With the Mormon guy suspending his candidacy, allow me one look back. In chronological order and in the (approximate) order of my original preferences — with my standards thus in some sense getting lower with each fizzled or officially-ended candidacy — here is the track record of the candidates I’ve favored so far this campaign season, plus my remaining options (clearly, you’d do well to bet against my picks):
1. Paul 2. Thompson 3. Giuliani 4. hypothetical serious, experienced Libertarian Party candidate 5. Romney (as McCain/Huckabee protest vote)
6. McCain if he does not pick Huckabee as his running mate
7. Don’t vote for president
Five down, two to go. 7 is looking more likely all the time — and would be a first for me since registering about a year prior to the 1988 election (my general-election track record: GOP [win], libertarian write-in [lose], Libertarian [lose], GOP since I mistakenly overlooked the Libertarian Party lever in the voting booth [win!], GOP [win] — and I recognize the Pyrrhic quality of those “wins,” of course, 1994 being slightly more satisfying).
With so many conservatives and libertarians dissatisfied with McCain as the (presumed) Republican nominee, it’s worth asking (as I did at last night’s Debate at Lolita Bar) whether the conservative movement, including well-meaning National Review folks like Richard Lowry, nonetheless bear most of the responsibility for causing the McCain ascendancy to happen.
After all, prominent mainstream conservatives have been driving home the message for five years now that war is the important thing (to the extent that, as my friend Evan says, people have almost come to think “war = GOP” and “antiwar = Dem,” with all the other issues falling by the wayside for definitional purposes). So now we have a presumed GOP nominee who is a hawk and…is not reliably much of anything else that conservatives ostensibly value. I was afraid it would come to this.
I think last night’s debate went well, by the way, with Derb sticking to his paleolibertarian guns (though my concerted effort to get him and others to do karaoke afterwards narrowly failed after getting initial assent, as is often the case when trying to get a bunch of people who’ve been drinking to go to the same place at the same time and stay there).
Seth Colter Walls touched on a point that has long fascinated me: the question of to what extent American policies are made “inevitable” by long-term global trends. Is there any meaningful sense in which any president could “decide” to disengage from our military (or commercial) entanglements around the world, regardless of rhetoric and philosophy? I am reminded of some friend of mine saying he’d heard that long-term planners at the Pentagon see containment of China as the real goal, to be achieved by ensuring we surround it with our allies, in the Middle East and elsewhere — but how meaningful are plans for a half-century out, made by a government that can’t balance next year’s budget? Are such plans the “secret truth” behind government’s more superficial short-term strategies, or are they the most irrelevant of wonkish speculations and unusable contingency plans? Do next week’s primaries have more or less effect than the speed of oil pipeline construction in Turkey over the next two decades? Beats me.