are too quick now to seize on Republicans (in the case of Webb, quite literally) rather than generating within the party the fresh ideas and thinking for change. I find this fascination with McCain indicative.

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  43. bennettc says:

    McCain is a politician running for President. “Straight talk” was an act, and a good one. But the jig is up.
    The mentions of his stances on stem cells alone, not to mention global warming and taxes, prove that he will not win his party’s nomination.
    And “repudiating the zealots” is completely impossible because the zealots make up a high plurality of the base that votes in primaries. These are the votes he needs….hence the awkward and humiliating pandering. It’s an impossible campaign, for these zealots will coalesce behind one candidate who simultaneously appeals to the main streeters and financiers (say, Huckabee or Allen….).

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  44. manowar says:

    “not the person Americans are electing who matters — but rather the team of people and their views who will fill out his or her administration.”
    Jesus Christ, where have we heard this before! Incredible.

    Reply

  45. Pissed Off American says:

    “He didn’t get into his work against America’s de facto torture practices……….”
    You gotta be kidding. Posturing, nothing more. He didn’t even bother to follow through, and has been largely silent ever since. Just like that puke Reid, who never followed through in seeking Phase Two, McCain’s feigned indignation at our illegal, immoral, and satanistic treatment of people in our custody was little more than a photo op. When are you going to start telling it like it is, Steve, instead of pandering to these bastards by helping to spread their spin??

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  46. Nell says:

    Steve, harsh critics of McCain aren’t “demonizing” McCain. They’re exposing the truth that he isn’t a moderate, nor a straight talker.

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  47. Nell says:

    McCain seems to welcome criticism? Right. That’s why he let his staffer savage the New School student who responded critically to his commencement address.

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  48. Steve Clemons says:

    Jim H — thanks for the note and very happy to be back. The McCain/Soros juxtaposition was not one I thought of before just having them in the same room within a few minutes of each other. What intrigued me was the demonization that both is treated to by wings of the alternative parties. They both have something to say — and we should listen.
    That said, I miss the “straight talk express” John McCain and hope that that identity will reemerge. I was with some others yesterday and over the last week who see McCain just as you do — as someone who has changed his stripes.
    I’m still sorting it out.
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  49. Jim H from Indiana says:

    This is a very intriguing view of John McCain but I don’t think it in any way offsets the deeply disturbing pandering that Sen. McCain is engaging in with elements of the GOP. Those panderings cast much doubt on his internal motivations as well as his trustiworthiness (perhaps more so with moderate and liberal types than with conservatives.
    That the Senator is conservative was never in question. Perhaps with the media, but, I think, not with the general public. I think it’s been understood by the astute watchers that he’s more right than center or even center-right, particulary in his military or diplomatic views.
    And those military views, particularly Iraq, may be his undoing with the general public. I, like many liberals, am unhappy with the entire handling of this war and believe it will absolutely “taint” Senator McCain (and undoubtedly Sen. Clinton, as well) with the voters.
    Again, great article Steve, and glad to have you back!

    Reply

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