Democratic criticisms of John McCain are so partisan, so unmeasured, and so hysterical that they can hardly be taken seriously, having the unintended consequence of making me like him more. But George Will is a conservative columnist, and he has raised the most trenchant questions of all against John McCain. Referring to his pledge to fire Chris Cox, head of the Securities and Exchange commission who apparently had little to do with the current economic meltdown but with whom McCain has had a long grudge, Will says that McCain has a “Manicheaean worldview.” This refers to the heretics who insisted that the universe is a battleground between a good god and a bad god:
McCain’s smear — that Cox “betrayed the public’s trust” — is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are “corrupt” or “betray the public’s trust,” two categories that seem to be exhaustive — there are no other people. McCain’s Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. (For details, see The Post of Sept. 17; and the New York Times of Sept. 19.) . . . .Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.
It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
Should such accusations about McCain’s temperament give us pause? Is this just a negative take (“boiling moralism”) on principled behavior? At what point does laudable moral zeal become heretical Manichaeanism?