January 30, 2008

Why is McCain perceived as the anti-Bush?

Greg Ransom writes:

If we take a look at the Florida exit polls, we see that Romney handily defeated McCain 35% to 31% among GOP voters who have a positive opinion of the Bush Presidency. But McCain crushed Romney 2-1 among those voters who are not satisfied with the Presidency of George W. Bush. This huge negative on Bush vote provided McCain with his comfortable victory margin over Romney in Florida.

Swell, but, why? How does McCain differ from Bush on the big issues of:

- invade the world
- invite the world
- in hock to the world?

Hasn't the Bush White House been more or less favoring McCain for the nomination for the last year or so?

Will McCain, who finished 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy and who lost five jets, return competence to the White House? To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (and, no, Oscar was never a fighter pilot), to lose one plane over Vietnam may be regarded as a heroic tragedy; to lose five planes here and there looks like carelessness.

More seriously, what's the largest organization that McCain has ever managed? And how did he do at it? And is he suddenly going to learn how to be an excellent manager at age 72?

I'm not looking forward to having to choose between one politician who can't be criticized because he was a POW and to question him is to not support the troops and another candidate who can't be criticized because he's black and the perpetually fragile self-esteems of 40 million African-Americans are assumed to depend upon everybody saying nice things about him. The point is not that McCain and Obama aren't fine fellows, it's that in a country of 300,000,000, we ought to expect the Presidential candidates to be worthy individuals and that yet they still must undergo corrosive analysis.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Unknown said...

My guess is that it's based on the differences that came forth in the 2000 campaign, McCain's general criticisms of how the war's been fought, McCain's supposed opposition to torture and whatnot, and his reputation as a "moderate" instead of a conservative.

The differences are phony and media-driven, but most voters don't pay attention to facts and logic.

Go Ron Paul!

Anonymous said...

894th out of 899?


I know that tests are not the sole determinant of rank in college (things would have been far easier for some of us if they were), but they probably counted for more when McCain was a student.

Does his abysmal performance reflect primarily test scores or evaluation by instructor? I ask because in my experience the discrepancy can be very large. For example, I was given a 1.0 in a remedial English course by a feminist instructor because I refused to discuss my relationship with my father with her. However, it may be that correcting her spelling and grammatical errors during class contributed to my low score (in retrospect, I have to admit that having done this proves that I am - or was - a bit slow myself).

But perhaps McCain really is dumb. When he said that Americans would not do work that Mexicans do even for $50 an hour, I just had to question his judgment. Maybe these neocons prefer a truly inferior leader, because in comparison to men like GWB and McCain their intellectual ability, however mediocre, takes on an attractive sheen.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer How does McCain differ from Bush on the big issues like invading the world and inviting the world?

Remember, to date, McCain still has not won the Republican vote in any of these primaries - he's winning because of Independents.

Also, apparently the Cuban vote lurched hard towards McCain - I guess they agree with him on amnesty?

If you throw out the Independents & the Cubans, then I think that Florida would have gone Romney in a cakewalk.

Ponnuru & Lowry have been making this point:

How McCain Won
Ramesh Ponnuru
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Posted at 10:37 PM

McCain's Inside Straight
Rich Lowry
Posted at 1:41 PM

The presence of Thompson, Huckabee, Paul, etc, has bene tearing apart the conservative coalition, and allowing Independents, RINOs, and Country Clubbers to coalesce around McCain.

There's also been a lot of speculation about whether a secret deal has been reached between Huckabee & McCain, in which Huckabee remains in the race merely to siphon off conservative voters from Romney.

Of course, Romney has his own problems - he was pro-abortion until just a few years ago.

And apparently the LDS really do believe that Jesus & Satan are brothers - which is going to be kinda hard to square [no pun intended] with traditional Trinitarianism.

Anonymous said...

1/ McCain is the only candidate to have run against Bush in a GOP primary.

2/ Bush has been referred to as a 'chickenhawk'. Not McCain.

3/ Bush has been married only once.

4/ Bush is viewed as coming from the GOP establishment as opposed to McCain.

Anonymous said...

Because McCain is running as the White Guy identity politics candidate. He also is the more hawkish, less PC version of fighting in Iraq. [And hides his PC anti-torture stuff, won't pour water up Osama's nose for 30 seconds if we catch him.]

