Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


SEPTEMBER 27, 2008 6:40AM

Should McCain Yield to Romney?

Rate: 6 Flag

I've been pondering what happens if the Republicans lose confidence in Palin. They have to know she can't do the job. I'm sure they're just trying to find a way to spin the inevitable.

Long before the election started, I said that Romney was the one to worry about. I'm not a big fan of him on the issues, especially Climate Change. He didn't seem to get how urgent it was. But then again, if someone ever managed to convince him it was urgent, he might rise to it better than some of the other Republican options, including McCain. Romney is tolerably competent on a range of issues, including business, which at least means he wouldn't embarrass us. And he's photogenic, which is all voters really want, isn't it?

But for Vice President? Hmmm...

Had McCain picked Romney as VP from the start, I think he could it could have been made to work. They sparred a lot in the primaries, but voters know that primaries are friendly rivalries. And it would have been hard making it seem that the two were on the same page, but voters often look past such details when it comes to rallying for the party. Yeah, Romney could have been sold for VP—if it had been done from the start.

Oddly, the "Mormon thing" is the one big hurdle they'd have faced. Ironically, I doubt the Democrats even cared about that; they're a pretty religiously tolerant crowd. You really just gotta laugh when it's the Republicans, the ones who can't fathom anyone's worry that their religious leanings might be threatening, who suddenly fear someone's religious leanings. But they would have overcome it, I'm sure.

But no matter how Palin gets out—by resigning or being pushed—there is the pesky matter that McCain made a bad choice and needs someone else to step in. But no matter who he picked, even Lieberman (who at that point would look too much like the one he'd wanted all along but was too unleaderly to push for), he still comes out a bungler. Even if he picks Romney, the bungler would still be at the top of the ticket, and that could be fatal.

Yes, the Republicans might do the old "hunker down" thing, trying to brave the storm. Maybe they'd succeed in spite of themselves just on the strength of an unquestioning base and a lot of hate rhetoric. It's worked before.

But if I were a Republican strategist and wanted a more solid play, I'd tell McCain to publicly admit he has made too many bad choices, and to say he has not met the high standards he has traditionally set for himself. I'd tell him to step down now, with honor, asking the party to nominate Romney in his place.

Ballot replacing McCain with Romney

McCain talks a lot about courage, but I honestly don't think he has that particular kind of courage. His willingness to wage one of ugliest mudslinging campaigns in recent history after promising one that was more dignified shows me he's lost his compass when it comes to courage and honor. I expected him to present his issues, have Obama present his, and let the public decide. It's been none of that. That would have been the old Maverick people thought they knew. But he's just in this for himself, and probably taking orders from the imagemakers. That will be the downfall of him and of his party. But, honestly, I think if he stepped down, and if Romney had the good sense not to nominate someone more conservative than himself as a running mate, but instead to pick someone toward the middle, even to include Lieberman, that'd give him a good shot.

It won't happen, which may be part of why I don't mind suggesting it at this point. I'm not trying to lose he election for Obama. But thinking about McCain's option to do this helps me clarify in my mind some of the problems that are going on because it gets harder and harder to think about how to get McCain out of the mire he's in, and the suggestions end up being more and more focused on undoing damage rather than doing affirmative things going forward. Leadership is not about that, and McCain is no longer leading.

As an aside, I actually concluded today as well that to help things along, Bush should come right out and admit that his policies led to some of the financial crisis. It's not just that I want him to say the truth, which is what I think it is. But structurally, the people who need to agree to whatever comes next need someone to take the heat. It's Bush's administration. He should take the heat and thereby give the others, both Democrat and Republican, the breathing room they need to make compromises. He should say this is a lousy situation, that it's his fault, and that no one should blame the people who try to repair it for doing an imperfect job. Who knows, even in saying his truth, it might even repair his place in history because it might enable a fix that mattered. But he, too, is probably more caught up in his own ego and wouldn't do it even though he quite obviously is no longer leading us.

I'm a political independent, not a Democrat. I support Obama quite strongly. I think he's a powerful figure who has shown very sound judgment, has run a clean and effective campaign, and would make a great leader. So at some level, I don't need another choice. But I'm not deciding the election. And I'd rather limit the possibility that all the mudslinging on the other side will lead to success. Not only would that put the wrong people in office, it would also tell those who do campaigning once again that mudslinging is the tool of choice. It would be great if civility won the day and people started to feel it had to be there in campaigns as a matter of routine.

At the end of the day, I'd rather see a choice between a ticket I like and one I could tolerate than the choice I have now between a ticket I like and one that terrifies me by coupling bumblingly poor judgment with outright incompetence.

