Monday, September 15, 2008

OFF the Bandwagon? [UPDATED]

Details here and here.

Considering that I was holding out on supporting McCain specifically because of his support of ESCR, I view his campaign's decision to run that detestible ad as a big ol' thumb in my eye. They took Biden's bait regarding Palin and stem cell research when they should have either ignored it or continued to hammer him for being a dumbass since ESCR and Down Syndrome have nothing to do with each other. Instead, McCain couldn't wait to show off his "maverick" credentials on an issue where President Bush just so happens to be right and McCain happens to be dead wrong.

I am seriously considering jumping OFF the McCain-Palin bandwagon at this point.

Don't get me wrong, I ♥ Sarah Palin. She's the REAL DEAL on life issues. But she runs the risk of being tainted by her association with the "maverick" McCain.

At Catholics in the Public Square, Christopher Blosser has more: "McCain Campaign runs questionable advertisement on stem cells, giving pro-lifers reason to doubt their integrity"

Ughh! Team McCain removes all doubt:
The ad does not specifically refer to embryonic research, which is opposed by most politicians and activists who, like McCain, do not support abortion rights.

The omission is not a signal that McCain is backing away from his record in favor of embryonic stem cell research, spokesman Brian Rogers said.

“Clearly, John McCain supports it,” he said, emphasizing that the ad is intended to refer to all forms of stem cell research, including experiments using human embryos and those using cells from adults.
(emphasis added)

At this point, I think I'll take all my marbles and go home.

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At 9/15/2008 10:16 AM, Anonymous Boethius said...

Jay, this ad should not be taken as a thumb in the eye. We all know McCain supports ESCR. If anything, however, this ad should be considered as McCain's way of avoiding further conflict with pro-lifers by failing to distinguish between embryonic and adult stem cell research. Why assume that support for "stem cell research" means support for "embryonic stem cell research." If he wanted to stick a thumb in our eye, he'd say "embryonic stem cell research" in the ad.

Also, you shouldn't be dispirited by this. Just because McCain picked Palin does not mean McCain is not McCain, and Palin is going to have to go along with McCain (not vice versa). I still feel much better knowing that a conservative like Palin will be the #2 in a McCain administration.

At 9/15/2008 10:31 AM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Boethius is right; I never imagined that the Palin pick meant that McCain had changed on ESCR.

What it does mean is that going forward, we'll have a real social conservative as one of the leading lights of GOP; and that'll be much better as such a young person serving as vice president than as the governor of a distant state.

At 9/15/2008 10:36 AM, Blogger James H said...

What is wrong with the ad. In fact has not our line been we SUPPORT STE CELL RESEARCH.

Yeah I realize what is going on and they are playing both sides there by not mentioning that there is a splitin the ticket on ESCR.

However as a practical matter I see why they are doing that.

Perhaps when I hear my First Catholic Homily in 3 years on the prohibition of ESCR I shall be more critical.

At 9/15/2008 10:38 AM, Anonymous crankycon said...

What we seem to have here is a cute (and not really in a good way) rhetorical ploy. It can be used to assuage ESCR proponents that McCain is still "on the side of science," while at the same time maintaining a bit of "plausible deniability." They can claim that they didn't really mean embryonic stem cell research, but they won't fully deny it either.

Gotta love politics.

At 9/15/2008 10:59 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Exactly, Cranky. It's cynical. They should have ignored the issue altogether. But if they had to address it, the McCain team could have been so much stronger in touting the advances in adult stem cell research.

At 9/15/2008 11:55 AM, Anonymous Jeff Culbreath said...

How do we know the ad promises ESCR funding? Because of the word "change". That's the only difference between the present administration and McCain-Palin.

At 9/15/2008 12:17 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Jeff's got a very good point about the terminology. Though I suppose one could argue that massive funding of adult stem cell research would fit the bill, too.

But I'm way to tired to do the mental gymnastics to come to that unpersuasive conclusion. What I find baffling is that the usually rock-solid Ramesh Ponnoru is not bothered by the ad.

I'll say three things here: (1) McCain has, in general, been trending away from the use of embryos in stem cell research, and has revised the ESCR statements on his website to be more pro-life in the last few months. (2) He's consistently left himself an escape hatch against ESCR by pointing to the recent technological advances, which is important. (3) He does listen to the base when it gets up in his grill. Witness the selection of Gov. Palin, and the nonselection of Ridge/Liebermann.

One last observation: Let's see how Palin handles this on the trail. If she apes McCain's points, there's a serious problem.

At 9/15/2008 1:11 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

The ad, deliberately vague, is either utterly stupid or very cynical.

I'll choose door #2.

At 9/15/2008 3:21 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


I share your negative reaction, except -- if I may say so gently -- I never got on McCain's bandwagon and I see no circumstances under which I will.

This makes clear -- as if we needed a reminder -- who is in charge: McCain. I take nothing away from Gov. Palin, who must stand or fall on her own merits, but this shows, I think, the foolishness of supposing she somehow makes McCain less bad.

The idea that McCain is going to change his policies based on Palin's views is naive. This is why, whatever I think about Palin, her presence on the ticket does not make me any more likely to vote for McCain.

