I came across an interesting article today which talked about McCain and his charming tendency to describe every international situation as Armageddon cometh. I had never really put it all together in my head previously, but news.com.au blogger Tim Dunlop (blogs.news.com.au/news/blogocracy/index.php/news/comments/foreign_policy_hyperbole_ah_mccain) has brought up an interesting point about America's favourite former POW/senator.
As president, his authority and international capacity for action will stem from the balance of his (dis)honesty. Foreigners are used to inconsistency in US foreign policy, but there comes a point where crying wolf reduces your capital somewhat; we've reached that point with Bush over the past few years, to the point where he couldn't organise a multinational root in a UN-sanctioned brothel. McCain stands in good stead of starting from there, with not much hope of truthiness-ing it up to beloved defender of hope and freedom. As Dunlop links and I shameless rip off, a man named Yglesias (presumably more well-known to Americans than Dunlop) makes some great points on a hysteria-based foreign policy - http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/08/the_hysteria_based_foreign_policy.php
Check it out.
Okay, now that we've both read it, I think there's something to be said about this. As a site with a large number of conservatives who, if they vote, will probably vote for the Macster, how do you reconcile any particular ideas about honesty or effectiveness you might have with the hysteria machine that is McCainist foreign policy? Is there a disconnect, or do you believe that exaggeration is the key to understanding and unity - an absurd view for which I've always had considerable appreciation?
Personally I'm not great fan of leaders who would sooner exaggerate than tell the truth as it stands; they leave no room for satire because they always appear so ridiculous. But they do have the obnoxious tendency to be believed (Al Gore, Pol Pot, Hitler, Reagan and Clinton are wildly differing cases in point), which is problematic because public memory is notoriously short, and it does no one's blood pressure good to be constantly told that they are on the verge of a new and terrifying crisis on a weekly basis.
It also robs true crises of any meaning - take the whole terrorist thing for example. How many people still think it's a real threat after seven years of being told that to little effect? On an intellectual level it barely even registers, to the point where people are now starting to rank personal freedom over public security.
In any case this will be something for the American voters to decide, and there's no guarantee the alternative to McCain will be any better. But I think I speak for everyone when I wish there were better choices for global leaders than a wolfcrier and a smarmy git.