McCain and Palin

My point exactly.

Much has been said about the contrast between the late John McCain – war veteran, bipartisan statesman, noble truth-teller – and a man who seemed way less likely to become president, Donald Trump.

But as the Arizona senator, like Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, spent his twilight years raging against the coarsening of civic life, he must have been aware that his legacy would include a decision that helped unleash the very forces he came to despise.

Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of McCain unveiling Sarah Palin, a say-anything, gun-toting political neophyte, as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. It was an act of political desperation that left Washington aghast. It delivered a short-term boost in the polls. But it also opened the Pandora’s box of populism.

And it was an irresponsible, reckless, self-serving, destructive thing to do. “Noble truth-teller” my ass – Sarah Palin is his fault. It’s fine that he gave Trump some grief, but it doesn’t make him a noble truth-teller, or even a minimally responsible adult campaigner for the presidency.

“I don’t think he could have known it at the time but he took a disease that was running through the Republican party – anti-intellectualism, disrespect for facts – and he put it right at the centre of the party,” David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, told the recent HBO documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Of course he could have known it at the time – why on earth not? It’s not as if the US has ever been shy about plunging full-tilt into anti-intellectualism and reverse snobbery.

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