And anyone who believes that McCain is running a uniquely dishonorable campaign for the presidency just doesn’t have enough historical perspective – or enough distance from their own passions – to comment sensibly on contemporary politics. Every successful politician and political movement has to master the art of below-the-belt, us-versus-them political engagement, because that’s how democratic politics works: You can appeal to the electorate’s reason all you want, but you have to appeal to their passions as well, and that means making them dislike and fear the other side as often as it means making them love you.
So if you’re a liberal and you think FDR, LBJ and Bill Clinton didn’t play the same game – and play it damn well, which is why they won elections and the other side lost – then you’re kidding yourself. If you think John McCain hasn’t been playing this game for his whole career, then you’re kidding yourself: It’s just that he used to fight dirty against his enemies within the GOP (social conservatives, for instance, or immigration restrictionists, or Mitt Romney), and how he’s fighting dirty against a candidate that the punditocracy supports, rather than disdains. And if you think that many of the same people who bleat the loudest about the evils of “Rove-style” politics aren’t happy to similarly dirty their hands for the sake of their own causes and candidates – well, you need only look at some of the coverage of Sarah Palin’s family to see how quickly principle gives way to expedience when power is at stake.
A lack of perspective
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