If you are a Republican unhappy with Bush on Iraq you're not for surrender. Obama and Hillary have you covered. You're for victory and McCain has ridden close to victory in Iraq to near the nomination.

Anonymous said...

I’d guess that voters who hate Bush vote for McCain in part because of McCain’s famous hatred of Bush during the 2000 primary season. Also in part I think some of the “hate Bush” McCain voters are simply left of center voters who will end up voting for the Democrat in the fall. They are likely voting McCain because McCain has a well earned reputation as someone hated by conservative Republican rank and file.

Under this theory, the more Rush attacks McCain, the more liberal votes McCain gets. Note that in most of the states that McCain won in 2000, liberal and Democrat cross over voters made the difference. Democrats and liberals may have found the perfect way never to lose another general election by simply picking the worst Republican candidate by participating in the Republican primary.

I would also note that McCain gets just about nothing but positive free media coverage and that media coverage doesn’t tend to mention that McCain supports the Iraq war, threatens war against Iran and sponsored the Amnesty bill. Meanwhile, the free media coverage of Romney is relentlessly negative, I’d guess because leftists fear that in a general election the Ken Doll Romney would win a lot of votes just by his central casting Presidential looks.

Anonymous said...

Bush takes care of his people, and he expects them to be loyal in return. Whatever you can say about the man's policies, he's a known quantity - after only seven years of national exposure, you pretty much know what Bush is gonna think and do.

McCain has spent the last fifteen years at war with his own party. He enjoys the "maverick" title the liberal press bestowed on him. He's not someone you can trust to stand on principle if he can cut a deal and stay in the limelight. In fact, you never really know what he's gonna do next - remember the "gang of 14"?

These guys really are diametrically opposite in character, even if their policies are similar (and similar to Hillary's, for that matter).

Anonymous said...

perhaps a high degree of ESL voters means people misunderstand the exit polls.

Anonymous said...

The other thing that McCain has used to win over Romney is winning in Iraq. When Iraq looked like a disaster, McCain was "done" remember last Summer. Meanwhile as Iraq looks like something close to victory, McCain has done well.

McCain's commercials (lying about Romney's Iraq record) put him over in Florida and SC. McCain scored big in the NH debate when he zinged Ron Paul about how he doesn't want to trade with AQ they only wear burquas, and doesn't want to fly with them they only fly one way.

Democrats have peddled "Defeat is good for America" along with Paul and that will get some of the electorate but not a lot. Voters by and large want a win when the country is at war and don't want another defeat. Even Obama has to promise a win someplace else (Afghanistan) even though THAT is a pipe dream and Iraq "winnable."

McAmnesty painted Romney (lying again) as being pro-defeat in Iraq and that is a loser with the electorate.

Wilson: McCain is clearly running to the right of GWB on Iraq -- being pro-victory more than Bush is. With zingers (see above) aimed at the PC truth Bush won't say: Islam is not a religion of peace.

Anonymous said...

I'll add that McAmnesty will be a bigger disaster than Bush since he has no organizational skill, cannot get things done, and will roll over for whatever the Media and Dems want.

But he's postured as the hard-guy on the right on Iraq and that's been "enough" for him now.

Anonymous said...

Swell, but, why? How does McCain differ from Bush on the big issues like invading the world and inviting the world?

This perception is a result of McCain's campaign during the 2000 election and a handful of subsequent challenges to the Bush administration on issues like the waterboarding of a handful of top al-Qaeda detainees. That's about it.

When it comes to invade the world, invite the world, McCain might be worse than Bush - if that's possible.

Anonymous said...

Will McCain, who finished 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy and who lost five jets, return competence to the White House?

Wow, that's cold. Another one for the list of "things that nobody but Steve is willing to say".

Anonymous said...

You paleos here must be going out of your minds. After all the buyer's remorse about Bush, did the GOP embrace Ron Paul? Or the Huckster? Nope: a plurality of GOP voters has anointed the only candidate who is more of a neocon by conviction than Bush.

Steve asked whether Giuliani's neocon advisers would decamp to McCain. I ask, does it even matter? McCain doesn't need any neocon to convince him to be hawkish. He'll keep America fighting in the middle east until he gets the bad taste of Vietnam out of his mouth.

