Sincerity didn't have a seat on the Straight-Talk Express.
By NR's Ramesh Ponnuru & John J. Miller
o the man who promised never to lie to us has admitted to lying. John McCain's confession in South Carolina yesterday that he really believes the Confederate flag should come down shows that he can still be a thorn in the side of George W. Bush, this time by re-opening at the national level a debate that unites Democrats and divides Republicans.
During the primaries, both men said that South Carolinians should decide for themselves what to do with the flag. Now McCain says sincerity didn't have a seat on the Straight-Talk Express: "I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth."
This new move is equally self-serving. McCain's main constituency, the media, believes the flag ought to come down. Now that McCain is beyond the reach of South Carolina Republicans, he's decided to do the thing that will have his biggest fans in the press rave about his integrity and moral superiority. If only Bush would be honest now, too, they'll complain, we can finally evict this awful symbol of racism from public life. How long before Al Gore inserts a new line in his stump speech, demanding that Bush join the Gore-McCain crusade?
A Modest Proposal
The palmetto symbol was adopted by South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, so its origins grow out of American independence rather than a war to preserve slavery. It was also used during the Civil War it flew over Ft. Sumter after its surrender in 1861 so it ignores no aspect of South Carolina's history, even as it overwhelms any single one to them. It's a symbol the heritage crowd ought to embrace, because its heritage predates the 1962 raising of the Confederate flag over the statehouse by nearly two centuries. It's something federalism-minded conservatives ought to like, too, because the state flag is uniquely a symbol of South Carolina, unlike the pan-southern Confederate flag, whose design has inspired the flags of other states (including President Clinton's Arkansas).
Sometimes the best solutions to controversies are so obvious we don't even think of them.
In the Year of Our Ford
"Some people in the White House were calling for big tax cuts to get the economy moving, but Greenspan opposed such a policy, on the ground that it would increase the budget deficit, which was already at a record level. The White House budget office put together two possible fiscal packages. Ford recalled for me the debates that followed: 'Alan analyzed them and said, 'Look here, if you take the conservative one, you will be accused of being too tightfisted, but in the long run, if you are reelected, you will have good economic times in 1977, [and 1978]. On the other hand, if you take the more expansive choice you may get some good times in 1976, but if you are reelected you will go through another economic downturn in 1977, [and 1978].' I said to him, 'Well, what do you recommend?' He said, 'I think it would be wise to take the more conservative one, even though you'll probably get some politically unattractive statistical data in September or October, just before the election.' We took the conservative approach, and, sure enough, in October unemployment had a little upshot and things didn't look so encouraging.' There was a pause on the line, then Ford continued. 'I happen to think that was the major reason we lost the election. In November, if you go back and look at the records, the situation turned very optimistic.' I asked Ford, who lost to Jimmy Carter by just two percent of the vote, whether he regretted following Greenspan's advice. 'I have no regrets,' he replied, his voice firm. 'My conscience has always been clear. It was one of those gambles. It didn't turn out politically, but it was good for the country.'"
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