Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For, John

The snarky Romney sore losers -- did anybody with a brain think he ever had a chance, really? -- who dissed a winner for thrashing their boy may have been on to a little something: Mike Huckabee was much more appealing than Mitt among Republicans, so, it follows that if he had never been born more conservatives would have voted for the born-again Mormon.

McCain, the reasoning went, was able to run up an unprotected middle while Mitt and Mike blocked (both on the ... right? ... time to retire the metaphors).

But now there is a new reason to beat up on Mike: by continuing to strongly challenge McCain he is embarrassing the presumptive Republican nominee, showing him to be a weakling even among the people most likely to identify with him. Collegial Mike's presence had given McCain undeserved cover and now the ingrate doesn't have the decency to just step aside. Instead, he is busting another myth by proving that McCain really doesn't have wide and deep support -- Hey! Just like the Romniacs said!

But here's another view: McCain still needs to win, and it shouldn't look like it's taking its toll. But if there wasn't a competitive race on the GOP side would anybody be talking about him at all? Would there be any McCain news during a competitive Democratic primary season that still has at least several weeks to go before anything can be resolved, in a campaign season where the Republican presidential candidate is regarded as mere cannon fodder?

McCain has been doubly blessed by Huckabee, and he needs to look at the big picture. McCain's dilemma reminds me of an Eastern European Cold War story about spycraft I once heard.
A bird with a broken wing is on cold, city street in the dead of winter. He's hungry, can't get to his nest and is in danger of being stepped on by one of the bustling passers-by.A person notices the bird, stops, picks him up and puts him in a fresh pile of dog shit.

The bird is a bit shaken and confused and, angry. But it dawns on him he is now safe; nobody is going to step in the shit. And it is warm. Things are looking up. He starts to sing.

Another person, hearing the bird, comes over, picks him up, breaks his neck and takes him home to stretch the soup.
There are three morals:
  1. Not everybody who puts you in the shit is your enemy.
  2. Not everybody who takes you out of the shit is your friend.
  3. When you are in the shit, keep your mouth shut.
McCain needs to play this out and think long term, no matter what happens. His detractors, and Huckabee, are just looking for a little respect. A big man will be able to do the magnanimous thing when the time comes, and look no less diminished.

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