Perhaps more frustrating for you is that the pro-Amnesty wing of the GOP is in pole position right now for the nomination.

TGGP said...

It's funny that anti-war folks in the Republican primaries are voting for the most pro-war politician in the U.S. Chris Hayes explains just how out of it voters are here, making his review of Bryan Caplan sound pretty stupid now.

Anonymous said...

They are very similar:
1. They both followed in their fathers footsteps.

2. They are both from the elite/aristocracy whatever you want to call guys with Admirals and Senators as fathers.

3. They are both self righteous and have lame frat boy senses of humor.

4. They are both pro war, pro amnesty

5. They are both incapable of changing their opinions.

I suppose all the candidates are in it for their ego. I'd say Ron Paul and Obama bring the most intellectual rigor and fresh thinking to the mix, whatever else they might also bring.

McCain is the anti Bush because his whole schtick is to be a 'Straight Talker' and since Bush is the current President, McCain is assumed to be talking against him, regardless of the massive overlap. Plus the MSM loves McCain and hates Bush and as far as they are concerned thats the end of the story.

Anonymous said...

Duh. There ARE no "anti-War" Republicans. That's why McCain is winning. There are anti-DEFEAT Republicans and McCain tapped into that.

If you don't like the War and want a defeat, Dems have you covered. McCain went nowhere until Iraq turned around. Once it did people started thinking "Hey with idiot Bush gone we can get a win!"

America has not had a "win" in a war since WWII. No walk-overs like Panama, Grenada, and Kosovo don't count. McCain's voters are not "anti-War" but anti-losing-the-war. Frick even OBAMA has to offer up the fairy tale possibility of getting a "win" in Afghanistan (ain't never gonna happen) to offset an Iraq loss.

Frick! WSJ is crowing about McCain being a vote for Amnesty-Open Borders. Knew they would bastiches! But it's not that, it's the prospect of a win.

Anonymous said...

Actually Steve, McCain's IQ is reported to be 133 (this article is reproduced from Time magazine) though I don't know the basis for this. Perhaps something for you to do some sleuthing about?


"He was also, at his core, still the rowdy, runty, red-tempered plebe who finished near the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy despite an IQ of 133. McCain became a symbol in 2000 of courage and candor. Few took close looks at his policy positions. It was almost enough to get him the Republican nomination. "

Anonymous said...

He won't return competence to the presidency but he can't be as bad as any of the Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Wait, so getting shot down over Vietnam means you don't have what it takes to be a competent President?

That's a terrible cheap-shot.

There are plenty of fair criticisms to be made of McCain. That's not one of them.

Anonymous said...

General Patton finished last in his class at West Point.

Anonymous said...

McCain wins all the fuzzy and irrational voters. He wins identity, electability and independents. Values and the issues are secondary. Our process of leadership rocks!!!!

Anonymous said...

USNA isn't community college and had a huge focus on math and engineering. Getting in is hard and graduating is too. Different mentality there about finishing school than at many places.

One of his planes was shot out from under him...certainly something to mock a guy about.

Chester Nimitz ran a ship aground as an Ensign...good thing they sacked that guy before he could do any more damage.

I hate the "patriotism over profit" line. Blast away there but hitting a guy for a low class rank in one of the best schools in the world and for getting shot down is pretty weak.

Unknown said...

Will McCain, who finished 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy and who lost five jets, return competence to the White House?

Oh snap!

Thomas F said...

I think political commentors like Mr. Sailer should demonstrate some restraint when criticizing John McCain's personal background. Noone has been more forthright in admitting his failings as a young man, especially while a cadet at the Naval Academy. I realize that many prominent conservatives do not like him all that much as a presidential candidate or as a politician, and I think that is fair criticism. However, nothing infuriates me more than individuals who have no military experience or who -- like many of the members of the current White House -- received deferments during the Vietnam War attacking someone like McCain who was undergoing hideous torture while they were enjoying the peaceful existence of a civilian. While this might not apply Mr. Sailer directly, it does apply to many of his fiercest critics (i.e. Rush Limbaugh), and he is sanctioning the legitimacy of this type of attack when he posts blog entries like that one. Frankly, I think if he had an ounce of personal decency he should retract it.

