It happens every election. My thinking is the polar opposite of liberal thinking on the economy. What I think is good, liberals think is bad. What I see as white, liberals see as black.
So when Democrats make commercials criticizing Republicans, those commercials sound to me like the most persuasive argument for voting for the Republican. The spots come down to something like, "Candidate X won't use the government to fix things!" Well, hallelujah, I cry.
I must remind myself that Democrats are so out of touch with reality that when they attempt to smear a Republican they end up exaggerating his free market bona fides.
Obama and Clinton, talking about the economy, are now doing it. They are making a better case for McCain than McCain will probably ever make.
Both Obama and Clinton argued that Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain isn't ready or willing to handle an economic emergency.
"The phone is ringing, and he would just let it ring and ring," Clinton said, echoing the "3 a.m. phone call" TV ad she used earlier to suggest she was more qualified than Obama to handle a national security crisis. Speaking in Raleigh, N.C., she chastised McCain for opposing government intervention in the nation's credit and mortgage crisis.
Bemoaning the nation's economic woes, Obama, like Clinton, dismissed McCain's approach as pure hands-off. On Tuesday, McCain derided government intervention to save and reward banks or small borrowers who behave irresponsibly though he offered few immediate alternatives for fixing the country's growing housing crisis. Obama said McCain's plan "amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen."
Obama is so sure that big government is the way to win votes that he goes on to criticize his fellow Democrat Bill Clinton for deregulation policies.
I imagine John McCain in a secret meeting with Karl Rove.
"Karl," the Senator says, "I have these paleolithic conservative jackoffs on my ass for being too much 'big government.' What should I do?"
"Don't worry," Rove says with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll use my mind control machine to make the Democrats hit you for not being socialist enough! Nothing else could work better to unite Republicans around you."
Now, McCain defenders will surely object at this point that their man should get credit for opposing government intervention.
Yes, he gets credit for that. I haven't looked at his ideas in detail, where the devil often lies, but if he opposes government intervention, then he is right.
As a long-suffering observer of Republicans in action, however, I have learned that what they mean by "smaller government" is actually "bigger government, just not as big as what the Democrats want."
Call them 50% Me-Too Republicans. It is true that they don't take us 100% as far as the Democrats want, but at the end of the day we're 50% of that distance down the road to serfdom. The Republicans erode freedom and expand the government -- and then they congratulate themselves for not going as far as the Democrats.
The worst thing about 50% Me-Tooers is that, in their pragmatism, they concede the principle of big government to the Democrats. Once the principle of laissez-faire capitalism is thrown out, then the battle is lost. The Republicans have no principled arguments to stop the next Democrat assault on liberty.
John McCain's name is on some of the worst violations of freedom in our time, such as McCain-Feingold and McCain-Leiberman. If he got it right on the credit and mortgage crisis, such lucidity is rare and out of character for him.
Like Bush he is ignorant of economics and like Bush he will expand the government. McCain is more dangerous than a mediocre cypher such as Bush because he has explicitly rejected the Goldwater ideal and replaced it with Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting, big government progressivism.
Another thing to remember is that, for the last 40 years at least, Republican presidents have been more effective at expanding government than Democrats. Look at Nixon's record. One could make the case that the most free market president of our time has been Bill Clinton, he who (cornered by a Republican Congress) reformed welfare, balanced the budget, passed NAFTA and, as Obama complains, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act on bank regulations. Bush 41, by comparison, passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bush 43 passed the biggest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ with the prescription drugs bill.
Republicans in Congress grow a spine only when we elect a Democrat president. They harry and attack Democrat presidents like terriers going after a rat. Any expansion of government proposed by a Democrat president brings forth howls from the Republicans.
Democrats in Congress, on the other hand, criticize Republican presidents for not expanding government. Thus a Republican president can be a 50% Me-Tooer and look like Goldwater against a backdrop of leftist moonbats in the Congress.
Let us not fool ourselves by thinking John McCain is in any substantial, principled way for less government. Getting it right every other Tuesday is not enough.