Consequences, shmonsequences

Last fall I reluctantly supported John McCain for President. I wasn’t even sure why at the time, and could mostly focus on why I thought Barack Obama was not up to the task. But shame on me — there was a reason, and it’s the same issue that made me realize I am a conservative in the first instance. And the inexcusable Obama “policy” on “torture” — which is merely a political hiccup, a gesture to the left, a classic instance of liberal symbolism as government, that just happens threatens to undermine the ultimate safety and freedom of every one of us — reminds me of it now.

Here comes a long excerpt, but worth it. Here’s the crux of the matter from last October’s issue of The Atlantic, and we pick up the article at the end, where Jeffrey Goldberg is discussing McCain with Henry Kissinger:

I pointed out that McCain has changed many of his positions during his candidacy in order, it seems, to better conform to Republican orthodoxy. Kissinger replied: “Under the pressure of a presidential campaign, it’s possible that he will make adjustments. He may deviate from his positions, but he will not like himself for it.”

In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals. It’s not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor–two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined–that he becomes truly unbending.

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Kissinger learned this at their first meeting. “When I was in Vietnam for negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement, the North Vietnamese prime minister had a dinner–I was leaving the next day–and he said if I wanted to take McCain on my flight, it could be arranged,” he said. “I told him that I won’t take McCain or anyone else on my plane. The prisoner release would have to happen on a schedule previously agreed. Somehow McCain heard about this and months later, at the White House reception for returned prisoners, he said to me, ‘I want to thank you for saving my honor.’ What McCain did not tell me at that time was that he had refused to be released two years earlier unless all were released with him. It was better for him to remain in jail in order to preserve his honor and American honor than to come home on my plane.”

For McCain, the doctrine of preemption clearly falls outside the realm of mere politics, as does the need to “win,” rather than “end,” wars; the safety of America demands that they be fought, and honor demands that they be won.

McCain’s father, Kissinger said, saw the world the same way McCain sees it. “He was a military man, not a diplomat. Both men grasp the notion of consequences.

Consequences. They are the reason the buck stops in the Oval Office.

The consequences of this lashing out at the previous regime, this post-Vietnamesque attempt to exorcise the hated, manly self, are not going to be “respect for the law” and widespread international warming toward America. It will, to the contrary, give aid and comfort to those most contemptuous of law, and of our country, and most readily prepared to make every possible effort to destroy both.

That’s it, isn’t it? Democrats really don’t seem to think about consequences, or at least to weigh them compared to gesture, self-regard and a need to please.

How many chances will we get to escape the consequences of a policy of vanity this time?

Cross-posted on Likelihood of Success,Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog.

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