Choosing the Villain

Do we forgive John McCain for unleashing the horror that is Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting world? In my mind, yes — but for Andrew Sullivan, the answer is a resounding no:

If [McCain] had any sense of responsibility, he would resign. And if the Washington media had any sense of responsibility, it would never invite him on TV again without demanding he take responsibility for what he nearly did to the national security of this country. No one who put [Palin] near the nuclear button should have a future in public life.

I think that’s probably the wrong instinct. Admittedly, though, the answer depends on what kind of story you want, and whom you choose to cast as the villain. In the myth of the fall, do you blame Eve for biting the apple, Satan for tempting her, or God for executing his promised judgment?

Sullivan blames McCain — the Eve, the player with the last best chance to avoid the stated harm. That’s fine, but it ignores the evidence: McCain’s impressive leadership before and immediately after the campaign, and the numerous insiders who insisted, even then, that the pick was forced on him. If we want to assign blame, we shouldn’t gravitate to the entrapped, also-victimized middle man. Let’s go farther up the chain of causality, to the source of the original evil. I’m looking at you, Schmidt.



  1. Regardless of who authored the final Palin idea, McCain, as the candidate could have and should have known better and said no. SOrt of what you want your Presiden to do regularly, actually.

  2. If McCain had chosen Lieberman like his gut told him I think he’d probably be in the White House right now.

    I still say she would have been no worse than Biden.

    1. You know, you keep saying that, but I must’ve missed the explanation. What, exactly, is your beef with Biden? I get the he-says-stupid-things angle, but my opinion of him has risen significantly as I’ve read more and more about him. Is it the gaffes for you, end of story?

      1. Well Biden was brought in as some big foreign policy expert (to supposedly balance Obama’s inexperience). But he’s been wrong on every foreign policy issue of the last 20 years. Remember, if it were up to him Iraq would have been partitioned a la Germany circa 1945.

        On domestic stuff he’s mostly just a foot-in-the-mouth kinda guy.

        1. Wrong except on Kosovo, SALT, South African sanctions… And his plan for Iraq was for a federation to allow for easing of sectarian conflict. To flatly state that he’s routinely wrong about everything is very much a Palinesque reading of the reality.

          1. It’s funny you mention SALT. Here’s a little blurb about those days:

            “When Biden traveled to Moscow in 1979 for discussions about the SALT II treaty, Vadim Zagladin, deputy head of the Central Committee’s International Department, noted in a memo (later obtained by the dissident Vladimir Bukovsky) that Biden and his companion, Sen. Richard Lugar, had not raised human-rights concerns — the duo said they didn’t wish “to spoil the atmosphere with problems which are bound to cause distrust in our relations.” “Unofficially,” Zagladin recounted, the senators “were not so much concerned with solving a problem of this or that particular citizen as with showing to the American public that they do care for ‘human rights.’ . . . In other words, the collocutors directly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely don’t care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.”


            What do you think Turkey would have done if the partition plan had gone through? They would be occupying Kurdistan now and we’d be trying to figure out how to get an ally out of there.

          2. Re: Biden and SALT, I find myself asking: “So what?”

            SALT were about, you know, strategic arms limitations, not human rights.

          3. Dear lord Mike, that’s some revisionist crap. There’re multiple levels of problematic sources: (1) a Central Committee Spokesperson trying to look Americans look bad (who’d have thunk!?!), and (2) NRO. I’m honestly not sure which source is more biased. And yeah, Lanfranc is right. Nuclear disarmament is fundamentally a human rights issue as well. I’d expect him to focus on that, as the bigger issue, and gloss over smaller (but still bad) abuses just to make some headway.

            1. The larger point is that A) Biden sucks on foreign policy and B) NRO is a no less biased than the sources you rely on to get your Glen Beck posts Ames. Source-bashing is so 2005.

            2. And yet your only evidence for this is, “Communist official and NRO blogger join forces to accuse Democratic Senator of going light on human rights abused.”

              1. As opposed to ‘liberal blogger and…liberal blogger join forces to point out how goofy Glen Beck is’?

                Biden’s lack of foreign policy chops is well-documented. I remember reading less-than-flattering articles about the subject in magazines like US News and World Report, Time, etc last year. I think even the Huffington Post was pretty critical. I would recommend Googling Biden+foreign policy.

                1. I would recommend Googling source+criticism.

                  1. So then please share some unbiased sources for foreign policy analysis – oh wise one.

                    1. There’s no such thing as an unbiased source – which is exactly why you need source criticism.

                    2. Well that sure is a fun game. Let me make sure I understand the rules:

                      1) Make statement on blog comment section.

                      2) Have statement challenged by opposing idealogues who demand source data.

                      3) Post source data.

                      4) Opposing side criticizes source data as biased.

                      5) Argue for awhile about whether or not they are biased. Ask for a source they will consider unbiased.

                      6) Opposing side says there is no such thing which is why ALL sources must be criticized (unless of course that sourse confirms their position, in which case it will be accepted as Gospel).

                      7) Repeat ad nauseum.

                      You should market that one to Milton Bradley.

                    3. Correct. The process is also broadly applicable to academia.

                    4. Yeah – I’ve been to my fair share of academic conferences. This isn’t a peer-review session.

            3. I have to go ahead and simply echo Ames, with the addendum that a federation is not partition, Orwellian rightwing talking points notwithstanding.

              1. I believe Biden called it a ‘soft’ partition plan. The point is that giving those regions near-autonomy is a recipe for disaster. Turkey would invade the north. The Shiite controlled areas would become an Iranian puppet. It’s a ridiculous notion and quite honestly current events prove it would have been unnecessary.

                1. And it’s a good thing that McCain didn’t pick Lieberman, because if he had, we’d have seen an international orgy of hamster squishing and forced abortions of brood mares, due to Lieberman’s secret hatred of racehorses.

                  Seriously, you’re just indulging in baseless speculation about absolute worst case scenarios to justify vilifying a politician.

  3. Surely you jest, Mike… Lieberman would’ve been an easy take down for the Democrats; not as easy as Palin, who did most of the work, granted, but still not too hard to get rid of.

  4. You know…

    I find Sarah Palin as repugnant as the next guy does, but I’m more than a little bored with Sully’s obsession with her, including pronouncements like this.

    I’m no McCain fan either, but Sully, shut up.

  5. So to recap, Mike: your contention re: Biden is that this 20-year old failure to address identified human rights abuses compromises his entire record, and overwhelms his thus-far performance as VP?

    1. I’m not sure where you got that. I was just addressing the other Mike’s comment on SALT. Biden has much more contemporary examples of stupidity, like his opposition to the surge plan.

      1. The surge? Pff. At best, the positive effects are debatable, and at worst, attributable to other factors. This is not like being opposed to democracy or puppies or ice cream – there is a real debate about whether it had any positive effect at all, and consequently, opposition is not a badge of stupidity.

  6. Can Mike and Mike differentiate themselves for this old fart? I feel like I’m watching Stephen Colbert debate himself!! LOL

    1. Look for the avatars.

    2. This might help; it’s something I’ve been consiering a while anyway – there are a lot of Mikes out there…

    3. I support a fight for the title “Mike”.

      1. To the Thunderdome! Two men enter, one man leaves!

        1. I was thinking more that Start Trek episode with the Pon Farr and the music, you know the one, where Kirk and Spock fight with giant sporks.

  7. I tried posting comments under “Mike at The Big Stick” which is what I use on other blogs. For some reason the comments get eaten here. WordPress must just want me to be “Mike”.

  8. Yay! Win for Mike! We have distinct identities! Hooray! :D

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