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Hey, Kent, there's a lot to talk about here. I think you're right that the switch is unlikely -- probably impossible -- at this point, so it does make it an interesting point to discuss! I don't think Romney is the lesser of the evils -- he seems as slimey or maybe even more than McCain -- but it would be interesting to see what would happen if McCain ever abdicated this responsibility.

I have wondered what would happen if McCain's health demanded that he drop out, suddenly -- do you think Romney would be the automatic pick of the party in that case?
Hi, Saturn. I don't think the Republican party wants him, so I don't think he's an automatic choice. I'm not cheerleading for the Republicans, so I'm not broken up about it. But I think they're missing their best shot for seemingly foolish reasons.

I'm not expecting McCain's health to be a problem in the next month or two. He seems to be doing ok for now. My bigger fear isn't his failing now but surviving to the election and then if he wins, having troubles thereafter. I'll be glad when they get Palin out of the line of succession. I don't think even the Republicans want her in that position at this point... It wouldn't surprise me if they were originally actively hoping for that, but I think they've finally seen the light. Frankly, I was surprised they didn't tell McCain not to mention her tonight after all the bad press she's gotten today. It made it seem like he doesn't read the news.
This is an interesting thought, and I've actually seen it mentioned on a conservative blog or two. These might have been sparked by Kathleen Parker, who begins,

It’s been hard this week not to consider that Mitt Romney, who knows something about finance and markets, might have been a handy running mate for John McCain.

and ends

They say it’s never too late to correct a mistake. And mavericks, well, you never know what they’ll do next.

She also writes, in another column, that it would be suicide for McCain to dump Palin, but it would work if Palin dropped out on her own, citing personal issues.

To be honest, I hadn't thought about a stronger McCain ticket being better for the country, but that's a reasonable perspective given the uncertainty in election outcomes.
If McCain REALLY wants to Hail Mary at the last minute, he'll put in Lieberman, IMHO.

(rated & appreciated)
Rob, Saturn has been advocating the option of Romney for VP under McCain. I personally don't think that would work. It's trivially true that it would be stronger than a McCain/Palin ticket, but that's probably not enough. I don't know the mechanics of whether McCain himself can step down and be validly replaced by another candidate at this point, but I think that's the only option that would wipe the slate clear of baggage and let the Republicans start over playing offense instead of defense.
Thanks, Kent, for these thoughts. I believe that it's pretty tough for a change of horses this late, but if Palin chooses to drop out (passing the torch, to switch metaphors), that's yet again a horse of a different color. I've seen a couple of posts and a serious political column by Kathleen Parker on just that topic (referred to by one of the commenters below). I share your appreciation of deliberative public figures, and I think there were plenty of good picks to choose from who fit the 'maverick' label much better than Sen McCain himself does (Olympia Snowe, etc.). I think the Republican Party picked this ideological gem on purpose. The likes of TR and Abraham Lincoln are rolling in their graves.
RG, you wrote, "I think the Republican Party picked this ideological gem on purpose." Can you expand on what you meant by that?
I think this post is a great exhibit for the bankruptcy of the Republican party and the "conservative " movement in America. I place the word conservative in quotation marks because, in reality there has been nothing conservative about what they have used their power to do in the past 35 years. They have bankrupted the Treasury, sold off for nothing and/or transferred countless billions of dollars worth of public assets and resources into private hands, destroyed the value of the currency, dismantled the regulatory apparatuses of government, rendered the country's stature a laughingstock among nations in the international sphere and populated the judicial branch with third-rate legal minds and theology-addled hacks. Now, barely more than a month before the election in which their two-term standard-bearer will slink off the world stage into his rightful place in history as the worst President ever, they have people talking about whether either or both of their ticket's nominees should be replaced.

Game over. Finished. Landslide.
I have to agree with Lonnie; except that I think this points to more of a deficit than just the within the Republican Party. I think what we have is an American deficit in general. While I think Obama is clearly the better choice here, he was not the BEST choice.

What we are seeing, it seems to me, is in part a result of decades of not being able to consider the best choice; it has become the status quo. Kent, you mention Romney's photogenic appearance, and allude to the fact that, seemingly, that figures in as much as anything else. What does that tell us?

Rick, I'm quite bullish on Obama. I think he will do great and will be for Democrats what Reagan was for Republicans... We need decent people to consider running for office and to do that, we need to elect one so that it seems doable. I think a lot of decent folks who might run just say "Forget it. why would I put myself through that? The electorate just wants to rake one over the coals for sport and then won't elect the honest ones in the end anyway." Obama may seem mediocre to you but he seems to me much better than we had any right to expect would bother running. (Fortunately, too, he was chosen from a whole field of surprisingly decent folks.)

You may be right. So far, though, mostly what I see is someone who will be largely status quo. I hope you're right.