Anonymous said...


While the question of McCain's Naval Academy placement is certainly legit, you might want to rethink the glib "losing planes" line. The guy was a combat pilot, for heaven's sake. In addition, presumably one of those lost planes was the one he ejected from on his way to years of captivity and torture at the hands of the North Vietamese.

I think some on the right could use a healthy dose of proportion where McCain is concerned. Especially since I do agree completely with you that McCain and Bush aren't really that far apart. McCain's every bit as conservative as Bush, more in some areas (earmarks and spending come to mind). Is he a flawed candidate? Sure, but so were all the other candidates (Fred, who I was hoping to vote for, had the main flaw of starting late) including Romney, who I'm not convinced is as socially conservative or as fiscally responsible as he's been campaigning.

Anonymous said...

Just graduating from a service academy speaks well for him, and as for wrecking 5 jets, do you know how to fly one? and if you do, do you have what it takes to point it toward people with the ability to kill you, John did. I have no problem with disagreeing with his policies but that was a low blow and one that I doubt you are man enough to back up. Get a life Steve.

Steve Sailer said...

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (and, no, Oscar was never in the Naval Academy), to lose one plane over Vietnam is a heroic tragedy; to lose four planes in training bespeaks of carelessness.

Anonymous said...

General Patton most certainly did NOT finish last in his class at West Point. Try 46 out of 103.

Anonymous said...

I think political commentors like Mr. Sailer should demonstrate some restraint when criticizing John McCain's personal background.


Why? He wants to be president. Nobody who's taken seriously for that job should get a break. Just getting a job with the border patrol entails a detailed review of personal information, including credit and medical records that We, the People don't get to review for candidates like McCain.

I just don't understand why working-class government employees (or even bank tellers, for that matter) should be subjected to more scrutiny than candidates for the President of the United States of America.

BTW, what people don't like about Romney is his voice and persona. He comes off as very similar to John Kerry for some reason. Maybe it's a Massachusetts thing, but in general people don't really like it.

Anonymous said...


John Derbyshire over at The Corner (and who sympathetically posted your original quote on the ranking and lost jets) posted the following updates:

"'Derb — I am definitely no McCain guy, but Sailer saying that McCain lost five jets as some sort of proof of incompetence is shaky ground. To most people, including this correspondent, it just means he has brass balls. That, I think, is one of McCain’s few endearing qualities and going after it makes one look like there are no real arguments to be made.'

And this one:

'Derb — I am by no means am a Mac man, but please, the 5 jets is a cheap shot, one of them was destroyed by an accidental misfire on deck of another jet's missiles, and nearly killed Mac. If you protested the assaults on Kerry’s military record, I should think that a greater desire for scrupulousness about chopping at our semi sorta conservative (at least compared to Kerry) ought to prevail, esp. when the guy is an authentic war hero, hmm?'"

The missle fire incident wasn't McCain's fault and happened in Vietnam under combat conditions, *not* training. One of the other crashes is documented as a flameout (on the dubious "Vietnam Veterans Against McCain" site no less). McCain followed procedures to restart the engine 3 times before bailing out at 1000 ft.

Even the ranking bears some review. McCain's roommate recalls that it was by "choice, not design"* and McCain's partying lifestyle and "free spirit" are well-known subjects. They remind me of another military aviator who sits in the White House (to draw out the central theme of your post further).

The bottom line is that there are plenty of flaws to examine where McCain is concerned. The lost planes issue though just looks like a cheap shot and detracts from the salient point of your post, which is that there's really a lot of similarities between McCain and Bush.

As I wrote earlier... proportion, Steve.


Anonymous said...

Patton only finished in the middle of his class because he wasn't that good at math. In every other aspect he was at the top of his class, in addition to being an Olympic Athlete.

As for McCain, could have a statue of limitations on rewarding war heroes. Its been 35 f*cking years! He got a seat in congress because he's a war hero and been living off that for since 1982.

As McCain's IQ. Almost all senators/presidents/congressman have above average IQ's. The problem with McCain is his complete lack of interest in anything other Defense/foreign policy.

Further, he has the intellectual depth of a thimble of water. He's avoided the usual "Republicans are stupid" charge by sucking up to the MSM and attacking conservatives.

