McCain speaks in slogans.

Forum I would declare Rick Warren, the pastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California to be the "winner" in last night’s Evangelical political forum.  He organized the event, provided his church as venue and moderated the show.   The television commentators mentioned several times that 20,000 people are "members" of his church.  That seemed to surprise them.  Where I live, (the RC diocese of Arlington) that would not be an unusual thing in any number of parishes.   Warren ran his event well.  He looked like a prosperous NGO manager a couple of times.  Obama referred to Warren’s book sales once.  They were impressive.  Warren at one point told Obama that a family with an income of $150,000/year would be poor in Orange County.  Hmmm.  That brought to mind a Franciscan priest whom I once encountered in Jerusalem.  He had been a diocesan pastor in Orange County and had left to become a friar.  When asked why, he said that his Mercedes had been getting in the way of his ability to follow Jesus.

John McCain’s journey into the world of neocon thinking is described well in the article cited below.   I would not ascribe his political inclinations to the naval background of his upbringing.  Many, many people from similar backgrounds end by completely rejecting such a background as they develop their own thinking.  Others do not.  McCain has problems that originate elsewhere.   He does not seem to be a deep thinker.  He responds with slogans to questions that require complex solutions.

Warren – "What is worth fighting for (paraphrase)?"  McCain – "Freedom!" (followed by other words about national interest, etc.) Warren – "There is evil in the world.  What should we do about it?"  McCain – "Defeat it!"   This is neocon Jacobin koolaid in a "high proof" form. 

Whose freedom?  Everyone’s?  If so, we will be very busy if this man is elected president.   "Evil?" How will we defeat evil?  Richard Perle and David Frum wrote a book entitled something like, "The end of evil."   This is childish.  Evil is a continuing reality against which humanity is summoned to struggle.  There will be no end to evil.  There will be no end to the struggle against evil.  Nevertheless, it is fair to ask what means McCain intends to rely on to "defeat evil."  This is especially true in light of his "Freedom" response.  Some may say this is mere campaign talk.  If you think that, contemplate McCain’s face as he makes responses like those.

The devout in that church loved the slogans.  It is to their credit that their approval of McCain’s evident inclination to re-open "Freedom’s Frontier" would surely be met by increased enlistments of their children in that struggle.  It would, would it not?

The NY Times will publish a similar article on Obama.  That will get equal attention here. pl

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23 Responses to McCain speaks in slogans.

  1. JohnH says:

    The “increased enlistments of their children in that struggle” will be realized by foregoing their Social Security checks. Only problem is that the avid supporters of McCain won’t realize that their Social Security Trust Fund has been looted until it’s too late.

  2. Grimgrin says:

    This is a telling quote, “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.” Given that the US has the strongest military in the world right now, this suggests that McCain believes the US has to attack anyone who threatens or provokes it. It reminds me of another quote, “One two, many Vietnams”. That was the slogan offered by Guevara on how to defeat the US. Didn’t work because noone but the most fanatical are actually crazy enough to want a Vietnam or Iraq in their home. In this article however McCain seems like the man to make the slogan a reality.

  3. par4 says:

    …would it not? Short answer is Not

  4. Bobo says:

    ” a word or phrase used to express a characteristic position or stand or a goal to be achieved”
    Its a little refreshing to hear pointed one word answers versus long winded diatribes that cover all the bases, that tend to go in circles from Obama or other politicians.

  5. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    McCain speaks in political slogans about freedom. The conservative Russell Kirk, who was one of the first to reveal the true intentions of neoconservatives, once make the following observation about the use of political slogans:
    “Conservatism is the negation of ideology. Ideology is an attempt to govern all life by political slogans; while American conservatives believe that no mere political formulas can make a people content. Conservatives take for their guide in politics what Edmund Burke called ‘the wisdom of the species’: that is, the experience of human beings in community, extending over many centuries. Thus, American conservatism is a cast of mind and character, not a neat body of political abstractions. Ideology is political fanaticism, an endeavor to rule the world by rigorous abstract dogmata. The dogmata of an abstract ‘democratic capitalism’ may be mischievous as the dogmata of Marx.”
    Admittedly, I have not read much Kirk. But credit where credit is due.
    Also, in the NYT article, McCain’s brother promoted the Sherman approach to war. Best I can tell so far, when a neoconservative exalts Sherman, he or she is promoting and legitimating the equivalent of nuclear war against civilian populations and other “unenlightened” cultures. It’s code. For more info, see Victor Hanson.

  6. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Thank you. I hope your post stimulates others to share their reactions.
    McCain’s reliance on slogans mirrors a mind closed to reason perhaps resulting from problems as you suggest that originate elsewhere. Regardless, if ever we lived in a time that demanded we attend to Isaiah’s call from the Lord to “reason together” it is now. If elected president McCain’s inability to grasp this as an essential tool of productive governance will result in a further decline of the country.
    Truly a man who has not evolved beyond responding to his world, as George Will has said, viscerally, that style may have worked when he was a fighter pilot but will not if he is to govern this country successfully.

