Would-be 2008 presidential candidate John McCain has had every opportunity to distance himself from the retrogressive anti-Enlightenment policies of the current administration, but he just can't seem to bring himself to do it, even when polls that put Bush's approval rating at all-time lows suggest it would be a good idea.
This past Saturday McCain was given yet another chance to demonstrate his respect for the scientific method during an appearance at Aspen's Evening of Words and Music:
In the final question of the evening, an audience member asked McCain to outline his stance on teaching evolution and creationism in schools.
"I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view," he said. "I happen to believe in evolution. ... I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not."
Probably not? And they accused Kerry of trying to have it both ways.
On the somewhat shaky assumption that McCain is going to be on the Republican ticket two years from now, how should we handle this kind of equivocation? Should we ask: "Which is it, Senator? Do you believe their is a legitimate scientific debate about the validity of biological evolution or not?"
Or should we be satisfied that at least he "happens to believe in evolution"? At least that's a step up from what we've got at the moment.
The conventional wisdom is McCain, like Hillary Clinton, is stretching beyond his personal convictions in an effort to broaden his support base to include fundamentalist Christians who have been suspicious of him in the past. Once and to some extent still a favorite political guest on Jon Stewart's Daily Show. the New York Times this week points out that "Mr. McCain has become one of the biggest defenders of Mr. Bush, even on some of the president's most unpopular moves..." Once he's in office, he'll retreat from extremist position, especially if Congress shifts to the center.
Maybe. But it's hard to know whether straddling the evolution-creationism divide is a carefully crafted response designed to minimize criticism from either side, or a genuinely confused understanding. Consider the continuation of his response to the evolution question:
... the senator said he does believe in God, and he doesn't think Christian groups have too much influence on the Republican Party.
"I think there's room for the religious right in our party," he said.
And for those who think that faction holds too much sway, McCain had a strong message: "Get in the arena. Go out there and register to vote and recruit candidates."
That last line gives me some hope. Not much. But some.
I think McCain has the same problem that any candidate has, particularly a Republican candidate. They have to tip-toe around issues like religion to avoid alienating a significant portion of their voting base. Questions like those about evolution become no-win questions for a Republican candidate. They either give an answer expected by the Republican voters or they give one based on reason, which will turn off many of these voters since it flies in the face of their superstitions.
Politics today is too divided. The Republicans were very strategic in developing a voter base that will make decisions based on their religion rather than reason. This was a plan that was a long time in the making and it paid off for them.
Now, only time will tell if the failures of this administration and Republican Congress will be enough to lure sufficient numbers of voters away to make a change.
It boils down to the fact that McCain has decided that pandering to the audience to get votes is worth more than honesty and integrity towards what (I hope) he knows is true. If his main goal is winning political office I have no interest in supporting him getting there - since it's obvious that nothing he says can be trusted at face value since the morality behind it is achieving (and keeping) power.
If he does not know the truth about science education, evolution, etc., then he hopefully would take some time to learn more on the subject, or at least get briefed by someone who is not a "yes" man.
In the meantime he just reinforces his "political" stripes and proves once again that statesmen are few and far between in our government.
even when polls that put Bush's approval rating at all-time lows suggest it would be a good idea.
That's just it. Bush's personal ratings are down, but all those people who voted for him are still out there. The demographic still exists, even if it doesn't still back Bush. McCain wants them in his camp.
I think McCain has the same problem that any candidate has, particularly a Republican candidate. They have to tip-toe around issues like religion to avoid alienating a significant portion of their voting base.
Tip-toe around? He seems to be diving right in with his "teach all sides" BS.
What would it take to overturn the anti-elitism rampant in this nation and convince Joe Redstate that he needs someone smarter than himself running the White House?