John McCain Remembers William Jennings Bryan

John McCain appears to be demonstrating his long memory in an interview with USA Today:

“I believe that people are interested very much in substance,” McCain said. “If it was simply style, William Jennings Bryan would have been president.” (Bryan, a noted orator, lost three presidential elections as the Democratic nominee in 1896, 1900 and 1908.)

It might be interesting to hear McCain’s recollections about the 1896 presidential campaign. I would also be interested in hearing John McCain’s childhood memories of John Adams after watching the HBO miniseries.

Joking aside about what this example might say of McCain’s age, it is amazing to see that the same candidate even got a shot three different times. That certainly would not happen again. Richard Nixon got a second shot, but not many politicians could even do that today. Maybe Al Gore could win the nomination a second time if he sought it considering both the unusual circumstances surrounding his loss and the way in which he has changed over time. A second loss would certainly close the door even for him.

As for McCain’s argument in the interview, he is making a serious mistake if he underestimates the substance of Barack Obama. Mark Halperin has listed the many ways in which McCain is mistaken for underestimating Obama. For example, number thirteen:

13. How powerful debates might be when the allegedly inexperienced Obama of allegedly questionable judgment goes toe-to-toe with McCain, even on national security, and is therefore deemed of sufficient strength and stature to be president by many.

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  1. 1
    Philip Turet says:

    Reclaim the legacy of William Jennings Bryan
    Progressives must reclaim the legacy of William Jennings Bryan, an original prairie populist and an example of what’s not the matter with Nebraska (in this case). He would be embraced as the intellectual great-grandfather of the progressive movement but for the “Inherit the Wind” caricature of Bryan that we’ve grown up with. Yes, we know what side he was on in the Scopes trial, but Bryan’s objection to evolution wasn’t scientific (no science was allowed at the trial) but to the social Darwinism that was all the rage in the 1920’s. He was thinking about Nietzsche rather than Darwin (Michael Kazin: A Godly Hero).
    It is understandable that a lot of us feel defensive about the teaching of science in the schools, and are ready to demonize Bryan since that’s been the popular view since Darrow and H. L. Mencken. You might even trace the ascendance of the neo-liberal (read conservative) press to Mencken and the New York Times of the 1920’s.
    But scientific Darwinian theory is in no danger in the academy, at least until the anti-science defunding tide reaches them; it is we who are in danger of becoming more and more isolated in the world as we spend endless hours parsing the mind-numbing debates over creationism and “intelligent design”.
    The modern values debate of the Phyllis Schlaffley/Pat Robertson variety is firmly in the thrall of free market ideology. The other day on C-Span/BookTV there was a talk by Benjamin Wiker (10 Books that Screwed Up the World), who, along with Phyllis Schlaffley and “that hairdo”, dragged out the usual suspects: Marx, Hobbes. If I had been in the audience I would have offered one more suggestion: an atheist Russian immigrant with a profoundly anti-family, amoral agenda which unfortunately has become ascendant, to the point that it has become part of the air we breathe. Her ideological descendants run from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Alan Greenspan to Bill Clinton. Of course you guessed … it’s … [wait for it]
    Ayn Rand.
    Bryan reanimated, after marveling at the progress in technology and lifespan in the world, would despair of the state of affairs and the distance we are from his Christian socialist ideals (cf. E. Bellamy), that religion has been co-opted to the forces of the market, at the disparity of incomes, at the masses of uninsured. And he would find the immorality of the social Darwinism of the market a shame on all of us. And then he would say: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold

    Philip Turet
    Norfolk, VA


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