  7. Nancy K says:

    Even my 83 year old mother was disgusted with McCain. She told me this morning that all he did was make jokes and want to tell another story. She said it seemed that Obama was saying what he felt. McCain what he was told. Bobo says he finds sound bites refreshing I think that says it all. God Bless American, because we are sure going to need it.

  8. b says:

    He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.

    Now apply that to McCain as the President of the Russian Federation and imagine how Tbilisi would look today in that scenario.

  9. ServingPatriot says:

    [their] inclination to re-open “Freedom’s Frontier” would surely be met by increased enlistments of their children in that struggle. It would, would it not?
    It would seem most definitely not. And, in fact, the very mid-level leadership the armed forces needs to drive the re-opening of the frontier seem to be telling the world they’ve had enough of the “freedom agenda.”
    Deployments Are a Factor in Army’s Deficit of Majors: Service’s Plan for Growth Also Contributes to a Gap (
    Perhaps the only glimmer is that the USA’s position as #1 military cannot continue long in the era of “tight credit;” the looming budget crisis must drive a drastic shrinking and homeward realignment for our deployed forces. Then, the loss of so many young majors and captains will be irrelevant. Of course, any “peace dividend” will be equally irrelevant because there will not be one – only a debt servicing program.

  10. Tim says:

    What is worth fighting for? In 1932 Smedley Butler said “the only things worth fighting for are our homes and the Constitution of the United States”. Sounds like a good answer to me.

  11. Hat tip for the Russell Kirk quote. Neither a conservative of the Burkean or Kirkian genre, mcCain has made the move to the Jacobin “there is no principal mightier than my own.’
    Scary stuff. Yup, high octane kool-aid to hear it spill out of McCain mouth.
    For me it’s easier to understand where ‘freedom’ is punched into the slogan by substituting the word power. Yeah, ‘they hate us for our power.’ We fight for our Power. Etc..
    The question about evil didn’t evoke any cogent New Testament quoting. Still, McCain’s answer was jejune. Obama’s is worth reviewing.

  12. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. McCain was an original co-sponsor of the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998” which was put together by Trent Lott. As I recall, Randy Scheunemann was on Lott’s staff at that time. My recollection is that Randy and Neocons like Perle concocted the bill. Essentially, this was part of the legal basis for the later war…conveniently set into place awaiting the right moment. Colin Powell has emphasized this point. Here is Mylroie’s puff piece on it:
    2. Some more data on Randy for context:
    3. Committee for the Liberation of Iraq included McCain:
    “It has close links to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), important shapers of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
    Many CLI, PNAC and AEI members were previously involved with the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), a hard-right group created in 1990 prior to Operation Desert Storm.
    The Washington Post reported in November 2002 that “the organization is modeled on a successful lobbying campaign to expand the NATO alliance. Members include former secretary of state George P. Shultz, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.). … While the Iraq committee is an independent entity, committee officers said they expect to work closely with the administration. They already have met with Hadley and Bush political adviser Karl Rove. Committee officers and a White House spokesman said Rice, Hadley and Cheney will soon meet with the group.”
    4. McCain advocated MORE than bombing Serbia, he wanted ground troops there. Any consideration of logistics? Service ceiling of helicopters and conditions in the formner Yugoslavia? Spare helicopter engines available at that time?
    “McCain endorsed military action — even more vigorously than the Clinton administration did. During the 1999 war, NATO forces relied entirely on high-altitude bombing of Serbian targets, but Senator McCain wanted to send in ground forces. His criticism that Clinton’s policy was insufficiently bold foreshadowed his critique of the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq.”
    Good critique here of McCain’s foreign policy positions:
    One can conclude McCain will be just as Neoconnish-Jacobin as W and, some might also argue, just as psychologically unstable. Thus Obama’s charge that McCain is just four more years of W has some substance.

  13. Cujo359 says:

    I thought Obama’s answers to some questions were thoughtful. Can’t say I’ve seen any of McCain’s that strike me that way. If the descriptions in this USA Today article are to be believed, thoughtful responses didn’t resonate much with the crowd.
    The USA Today’s observations certainly explain why we have leaders like McCain.

  14. Marcus says:

    PL: “”Evil?” How will we defeat evil? Richard Perle and David Frum wrote a book entitled something like, “The end of evil.” This is childish.”
    The same could be said about the “war on terror” except terror is cloudier term.
    Frum and Perle are insidious propagandists for a childish audience.

