Watch out for a little piece of gotcha judo I noticed some conservative commentators working up this week. The idea is that anytime anybody criticizes John McCain as "out of touch," or "confused" about anything, they're "speaking in code" and really mean that he's too old. (For the record, I do not think that a vigorous person in their 70s is too old for the presidency. That seems a superficiality of our tedious youth culture to me.) Well, no. Specifically people have been hammering McCain for his repeated confusions of who are the Sunnis and who are the Shia, and for his apparently quite considered statements that he thinks American troops might be garrisoned in Iraq for decades on end like they are in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere. Both the slip and the attitude strike me as confused and out of touch. Two ways in which people are often wrong are by being confused (unappreciative of the complexities and complications of a difficult region of the world) and out of touch (unaware that America's post-WWII superpower role is no longer serving the national interest). Some groups that I've noticed being confused and out of touch are foreign policy hawks, reactionary nationalist jingos, and career military people. A lot of them are young and gung-ho actually, that can be part of the problem with their judgement. These are three groups that, for somewhat varying reasons, are of the mind-set that international problems are in general amenable to military solutions. Old empires have a way of drifting into that mind-set when they become, you know, out of touch and confused. I'm not going to stop stating my opinion that he's confused and out of touch because you accuse me of denigrating him as an old fogey. I don't think that he is an old fogey.
Of course critics of Obama have the same sort of problem. African-Americans have a very understandable reflex to hear criticism of blacks as racist. That's an easy theory to fall back on. (After all, some of the critics are racist.) We already saw that in the primaries when the (demonstrably non-racist) Clintons were smeared for daring to treat Obama as a formidable opponent. For example I was struck that there seemed to be the suggestion that mentioning Jesse Jackson, just as such, was obviously race-baiting. Really? I thought Jesse Jackson was one of the heroes of the Democratic Party, myself.
Be that as it may, there's going to be a whole lot of criticizing of McCain, and a whole lot of criticizing of Obama. It's called an election. Don't kid yourself that somebody running for president shouldn't have to take a pounding. They should.