Anonymous said...

"Also, apparently the Cuban vote lurched hard towards McCain - I guess they agree with him on amnesty?"

I suspect that McCain is perceived as being more anti-Castro than Romney.

McCain is far more hawkish than Romney.

Anonymous said...

I think that was Grant that finished last in his class.

Regarding being shot down, so was the best combat pilot in history, Hans Ulrich Rudel. From Wikipedia:

According to official Luftwaffe figures, Rudel flew some 2,530 combat missions (a world record)[5], during which he destroyed almost 2,000 ground targets (among them 519 tanks, 70 assault craft/landing boats, 150 self-propelled guns, 4 armored trains, and 800 other vehicles; as well as 9 planes (2 Il-2's and 7 fighters). He also sank a battleship, two cruisers and a destroyer. He was shot down or forced to land 32 times (several times behind enemy lines), ...

Now, granted McCain didn't rack up that kind of record, but being shot down a lot can mean a lot of different things.

Anonymous said...

As another wrote, just graduating the Naval Academy is an accomplishment. Quite aside from academics, the class rank also takes into account conduct and athletic achievements. McCain had over 100 demerits each year. Criticzing McCain for his class rank at the Academy does three things for you: 1) It makes you look ignorant - because you're assuming it's all about GPA; 2) It makes you look stupid for commenting on something when you are completely ignorant; 3) It makes you look desperate because you're using a 72-year-old's college record as the word on his competence. You can't find anything else in his whole career that speaks to a lack of competence?

Yes, he lost several planes, two which were in training missions. But the Navy apparently thought he was competent enough to be a flight instructor. And it's my understanding the Distinguished Flying Cross usually isn't presented to folks lacking competence in the cockpit.

What's next, Steve? Criticizing McCain as being a giant wuss for signing the propaganda confession to being a criminal and pirate while he was a POW in the hands of the North Vietnamese? I'll let you research what the man went through leading up to that event.

My point is, there is plenty, P-L-E-N-T-Y, to criticize about McCain's stances on issues and what he's done while he's served in Congress, from the Keating scandal to Gang of 14. There is no need to go back to his war record or record at the Academy. George McGovern (another recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross; he also crashed a B-24) was a war hero and should be commended for it. But folks didn't need to go to his war record to criticize him when he ran for president.

Ali said...

Grant finished 31st out of 39.

McCain's father and grandfather both got similar ranks at the Naval Academy. Both rose to become Admirals. His grandfather commanded a carrier task force during WW2 and his father. His father commanded Navy forces in the Pacific during Nam.

As for taking charge of large organisations, is that really what a President does? The job mostly seems concerned with setting and selling policy, crisis management and managing relationships at home and abroad. It's not much like running General Electric.

Anonymous said...

McCain's father and grandfather both got similar ranks at the Naval Academy. Both rose to become Admirals. His grandfather commanded a carrier task force during WW2

And came within a hair's breadth of being cashiered out of the Navy for losing a number of ships and hundreds of men by ordering his TF directly into a Cat-5 typhoon, against the pleas of his staff and the Navy's own meteorologists. Only the Navy's desire to avoid the scandal of a four-star being court martialed or otherwise publicly disciplined, and the fact that McCain Sr. was clearly dying, saved him from the disgrace. He died five days after the surrender on the deck of the Missouri.

Anonymous said...

Richard A.: I suspect that McCain is perceived as being more anti-Castro than Romney.

McCain is far more hawkish than Romney.

McCain plays the Hawk come election time, but his actual record is highly Dove-ish.

Maybe the Cubans don't like the idea of the Muslims filthying up their homeland, and, like McCain, they want the Muslims out of Guantanamo and brought to the USA [where the ACLU and the courts will see to it that the Muslims get their payback many, many times over].

Anonymous said...

Bill said:

Maybe these neocons prefer a truly inferior leader

Maybe the American people prefer that, too.

As H.L. Mencken said:

"In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through[...]But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand,[...]then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"perhaps a high degree of ESL voters means people misunderstand the exit polls."

So are you saying that Steve had misunderstood the exit polls? Your lame excuse of a really stupid racist joke had been an EPIC fail.

Do stay away from your parents' keyboard.