  15. fnord says:

    War on Evil. Gotta love it. It takes the War on Drugs and War on Terror to its logical biblical conclusion. Whats he going to do, reinstate the inquisition? Declare “War on Satan” next to top it off? They hate us because they are Evil? Sometimes it seems to me that large segments of the US populace are slipping into psychosis.
    Some offered slogans: “A vote for McCain is a vote against Evil!” “Vote existensialist, vote mcCain!” “How would Satan vote?”

  16. Walrus says:

    With the greatest of respect Col. Land, and othere here, you just don’t get it. What you think you are hearing are slogans. You are wrong. What you are hearing are called nominatives in neurolinguistic terms. Let me spell out their danger.
    Let’s start with slogans. There is nothing wrong with them because they can convey a whole set of meanings very quickly, for example “Loose Lips Sink Ships” is a slogan that conveys a powerful set of messages very quickly.
    Nominatives sound like slogans, but they aren’t because the meaning of a nominative word is in the mind of the listener – that’s why @sshole politicians like George W Bush use them almost exclusively. You think you have heard the expression of a concrete idea, but you haven’t, although 90% of the population doesn’t understand this.
    Let me list a few of them: Terror, Evil, Freedom, Liberty, Democracy, Choice, . These terms are not capable of precise meaning – they mean different things at different times in people’s heads, but they bring out the emotions.
    Everybody likes freeedom and Liberty right? Freedom to do what? Starve? Liberty to do what? When? Where? Who. Ferchrissake remember your six honest serving men , employ them and note that creatures like Bush and McCain are content free.
    And being content free, Bush and McCain are perfectly capable of destroying real freedoms and liberty in the guise of protecting the very thing they have destroyed.
    To put it another way, with Obama you get steak, with McCain you get pretend rubber steak. Looks the same, but try and make a meal out of it.

  17. fnord says:

    Walrus: Memetics and neurolinguistics are fascinating, wich leads to the question: Why on Earth are the democrats unable to use them effectively? Why doesnt Obama play hardball on terms such as “Freedom” and “Responsibility” and “Accountability”? Why didnt he steal Petreaus more publicly than he has done? In short, why do the Democrats suck at hardball? I just dont get it. Witnes the liberal anger at the Paris Hilton spoof, how many democrats who thought it was a “low blow” and “ageism” and whatnot. In the meantime, the repubs are busy building another swift-boat. If any Obama-personel reads this, give me a note, I will provide my services for free. And we will roast the bastard and all his friends. Argh.

  18. Cieran says:

    I agree completely with your assertions here, and have noted with dismay the dog-whistle politics employed by McCain (or Bush 43, or Reagan, for that matter), simply because it constitutes an appeal to the worst human impulses in his electoral base.
    In other words, he appeals to evil, regardless of what he says to the contrary.
    My favorite recent example is the title of the new anti-Obama screed from Swift-boater Jerome Corsi, namely “Obama Nation”, pronounced identically to “abomination”, which is the biblical-hate-speech-code-word for “race mixing” (with visual reinforcement provided by the closely-cropped cover picture of Obama’s light-skinned face)
    Why didn’t Corsi just name his book “Miscegenation” for the sake of truth-in-advertising? Sheesh!
    The GOP electoral base really needs to get out more…

  19. Binh says:

    McCain speaks in slogans because he has a penchant for cut-and-dried common sense solutions, which explains why he has no problem crossing party lines, is great at town halls, and jokes about bombing Iran. It also explains why he can’t understand economics or the world of the internet. There’s no room for subtlety in McCain’s world – everything is basically black and white, right and wrong, a stupid policy or a smart policy, and that can be an advantage in some cases (torture) and a huge disadvantage in others (foreign policy, the economy). This is why I McCain will win the personality dimension of the presidential debates but Obama will win on the issues and this year more people than ever are taking a hard look at policy and paying less attention to the usual BS that passes for debate in the MSM.

  20. Walrus says:

    Binh, with the greatest respect, there are no “common sense cut and dried solutions” to the problems of the world, as Mr. George W. Bush, another believer in simplicity, has conclusively proved in the last Seven Years.
    Mr. McCain may like to suggest that there are, but reality suggests otherwise.

  21. Yours Truly says:

    So, this is America? How laughable! Reminds me of the religious fanatics where I’m stayin’.

  22. Binh says:

    Walrus, that was my point. Did you read the rest of my post beyond the first 10 words?
    McCain has a strong anti-intellectual streak in him, which is what I meant by his “penchant for cut-and-dried common sense solutions.” That is what makes his seemingly incoherent off-the-cuff politics a coherent whole.

  23. Barry says:

    “The television commentators mentioned several times that 20,000 people are “members” of his church. ”
    there was a book which tried to (among other things) evaluate the actual number of members of evangelical churches. They found that a standard practice was to overcount – if you were ever a member, even for a few months, you would still be counted; many churches counted visitors as members.

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