At 9/15/2008 3:59 PM, Anonymous crankycon said...

his is why, whatever I think about Palin, her presence on the ticket does not make me any more likely to vote for McCain.

Great. So instead of having a President who takes a morally objectionable stand on one issue, we can have a President who takes a morally objectionable stand on every issue under the sun.

At 9/15/2008 5:08 PM, Anonymous Victor said...

Right, cranky ...

If we were talking about an election in which the other candidate had the right stance on embryonic research, this might be a reason to rethink McCain, or in Father's words, never get on the bandwagon.

But as it is, I see the whole issue as a wash (whatever bad things its being a wash might say about our culture and politics). In fact, the Obama team immediately rushed in with a statement saying "no ... WE'RE the only ones that you can REALLY count on to do this."

At 9/15/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


I think the real game is Congress. If Congress has a strong Democratic majority, all the things you celebrate about McCain will not matter a whit; indeed, if you get McCain, with a strong Democratic Congress, you will be crying great tears as he gives them so much of what they want. It's not that long ago when Bush Sr. was in exactly that position; and if people would look further back to Reagan, they'll see it happened then as well.

Whereas if Congress is much better, then all that you fear about Obama won't matter near as much.

While so many people are focusing on the presidency, anyone notice the generic ballot for Congress is tightening way up?

This ad is strong evidence on top of all that went before that the arguments conservatives make for McCain -- "but he's so much better than Obama on most issues that matter to us! -- simply don't hold water.

McCain is wrong on baby-killing "research"; he said a few years ago he didn't want Roe overturned (so much for the promise he'll overturn it), he's never been cozy with the "social issues" folks in the GOP, he's never been a leader on any of these issues in Congress, he delights (again, see this ad) in poking the eyes of conservatives; he's wrong on free speech (so of course he'll want a Supreme Court that'll strike down the speech-restricting law he's so proud of)...

But apart from that...he's just peachy! Because of course he'll turn everything over to Gov. Palin, I guess...

At 9/15/2008 6:57 PM, Anonymous crankycon said...

he said a few years ago he didn't want Roe overturned (so much for the promise he'll overturn it)

Fr. Fox:

Respectfully, you continually say things about McCain that have been proven to be distortions or exaggerations. McCain has repeatedly said that he thinks Roe is bad law, and would want the Court to overturn it. But you and others continue to harp on the fact that in some time in the past he may have hinted that he didn't think it was time for Roe to be overturned. Quite frankly, I am beginning to think you are simply reaching for reasons to convince yourself not to vote for McCain.

That said, I agree with you that Congress is the key. We ignore the Congressional races at our peril. If Ob'ma wins, it is unlikely that the GOP will simultaneously pick up seats. Therefore, we'll be dealing with a pretty firm Democratic control of Congress. If McCain wins, I tend to think he will pick up a few GOP seats along the way. What happens from there is a crapshoot, but I'd rather take my chances with that.

McCain is not perfect, but he is not the left-leaning socialist that some are pretending he is. He actually has a clue about economic policy, even if he is a bit too populist for my tastes. And while he hasn't been the most vocal champion of social conservative causes, I'd rather have someone be silently in agreement than vocally opposed.

At 9/15/2008 7:08 PM, Anonymous crankycon said...

Also, I'd just like to re-iterate (or, simply, iterate) that I understand your concerns, Father. John McCain was hardly my first choice (though he was ahead of certain others), and I don't think that you are completely off the wall for being so reluctant to support him. I am in agreement with you on just all political issues - I just happen to think that we really need to be careful with the idea of basically punting an election because we don't like who is leading our team. As I wrote on my own blog, Alexander Hamilton had the same idea in 1800, and that didn't work out too well.

So I apologize for being curt with you, especially since we're basically on the same side of things.

At 9/15/2008 8:50 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


I agree we're probably pretty much on the same page. But I don't see what I said that is not supportable. Is it not true that he did say, about 3-5 years ago, that he opposed overturning Roe? If you choose to see that as not all that meaningful, that's fine, but that I do find it meaningful -- and admission against interest -- then that is hardly a "distortion."

I worked in politics for a lot of years before entering the seminary, and from my perspective -- which is all it is, just mine -- I got a sense of who were the guys who were really with you, vs. those who said and did the minimum necessary. I put McCain in the latter category based on my observations during that time, and nothing since has called that into question. That's why I take the approach I take.

At 9/15/2008 9:06 PM, Anonymous crankycon said...

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

That's from John McCain's website. That's what McCain believes, and that's basically what he's been preaching for as long as I have been familiar with him.

At 9/15/2008 10:11 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


Well, that is what John McCain says. Perhaps that is also what he believes as well.

Perhaps you are right to believe John McCain, but I find sincerity is one of the things politicians are well able to fake. I really don't see what is so special about John McCain that leads you to believe he is so different.

At 9/17/2008 11:52 PM, Anonymous Policraticus said...


You prove yourself to be a superior thinker and moralist to your co-bloggers at CITPS. While they continue to rationalize away McCain's policies of death or extend to him benefit of doubt to the tearing of credulity, you show that objectivity and Catholic values can still reign among conservative voters. Well done.


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